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History of Ancient Oaks Farm

  • Ancient Oaks Farm History (1890s-present)
  • Recent Events (since 1998)
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  • Known early history

    The Farm, and House

    Ancient Oaks farmhouse from the font in approximately late 50s to early 60s (best guess 1961) seen from the front, with the original doorway and windows present. The eaves and extensions were added later by Kriz after 1971. The house is obviouisly not pained red in this picture but is likely white (see other photo below). The house still has the same front door, big plate glass window and kitchen window. Additons were added to the right and to the rear. The house was jacked up and a basement and foundation put in, and retaining walls and landscaping added to the front.

    Ancient Oaks Farm, or Ancient Oaks for short, was thus named by the current proprietor Bruce Damer on August 8, 1998, was the original base for a farm established in the Bear Creek Valley near Boulder Creek California at the end of the 19th Century (*see note below). Originally called "Ancient Oaks", the farm raised chickens and livestock as well as vegetables and fruits. Ancient Oaks provided water to Boulder Creek from its copiously productive well. In the 1950s, Ancient Oaks was divided into parcels and sold (by Gooch). Through the 1970s and early 1980s houses were built on these parcels and thus the area became the Ancient Oaks community. Today, the original barn and one of the farm's original (and smaller) houses rests on the Ancient Oaks Farm's 5 acre parcel.

    Early Kriz photo of house from rear (when still painted white). This picture, taken around 1969-71, shows the house before any extensions were added or the creation of the back patio, retaining walls and lawn. The same leaning oak is present to this day as is the original core of the house with the peaked roof portion. Fewer oaks now surround the house as many have fallen down or had to be cut down due to water penetration and interior rot.

    *The actual date of the founding of the farm and original frame of the house is unknown although Joe Kriz says it was in the 1890s. Evidence for this kind of age can be seen in the old growth redwood beams (known as "skids") that formed the initial foundation of the house. These skids were no doubt milled from the old growth redwoods cut on the property (which show succesor rings today). As the great quake of 1906 caused a heavy logging of this area for redwood for use as scaffolding and construction materials for the rebuilding of San Francsico, it is likely that this old growth was cut before '06. More research is pending at our local historical society. County records show that the house was 75 years old in 1998, placing its original age at 1923. Joe did note that the houses burnt down frequently due to their wood stoves and so the frame of the house could go back further.

    Earliest picture of the back of the barn taken from a hillside up above on the property. This picture is probably from around 1969-71. Another early picture of the barn before any extensions were added. A lot more oak trees around. This photo is likely from 1969 to early 70s.

    The Barn

    The barn (shown above in its earliest pictures above and in more recent photos below) is a wonderful structure and very well preserved and upgraded. Also built out of old grown redwood this structure was extended in the 70s and possibly 80s.

    Constructing the back extension to the barn (photos shows cutting of large limbs from an overhanging oak). This photo might be from the early 1980s. Picture of the barn front during a rare winter snowfall. This is a very recent photo as all the elements of today's barn are present. Possibly taken 1995-98.

    The property

    The original Ancient Oaks property is a wonderful south facing hillside with springs throughout keeping the water table high and the ground fertile. Giant oaks mix with giant redwoods in a rare combination. When the Kriz family came into the property in the late 1960s there was a wash with a rainy season creek runing down past the back of the house and barn. The Kriz' shaped the land, creating terraces with retaining walls and roadways throughout. The photos below show the land before these terraces.

    Central part of the property looking down to where the greenhouse still is today. Quite a mess compared to the terraced gardens we now enjoy. On the hillside on the right is brush rather than the new oak forest we have today. This photo is likely early to mid 1970s. This photo indicates taht the greenhouse may be one of the older structures. This dramatic picture taking from the slope up above the upper meadow shows some kind of structure there as well as the greehouse further down in the distance on the left. The redwood grove is there but obviously behind the grove the slope was rather bare of trees. This picture is likely from the early to mid 1970s. The black dashed line on the photo may indicate the property boundary or some other feature.

    Shaping the property

    The Kriz family used heavy equipment to build terraces, roadways and they put in well built retaining walls decorated with wonderful mosaics. Frequent mini-disasters such as trees down as in the photos below, kept them busy, as it does us today. These years saw a reduction in the ancient oak trees due to fall-overs, and disease, while the redwoods and smaller oaks took over the hillsides.

    What seems to be either a tree down or part of the bulldozing that happened when the upper meadow was filled in more and the upper roadway built, possibly in the late 70s or early 80s. Obviously an accident with a tree down and damage to a structure. It is not certain where this is but we think that the redwood grove is in the background. The structure may be like the current tack room and the surface in the foreground may be the community road.

