General History And Boundaries
The Delmas Park area was settled in the 1850s and is named for Antoine Delmas, the leader of the "French Gardener" community on the west bank of the Guadalupe River. During the early days of San Jose, French horticulturalists were brought here to plant the apricots, grapes, and prunes that made Santa Clara Valley the "Valley of the Heart's Delight" in the days before silicon. Delmas brought zinfandel to California and built a municipal rose garden in the 1860s in the are now bordered by Delmas Avenue, San Fernando Street and the Los Gatos Creek. This French heritage is reflected in local street names such as Delmas, Auzerais, and Lorraine.
"The French have always had a strong influence on California’s wine industry, however, both in the first wave of immigration in the mid 1850s, and in the second wave of the past few decades. Frenchmen Antoine Delmas, , Charles Lefranc and Pierre Pellier were early leaders in Santa Clara Valley’s wine business, and Burgundian Paul Masson started making wine there in 1854. "
Delmas claimed to be the person who brought Zinfandel to California, but there wer other winemakers of the 1860s who made the same claim.
It is also rumored that Antoine Delmas brought the snail to California. The snails that eat your garden plants are French escargot. Blame Antoine.
The boundaries for the Delmas Park Neighborhood are: 280 on the South, Bird Avenue on the west, San Fernando Street on the north, and Route 87 on the east. The “natural” boundaries for neighborhood are the Guadalupe River and the Los Gatos Creek. It is convenient to downtown San Jose, with access to lightrail, Caltrans, and Amtrak (and Bart in the future) but without some of the problems of downtown.
In terms of housing and commercial structures the neighborhood is a mix of historic 19th century Victorian homes in the Lakehouse historic district, newer apartments and condominiums along Park Avenue and San Fernando Street, older 20th century construction south of San Fernando, and light industrial businesses along Auzerais. Delmas Park has recently been included as part of "downtown" in city planning documents and is also part of the Greater Diridon Area. It is a neighborhood that expects dense development in the coming decade. The general plan calls for a phasing out of industrial uses in the neighborhood to be replaced by single family housing along Auzerais and higher-density housing and retail along the West San Carlos corridor.
From April Halberstadt, writing about Delmas as well as neighborhoods that were previously on the other side of the river or under what is now the Guadalupe Expressway.
· One of the earliest emigrant groups in San Jose were people from northern Italy. Another major influence on the neighborhood was Notre Dame, established in 1851 and occupying 14 acres on Santa Clara Street (including the area around the current SAP Center). The nuns were from Belgium and the schools they ran at this site attracted students from around the Pacific Rim. Their boarding students came from as far away as Japan.
· There was a chapel at the school and French immigrants in the neighborhood could go to daily mass at the school. Since there were no automobiles, devout Catholics wanted to live within walking distance of this important resource.
· The neighborhood also featured LaMolle House - a wonderful restaurant and the LaMolle Grill, a couple of French bakeries and the French language newspaper.
· This group of immigrants were not strictly French or Italian - A . P. Gianinni, who is claimed by the Italians, had parents who owned the "Swiss Hotel." At the time, there was no country we know today as Italy; there were simply a large group of people who came from the area we now know as Provence.
· After Notre Dame, the next largest community influence was the church that was built on South River Street in 1905. Shaped like a basilica, Holy Family offered services in the Italian language. It was the heart of the Italian community until after World War II. It was torn down in the 1970s to make room for the Guadalupe freeway.
· So we have a predominantly French influence from 1851 to about 1900, replaced by the northern Italians after that time. The southern Italians - ie Sicilians had their own church on 12th near Backesto Park.