Established in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Preservation Month brings attention to historical places to instill pride, promote heritage conservation and encourage tourism. We know our historic buildings are important, but May is a great time to give them a little extra attention and appreciation.
Gilroy is home to an impressive array of historic architecture—from structures of our early settlement (like the pioneer houses) to our unusual and distinctively designed landmark Old City Hall that was once labeled as a “begabled, beportholed, beturreted” structure at the time of its construction in 1905. Gilroy’s got a building for everyone.
Here are a few ways you can show the love for Gilroy’s architectural heritage.
1. Take a Walk
Explore an older area of Gilroy either on foot or bike that you do not know. You always come across attractive and unique homes and buildings. The Gilroy Historical Society has free walking tours on the first Saturday of every month that are fun and rich in historical information. Find the schedule on gilroyhistoricalsociety.org and join others in front of the Gilroy Museum at 10am. If you cannot make the guided tours, the Gilroy Museum and the Welcome Center have three brochures that you use to embark on your own self-guided tour of Gilroy.
2. Visit a Historical Site or Museum
Gilroy has eight buildings and a row of cedar trees on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Gilroy Train Station, Old City Hall, Carnegie Free Library, currently housing the Gilroy Museum, are just a few historic sites Gilroy has to offer. Plan a visit and pay attention to the architectural elements you might otherwise overlook.
3. Get to Know the Local Preservation Organizations
Gilroy’s historic preservation organizations meet regularly to share information and participate in community service. The Gilroy Historical Society and the Miller Red Barn Association are both organizations that welcome new members with an interest in preservation.
4. Shop Historic
The best way to save old buildings is by using them! Stroll through Downtown Gilroy, or visit a shop or restaurant located in a historic building. Notice the details of the space that make your experience and Gilroy’s downtown unique.
5. Read a Book About Historic Preservation
Commit to reading at least one book this month that is relevant to historic preservation. Check out this list for recommendations: bookauthority.org/books/best-selling-historic-preservation-books
6. Take a Picture
Share your photos of historic buildings on social media using the hashtag #thisplacematters. Part of a larger campaign launched by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, #thisplacematters is a way for people to share the places and spaces that mean the most to them. You can also check out the Facebook page for Gilroy Historical Society and Gilroy Museum, where you can find many historical photos. You can find pictures of their annual architectural awards at gilroyhistoricalsociety.org.
7. Speak Up
Do you love old buildings? Let people know! Historic buildings are precious resources that cannot be replaced once lost. Communicating with your local leaders, attending Gilroy’s Historical Heritage Committee and city council meetings, and writing letters to the editor are great ways to advocate for historic preservation in Gilroy.
8. Get Spiritual
Gilroy is home to several historic churches with rich histories. The Gilroy Christian Church, built in 1857 and located at 160 Fifth St., is on the National Register of Historic Places because it was one of the first wood-framed churches in Northern California. The Church located at 214 Fifth St., currently occupied by the Salvation Army, was built in 1869 in the Carpenter Gothic Style.
9. Read a Sign
Trail signage and local landmark plaques are great ways to learn about the built environment. Read these signs and let them guide you through the city of Gilroy.
10. Learn More
The Gilroy Public Library is a great place to dig deeper into local history. They have a great collection of local history books. The Gilroy Museum will reopen soon and has excellent exhibits and an impressive array of historical photos and artifacts.
Gary Walton is a local contractor active in historic preservation and serves as Vice President of the Miller Red Barn Association who is currently restoring the 1891 Miller Red Barn located on the Ranch Site of Christmas Hill Park. Many thanks to Connie Rogers, President of the Gilroy Historical Society, for her assistance in writing this article.