E.R. Kennedy House

This Place Matters #4

By Susan Blake, Historic Preservation Board

ER Kennedy


The Historic Preservation Board’s fourth featured Landmark home is the E. R. Kennedy House at 61 Catalpa Lane. This part of Campbell is historically referred to as the Kennedy Tract and later the Four “Cs” Tract that includes Cherry, Catalpa, El Caminito and California Avenues west of Winchester Blvd. At the turn of the century, it was ranch land owned by Erle Russell and Bessie Kennedy. 

This outstanding example of Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture was built in 1930, for Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy who fell in love with the style while on a visit to southern California. It features white washed stucco siding with red-tiled hipped roofs, a terra cotta chimney and a flagstone entry. The original home had three bedrooms upstairs and a formal living room, dining room, breakfast nook, kitchen and library downstairs, with one bathroom on each floor. In the 1960’s a family room/apartment was added on north side. 

Inside, the doors, door frames, and trim along with wall inset drawers and storage, are all solid mahogany. The main entry features a mahogany parquet floor. Numerous old growth trees can be seen on the property, including a huge Buckeye in the back yard and a grove of five Redwoods in the front yard.  

The Kennedys had this house built to replace their old ranch house on Winchester Road after deciding to start subdividing their land. Starting with the development of Cherry Lane, many of the Kennedy Tract homes were built from 1941 through 1949. Prior to development, El Caminto was part of Kennedy Avenue, so named for the family. 

Mr. Kennedy was a local farmer and realtor and also president of the Campbell Water Company from 1914 to 1918. In the early days of the company, he was a bill collector who went door to door, carrying a leather pouch with change, to collect water payments from households. In 1908, for private households with five or less family members, the monthly rate was $1. Each additional person cost 15 cents. 

Bessie Kennedy was an energetic and determined member of our city’s Country Woman’s Club, starting in 1912. She was a driving force and instrumental in getting the club’s goal of a real library built in our downtown. This historic library building was completed in 1923, and still stands at the southwest corner of First Street and East Campbell Avenue. 

The Kennedys later owned and operated the Kennedy Water Company which served customers west of Winchester Boulevard to Hazel Ave. Erle and Bessie owned and operated their water company until 1946, when they sold it to the San Jose Water Company, another family-owned water supplier. 

In 1960, the E.R. Kennedy House was purchased by Courtland Watson and Jeanette Gomes Watson. Jeanette Watson became the first female council member and first female mayor (1988) in the City of Campbell. She lived there until 2006. 

The current owner purchased the home in 2006, and is raising two children. One of whom, now a high school Junior, has extensive knowledge on the history of the house and is happy to share when asked. The owner has done some extensive restoration, seismic retrofitting and needed upgrades to the home. The family loves this house and has no plans to sell it at any time soon.