This Place Matters

The Historic Preservation Board is doing a series of short stories called “This Place Matters”. Every month, they will highlight a different Campbell Landmark home. Click on the titles below to learn about the history of each house.

This months featured house with dark blue background.

The First J.C. Ainsley House

The first JC Ainsley house front door view.

"Past Featured Houses" in text with blue background.
  1. Louis & Edward Genasci House
  2. James Henry Campbell House
  3. J.C. Ainsley House

This Place Matters #7

By Susan Blake, Historic Preservation Board

The Louis and Edward Genasci HouseThe seventh featured Landmark home is the Louis and Edward Genasci House at 207 N. Central Ave. It is located in one of the earliest sections of the original Benjamin Campbell family land holdings.

Likely built around 1900, it is a one-story rural California Farmhouse style cottage with some Queen Anne and Greek Revival accents that many home builders added. The steeply pitched roof and wide shiplap siding showcase the boxed cornices, and long double hung sash windows with molded cross pieces. In the 1930’s, the previously open front porch was enclosed to make a sun porch. The original two-story wood frame, two door barn still sits at the back of this property and can be seen from the street.

Louis Genasci Sr. immigrated to the United States from Switzerland in 1885. In 1893, he married his wife Albina at the Mission San Luis Obispo, according to a story in the San Jose Mercury Herald. The Genasci family arrived in Campbell in 1911, and opened a thriving grocery and general merchandise store in the new downtown business district, on Campbell Ave. Their sons, Ed and Louis Jr. were the delivery boys while Louis Sr. and Albina ran the store. The family became well known for their many civic contributions to the community.

The town was very concerned about not having any fire protection after two big homes burned down between 1896 and 1902. In June of 1913, the town fathers including Louis Genasci Sr. decided to establish a volunteer fire department. However, the volunteers immediately faced significant challenges. Thirteen hydrants were installed on a few of the new downtown streets but the water pressure was inconsistent. Funding for equipment such as hoses, hooks and ladders, buckets and a hand pulled chemical “fire engine” were not available. The volunteers bought their own badges for about $1.00.

Ed Genasci, who later became chief of the volunteers, was designated coupler of the hose company when the new fire department started. According to Jeanette Watson’s book, Campbell the Orchard City, the volunteers were called to fires by the ringing of the church bells in those early days. This proved to be problem on Sundays, because folks were also called to worship with ringing of the church bells. In 1914, a fire bell was purchased from the city of San Jose for $40.

After a disastrous fire took out many of the businesses on Campbell Avenue at First Street in October of 1917, voters passed a resolution to create a formal fire district, but funding was still hard to come by. It was still a volunteer fire department and they would raise funds by washing down buildings as part of their fire drills and the owners gave them donations.

According to local reports, in 1935, Louis Genasci Sr. fell off his bicycle into a mud hole on his way to a fire at 2 a.m. on a rainy morning. The volunteer fire department had recently become “bicyclized” so they could get to the fires more quickly and if needed, cut through the orchards and hoist their bikes over fences. They became famous as newspapers started writing stories about the “Fire Laddies” in the “Bicycle Fire Department”. Even Paramount and Universal Pictures came to shoot a news reel.

Ed Genasci served as Chief of the Campbell Volunteer fire department from 1919 until 1941. Later he served as a civilian deputy Fire Chief for the US Naval Sailing Association during WWII.

In the early 1970’s, Ed donated a treasure trove of saved items from his family’s old store to the Campbell Historic Museum. Included were loaded display cases, signage, a merchant’s apron, canned goods and merchandise. Now, all of it is on display in an exhibit at the Museum, at 51 N. Central Avenue in Downtown Campbell.

  1. E.R. Kennedy House
  2. Young-Satorette House
  3. Littleton-Martin House
  4. Galindo-Queraz-Leigh House

This Place Matters #4

By Susan Blake, Historic Preservation Board

ER KennedyAugust's 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.