    View of snowfall on the community road (now called Ancient Oaks Way) with the barn in the distance. Taken from Bear Creek Road. Could have been taken in the 1990s in the same winter as in the photo of the snow covered barn front above.

    Aerial and Satellite Images

    Click here to see Ancient Oaks Farm in 1953

    The above is an aerial view of Ancient Oaks in 1953. Bear Creek Road crosses the lower right diagonally (up is north). The left side of the convex up hairpin at the right is today's Hopkins Gulch Rd. The Bear Creek Road realignment that straightened Bear Creek Road wasn't done till the mid 50's.. It probably took an hour to drive from Boulder Creek to Los Gatos in 1950. Click here and try to find Ancient Oaks. Image and description courtesy Steve of Fourwaters and Dorrance Road.

    Satellite image from the late 90s or early 2000s. Click for a larger view
    the profile of the barn is clearly visible as well as the two tall redwood stands

    This satellite image from the US Geological Survey comes to us from the web site Terraserver which can show you an exact view of our area.

    From-orbit image taken in 2001 courtesy of EarthViewer, click here to see this page at Earthviewer. or visit the EarthViewer site here.

    See this fabulous new aerial photo of Ancient Oaks courtesy Air Photo Inc.
    Photo is circa September 1998. Click for a larger view

    Records from 1940s to 1990s: Ray, Gooch, Kriz

    These families have had stewardship of Ancient Oaks since the 1940s. Some excerpts from the County of Santa Cruz records are just about the only history we have from this time.

    Bud Tomlin's recounting of the Ray family: 1940s-50s

    Bud Tomlin is the retired fire chief of Boulder Creek. I spoke with him in June 2002 about his recollections of the Ray family who lived at Ancient Oaks Ranch in the 1940s and 1950s and possibly earlier. He recalls that Mrs. Ray used to come into the meat market (the red and white butchers) located where the present Boulder Creek Brewery is located. Mrs Ray would bring in eggs to sell through the shop, which is consistent with our understanding that the ranch had a major chicken operation in sheds. We still find the butane pipes used to heat the chicken coups in the winter.

    Bud also recalled that Mr. Ray worked nights in the San Lorenzo valley driving his car around "rattling doors" for businesses. In other words, Mr. Ray provided security services.

    Bud graduated in 1950 and was then working in the meat market and later started a garbage collection business. Bud then went into the service and came out about 4 years later. That was in about 1957 when he says that Mr. Ray tried to interest him in buying the property, then about 50 acres, for about $50,000, a lot of money at the time. Bud was not interested. He sensed that the Ray's were trying to unload the property and move on. This is consistent with Joe Kriz's story that the former owners of the property were forced by a change of county law to cease their chicken operation, whereupon they attempted to stay afloat by growing and pressing apples. That having failed to sustain the family they opted to sell the farm.

    As far as Bud can remember the Ray's had no children.

    Gooch: late 1950s to late 1960s

    We postulate that the Ray's found a buyer in Mr. Gooch, in the late 50s. Gooch subdivided the original ranch around 1958-59. Bud recalls that the building on the left (the parcel on which we now live) was a "small cabin" and that the Ray's lived in the house on the right, now owned by Gordon and Diana Candee. Our house, as indicated by the county records below, seemed to be variously rebuilt (in 1960), rented and unoccupied and in a state of disrepair throughout most of the 1960s. As a fireman in that period Bud recalls coming up to extinguish a small fire in the late 1960s or early 1970s when the Kriz family lived here. Indeed our electrician found evidence of an old fire in the attic some years back.

    The Kriz Era: 1969(?)-1998

    Joe and Donna Kriz acquired the property from Gooch in 1969 or 1970 and set about making extensive upgrades and repairs. They lived in the barn while Joe and Donna extensively remodeled the house. Donna vividly recalled to me the amount of rat droppings under the kitchen counter when they first bought the property. The Kriz's had 6 children and all of them worked on the continuous projects around the farm (neighbors recall them working every weekend on something). Joe and Donna raised over 300 hogs, cows, peacocks, chickens and kept and even bred horses, boarding up to 17 at one time. Joe bulldozed the property, changing the landscape, creating a pasture, and shifting watercourses. In this way he terraced the land and with the whole family built a whole set of retaining walls. Donna inlaid many marvelous mosaics which can be seen in these early pictures I took from 1998.

