Nelson-DeLuz House at History Park, San Jose, CA
The Nelson-DeLuz House at History Park

The Nelson-DeLuz House was originally located just inside the park gate, next to the Pasetta House. It was destroyed by fire in the early hours of March 12, 2023, and was demolished in September 2023. (Some visitors may also remember the old tankhouse that sat behind the house; it also was damaged by the fire and removed along with the house).

The House and the Family

The Nelson-DeLuz House was built about 1905 on the southeast corner of South Eleventh and William Streets. A neo-classic bungalow with ship lap siding, it is in a style made popular by the local architectural firm of Wolfe and McKenzie. Many similar homes can still be found throughout San Jose, featuring spacious rooms with large windows.

The classic features include the porch pillars and capitals dentils at roof and windows decorative corbels and plaster ornaments at some of the windows and pediments. The gabled roof is a feature of the Bungalow style.

The county Recorder’s office shows a recording of a Certificate of Completion in the Miscellaneous Book of Records, Book 15, Page 464 for what is likely the Nelson-DeLuz House. The record shows a certificate recorded in October 104 with the following information: “William Connell, owner; J. H. Strang, contractor; date complete 10/22/04; house at southeast corner of Eleventh and William.” No architect is noted.

Kristena Nelson was born in San Francisco in 1905. For a period of time after the 1906 earthquake the family lived in a box car as part of Mr. Nelson’s employment with the railroad. Eventually the family settled in San Jose. Before moving to this house, the family lived on Diane Avenue.

In 1919, John and Etta Nelson purchased the house at Eleventh and William and moved in with their four children. Kristena was fourteen; Clarence, twelve; Myron, eight; and Arthur just a month old. Mr. Nelson worked for Southern Pacific Railroad while the children attended San Jose schools. The house remained in the Nelson family until it was moved to the Museum in 1987 as the result of a bequest from Kristena Nelson DeLuz.

When the family moved into the house the front bedroom was assigned to Kristena. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson occupied the middle bedroom and the boys were in the back bedroom. In about 1926, the attic was partially finished as a bedroom for the two older boys. Access was via a set of extremely steep stairs in the old closet. Arthur continued to occupy the back bedroom which the family referred to as “the hold.” Sometime after her parents’ death, Kristena moved into the middle bedroom.

After graduating from San Jose Normal School, Kristena taught high school home economics in Griley, Mayfield and Hollister. She probably introduced the first cooking class for boys in Hollister. During World War II, Kristena served in the military as a dietitian. At the end of the war, Kristena married Lawrence DeLuz and they returned to the house on William Street. Kristena was an instructor in the Home Economics Department at San Jose State, and also taught adult education classes.

After the death of Etta Nelson in about 1955, the Nelson family began holding a reunion every year over the Thanksgiving weekend. They gathered for a dinner on Saturday with twenty to twenty-five family members attending. In order to seat everyone together the table was extended through the pocket door from the dining room to the parlor.

In addition to the History Museums of San Jose, Kristena volunteered for UNICEF; in 1964 was a dietitian aboard the ship Hope. She was also a member of the Glenna Harris Weavers’ Guild. Mr. DeLuz died around 1960. Kristena continued to live at in the house until her death in 1986. She bequeathed her house and land to the History Museums of San Jose Association, the Museum’s non-profit support organization at the time. The land was sold to finance the move of the house to History Park, as well as restoration.

The Restoration

In 1987, the house was moved to History Park, sited and placed on a foundation. Over the next several years, restoration plans were formulated, and funding identified. The restoration plan for the building was based on research and careful examination of the structure. With few exceptions, the historic structure and its decorative elements were retained. The back porch was modified to provide accessibility. The house received a new roof; complete new electrical service; new heating, ventilating and air conditioning system; new floor coverings; and was repainted in the original color scheme. As in 1905, the trim, moldings and front door were repainted to simulate wood grain.

During the 1950s, two corner cabinets had been put in the entry on either side of the arch, and a closet had been created by putting a wall from the corner of the front bedroom over to the front door. These were removed in the restoration. The original front door was stolen during the house move; the present door was reproduced from photographs.

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