Umbarger House

Umbarger House at History Park, San Jose, CA
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The House

This original home built in the Italianate style by David Umbarger at 2662 South First Street, San Jose in the 1870s, exemplifies the fine craftsmanship and intricate decoration common to homes of the ear. The ornate design gracing the exterior of the home is today generally termed “gingerbread” or carpenter’s “Gothic.”

The house was moved by truck on August 1, 1970 to History Park from its original location.

The furnishings in the Umbarger House, although not actually owned by the family, illustrate a style of furniture and decorative items typically found around 1870-1880, towards the later Victorian period.

The “kitchen garden” behind the house was a common feature found in the Santa Clara Valley and the Umbargers would have used it for growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

David Umbarger

The following is taken from H. S. Foote’s Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World, page 253 (The Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, 1888) :

“David Umbarger, residing on the Monterey Road south of San Jose, has the honor of being one of the “Forty-niners” of California. He is a native of Wythe County, West Virginia, born in October, 1815, his parents being Leonard and Margaret (Cooper) Umbarger, both of them residents of Virginia. David was reared in his native county, and resided there until 1838, when he went to Clark County, Illinois. In 1846 he removed to Kentucky. On the second day of April, 1849, he set out for California, and at West Liberty, Missouri, he became one of a party bound for the golden coast. Their journey was a long one, the route adopted taking them by way of San Diego, from which point they went by water to San Francisco, sailing through the Golden Gate on the eleventh of January, 1850. He at once went into the mines of Mariposa County, and afterward to a camp on Curtis Creek, near Sonora. He spent the winter in San Francisco, and in the spring resumed mining at Auburn. From there he went to Nevada, and thence to the Yubas, and on Feather River. In 1853, he came to Santa Clara County, locating where he now resides, he having bought land at this place in 1851. He has made every vestige of improvement to be seen here, and has been an eye-witness to the great transformation which has since occurred in this valley. His ranch is an attractive place of 138 acres, devoted to grain and pasture. It is productive land and is well kept up.”

Umbarger died on May 23, 1891. In his Last Will and Testament, dated February 24, 1891, he bequeathed all of his property “of every kind and description and wheresoever situated” to his sister Margaret McBaine. “I make this devise to my said sister to the exclusion of my son James A. Umbarger and his mother from sharing in my estate either at public or private sale and without order of Court.”

City Historian Clyde Arbuckle wrote in 1970 that Umbarger’s successors apparently lost no time in selling his land and improvements. The County Surveyor’s Official Map of Santa Clara County soon showed his land divided into several parcels of the land under different ownership, ranging upward from fair-sized building lots to farms of 18 or 20 acres each.

Thirty-two acres of Umbarger’s land along Umbarger Road were sold to the Santa Clara County Fair Association in August, 1946, and became part of the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. A remaining lot, facing Monterey Road, covered about six and a half acres. It passed through several ownerships after Umbarger’s death. Umbarger’s dwelling stood at its northwest corner, which was also the northwest corner of his original holding of 136.5 acres.

The earliest map record of this house (or its immediate predecessor) appears in Thompson & West’s Historical Atlas of Santa Clara County published in 1876. The property map on page 37 of this work shows a house symbol on the site of the structure moved to Kelley Park.

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