    The entire family worked to dig out a basement under the house when Joe jacked it up by hand. The covered porch and lean-to were turned into extensions and the house significantly upgraded. An overhang was added to the front to protect the house from the weather. We note that with only one bathroom it must have been a challenge to raise such a large family.

    Kriz family events at Ancient Oaks

    Sally Kriz' wedding was held at Ancient Oaks in 1988 and her high school graduation celebration happened in 1983. Both of these events (and another daughter's wedding) inspired a big push to terrace and landscape. The stage was built for Sally's 1983 high school graduation to host a band. As Sally reports, her wedding was a marvelous success hosting a large crowd. A white wedding arch and gazebo were built and used for this event. The gazebo (pictured above) was destroyed when a tree later fell on it (as often happens here). Later on, we also chose to hold weddings here.

    Joe remodeled and added rooms onto the barn to support his children's hobbies including: a dark room, a dance studio, horse stalls, and a project to convert a Model A Ford car to run on electricity. A greenhouse was built for one of his sons.

    In the early 90s Joe's job was eliminated as part of the aerospace downsizing and the family started to explore their options and bought land up near Mount Shasta. They felt that the neighborhood was becoming too crowded.

    Joe continued to practice as a farrier (horseshoeing) until they departed on August 7, 1998, handing me the keys. Joe said that hey felt that he would not need to look back, indicating to me that he felt comfortable with his choice of who he left the property in the care of. Joe's word and handshake were his bond. My words to him that I would build on the hard work that he, Donna and their family put in, is my bond.

    You can see my reports to the Kriz family as some of the hard work that we are putting in to build on his legacy.

    Excerpts from the County of Santa Cruz records

    Evidence of earliest dated records for the property, 1923

    Remarks on file for March 17, 1961 to 1962:
    "this is an old shell being remodeled.. owner hasn't made any progress this year.. 3-17-61"
    "$100 mon rent - own utilities - Place has been completely remodeled + rebuilt - raised glass due to quality workmanship of interior finish 3/20/62"

    From June 19, 1968
    "House left open and in pretty bad shape. Some windows broken, floor sagging, floor covering coming up or missing, specially in bath room. Plumbing heat & b-ins are questionable, roof leaks & very dirty. Min $2000 to $2500 to put into shape."

    From Sept 29, 1969
    "NO ENTRY - Limited view - could only see kitchen, living room & 1 bedroom. These 3 rooms revealed paneling okay - ceilings painted - floor coverings okay and built-ins okay. Outside view did not reveal any recent roof - subfloor or plumbing repair. 2 exterior sides recently painted - could not see bathroom. Increased due to 1969 inde & (?) increased due to present condition. L-to (lean to) had 2 broken windows."

    Full County Records

    Floorplan of the house

    Barn and outbuildings as assessed into the early 1980s, reviewed 10/15/98

    Residential Building Record showing
    history from 1958, likely after acquisition
    by Gooch

    Miscellaneous Building Record

    Records from 1990s-2000s: Damer/Brandt Era

    You can see the May-June 1998 Images from when Bruce Damer was making his offer to acquire Ancient Oaks. Also please see the recent and current events here at Ancient Oaks under the tutelage of Bruce Damer and Galen Brandt. The Ancient Oaks homepage and About Ancient Oaks contains extensive coverage of life at Ancient Oaks including all four seasons in the gardens extensively improved by the current caretakers (see below).

    see new photo gallery from four seasons in the gardens

    The Digibarn Computer Museum

    The barn at Ancient Oaks dates from before World War One according to Joe Kriz. DigiBarn, as it is now known has its own web page at and has been developed as a computer museum which opened on July 13, 2002.

    Other Recent Ancient Oaks Farm News

    Events at Ancient Oaks since 1998 are covered here

    Reports to the Kriz Family

    You can see my reports to the Kriz family as some of the hard work that we are putting in to improve the property and build on the Kriz family's earlier legacy.

    Neighbor's web sites

    Frank and Joyce Robbins, our immediate neighbors and also residents of a parcel of the original Ancient Oaks Farm (which they call Ancient Oaks Ranch), also maintain a website, called

    Recent community improvement projects

    In June of 2002, our community petitioned to have our road named "Ancient Oaks Way" in honor of the original ranch and this sign was put up in the July of 2002. In June of that year, all of our postboxes were moved up in front of the community houses and we received our own power drop and separated from the Candee's across the street, bringing to an end all vestiges of the older, single ranch that used to be.

    We recently completed a fence around much of the front of the property.

    You can see more about the community through our attempts to maintain the Ancient Oaks Way Community Road.

    Back to Ancient Oaks Farm pages

    Click here to contact Bruce or send comments on this website.

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