563 W. Julian St.
Google preservation effort has emotional impact on one San Jose family
Brothers’ mother was born in house at 563 W. Julian St.
When Google announced plans to preserve a number of historic buildings in its Downtown West mixed-use development, including three Victorian-era homes on West Julian Street, the Colbeck family took notice.
The maternal grandparents of San Jose natives Doug and Mark Colbeck owned one of the homes, 563 W. Julian, for more than 30 years. Their mother, Inge, was born in the home in 1911 and grew up there with her siblings, Mabel and Herbert.
Although Mark, a retired insurance adjuster and Doug, a retired park ranger, never lived in the home, it holds a special place in their hearts whenever they drive by it.
Today, the houses sit directly across from the expanse of parking lot behind the SAP Center.
The homes at 559, 563 and 567 W. Julian St. were built in the 1880s and 1890s out of redwood logged in the mountains west of San Jose. Although they haven’t been found to qualify for national or state historic registers, locally the three buildings as a cluster are significant as representative of the residential character of their neighborhood in the late 19th century.
In the early 1900s, the home was “out in the country” and not part of downtown.
Gustav and Ella Jorgensen, the brothers’ grandparents, lived in the home at the turn of the 20th century.
Gustav worked as a lumber stacker in the lumber yard across the street. That yard served as a source of materials for Sarah Winchester, who never stopped building her mansion during her lifetime.
Inge regaled stories about Mrs. Winchester riding by in her carriage and of more modern times when the San Jose Light Tower served as a beacon of prosperity.
Ella’s brother Chris Sonnicksen wrote her many letters, some containing checks, sent to the Julian Street address. Chris was a well-known and respected explorer, prospector, farmer and freight company owner in the Alaskan Yukon Territory.
Inge went on to college and became an executive secretary for Crocker Bank before marrying Mark and Doug’s father, Gilbert Colbeck.
One treasured picture outside of the house is of Inge and Herb holding their cat, Mulligan, in front of the detached garage. Inge once drove the family car, a Velie, through the back wall of the garage.
The homes on Julian are empty and behind iron fencing now, but not yet up on stilts for their future move along South Autumn Street to a resting place just north of the VTA Light Rail line.
Google is still working through the exact timing for the move, said Michael Appel of Google’s global communications and public affairs office. The homes will be relocated together when the Creekside Walk area of the project is developed, he said. Creekside Walk will extend along the east side of Autumn Street from West Santa Clara Street to just south of the VTA tracks.
“We’d be very interested in attending the relocation of the house when that occurs” Doug said. Likewise, Mark, Doug and their wives, Susan and Maryann, would like to see the inside of the house at some point, an opportunity they have not had so far.
The Colbeck family, along with Herb’s children Ellie Collins, Susie Rewak and Herb Jorgensen, Jr. look forward to hearing more.
“We know that the house is part of our history,” Doug said, adding that the family is glad Google intends to give the house a second life.
“Our friends think it’s a great story,” Mark said.