Migrant Worker Houses, Historic Landmark 10-192

Migrant Farm Worker Cabins
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Farm, orchard, and cannery work in the Santa Clara Valley was seasonal. When a crop was ready to be harvested or processed in one of the Valley’s many canneries, employers often supplemented their permanent workforce with workers hired on a temporary basis. Waves of migrant workers came to Santa Clara Valley moving from place to place, following crops as they ripened. Among them were Chinese, Filipinos, Italians, Japanese, Mexicans and Portuguese. These workers helped create the “Valley of Heart’s Delight.”

These houses are among Santa Clara County’s few surviving examples of a once common form of housing for agricultural laborers. The buildings, probably built between 1905 and 1920, were acquired from the Pratt-Low Preserving Company in Santa Clara in 1952 by orchardist Eiichi Sakauye, and relocated to his ranch on North First Street. Mr. Sakauye had purchased the North First Street property in 1952 from Emily J. Horn, whose family had owned the land since 1905.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Sakauye’s labor crews were primarily made up of Mexican braceros. The Sakauye orchard was one of the few orchards owned by a person of Japanese descent. The Sakauyes made important contributions to the development and production of pears as an agricultural product, grafting and propagating over twenty varieties.

The family worked the orchard into the 1980s. When the government banned the use of cyclamates as sweeteners, the family was forced to abandon the pear orchard. After the property was purchased by The Sobrato Organization, the firm donated the houses to History Park as visual testimony to the diverse work force that labored in our canneries, ranches, and orchards. Mr. Sakauye was instrumental in this process.

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