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A walk back into 19th-century Los Gatos.

Historic preservation has long been a concern of Los Gatos, California, which grew around a flour mill and later became a lumbering center. Many houses and most of the commercial buildings that remain from the 19th century are still used; you can view them on a walking tour of the town. And this month a reception at the town's oldest structure highlights preservation efforts.

Named for the wildcats that once roamed the region, Los Gatos, 10 miles southwest of downtown San Jose, started with a four-story sandstone flour mill built in 1854 by James Alexander Forbes.

Its annex, built in 1880, was restored in 1982 and is maintained as a regional museum by the Eureka Federal Savings Foundation. Changing displays include old photographs of the Santa Clara Valley, early farm machinery, and items from the Novitiate Winery in Los Gatos.

Located at 75 Church Street, the museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 1 to 5; admission is free. On Saturday, July 7, at 1 P.M., you're invited to meet at the museum for a reception and short talk about the area's history. During the reception--or at any time--you can pick up a map describing a self-guided walking tour of historic buildings. Walking through historic Los Gatos

The walk will take you from the museum across a footbridge to Old Town, a cluster of shops and restaurants built around an old elementary school. You then leave Old Town, turn right onto University Avenue, and make a left at Bachman Avenue, which is lined with some fine examples of restored Victorian houses.

From BachmanM, turn left onto Santa Cruz Avenue. A stroll down this commercial street takes you past a variety of shops and eateries, some in restored buildings.

Turn right at the Corner Drug Store, where Santa Cruz Avenue intersects E. Main Street, and proceed 1 block to the Los Gatos Museum at the corner of Tait Street. Built in 1907, the Spanish-style building houses a permanent collection that includes vintage photographs and textiles, and geological displays and minerals. During July, you'll see 50 etchings by San Francisco artist Frank Van Sloun. Museum hours are 1 to 4 Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 to 4 weeks.

Come back down E. Main Street and cross Santa Cruz Avenue, and you'll find a good collection of antique shops. Of note is Ford's Opera House, 140 W. Main. Built in 1904, this former drygoods store still has stamped-tin panels on the ceiling and upper walls; it now houses an antique collective.

To get to the Forbes Mill Museum from State Highway 17, take the E. Lost Gatos exit and follow signs.
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Date:Jul 1, 1984
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