The Sunnyvale Historical Society has been around for 60 years with the goal of preserving and presenting the History of Sunnyvale. We are an all-volunteer organization so the motives for our actions are free from any personal gain and solely dedicated to accomplishing this goal in the most intelligent and open manner possible. At this point, we are engaged with the City and the developer in an effort to relocate the 1912 Butcher house from its current location at Wolfe and El Camino to a location next to our museum at 570 E. Remington Drive in Sunnyvale. All of the costs of moving the house, bringing it up to code, and restoring it will be borne by the Society.
Because the relocation will require the removal of some apricot trees in the Heritage Park Orchard, there have been several e-mails suggesting that we are trying to “take out the orchard”. The purpose of this letter is to describe our project and set the record straight about changes to the orchard, which we also consider very much a part of Sunnyvale’s history.
The Butcher family has been in Sunnyvale since 1881. The Butchers were successful fruit growers and innovators (Arthur Butcher invented the first orchard tractor,) and became well established in the community. Rolla Butcher, the patriarch of the family, built a beautiful Colonial Revival house in the 1890s which was demolished in 1980 to make room for a shopping center. In 1912, the year Sunnyvale was Incorporated, his brother, Arthur, built a custom American Ranch-style house which is the one we are trying to save. The 2,424 square foot house is a beautiful example of a luxury house from that era, specially designed and built for one of Sunnyvale’s hard working, well-to-do orchardists. Its six foot high mahogany wainscoting, inlaid hardwood floors and lath and plaster walls are unique architectural features and a joy to behold!
So, what will happen to the orchard when the house is moved? In the museum’s proposal, the location of the house would place about half of it in the orchard, and the other half in the current patio area of the museum. This will cause the permanent removal of only about 10 trees. The driveway will be permanently widened a bit to guarantee that a fire lane will always be open and this will cause the removal of about 10 more trees. The ten-acre orchard has about 80 trees per acre for a total of about 800 trees. The removal of 20 trees will leave 97% of the orchard unaffected. Those trees that are slated for removal can be transplanted to sites where there are young, non-bearing trees, dead trees, or piles of unused items so the orchard’s fruit output can be protected.
The Historical Society was instrumental in preserving the City-owned orchard as well as moving the Bianchi Barn and establishing OHPIE to honor the early orchardists. We care deeply about the orchard. The Sunnyvale Historical Society has a long history of its mission to preserve the past:
- In 1994, we worked closely with the City of Sunnyvale to save the City-owned apricot orchard property, and preserve it as the last agricultural orchard in Sunnyvale. After much lobbying, the City finally designated the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Orchard as a City Park.
- In 2001, we worked to develop and build the Orchard Heritage Park Interpretive Exhibit [OHPIE] at Sunnyvale Heritage Park to celebrate and preserve the area’s agricultural history.
- In 2003, helped to preserve the Bianchi Barn. This public/private project is where the Historical Society orchestrated the moving of the historic barn to the Heritage Park site and preserving it.
- In 2006, the Society raised all funds to build the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum to present Sunnyvale history (after having failed to save the Murphy House in the 1960s). The museum opened in 2008. It remains open to the public free of charge and is solely maintained by the Society.
- In 2012, we raised all funding to renovate the old park building on the original Murphy site and continue to maintain it as well. This aging building became the storage facility for preserving our vast collection of historic treasures that are currently not on display at the museum.
In 1985, the California History Center at De Anza identified about 75 Sunnyvale houses with historic significance. As of 2015, over 70% of those houses have been torn down for development.
Please help spread the word that the Society is ready to do the work and raise the money to save this house before it, too, is destroyed.
As many know, we are rapidly losing all of our old farm houses and this one happens to be a classic orchard ranch house–it’s an historical treasure to save, if we can. It was built on the Butcher Orchard the year the City of Sunnyvale was incorporated and was a very high-end house for its time.
The museum’s proposal would be to find a location on the Heritage Park site to move this classic style ranch house from a century ago. The link to the left shows an overview of the Sunnyvale Heritage Park site.
This proposal is still in the exploratory stage only. The Historical Society is working closely with City staff to look at alternatives for saving the home, and we will continue to work with them through every step of the process. The link to the left shows the location preferred by the museum on the Heritage Park site.
The house is in great condition for a home built more than 100 years ago. Here are two photos of the interior of this historic orchard ranch home.Copyright © 2015 Sunnyvale Historical Society & Museum Association, Inc., All Rights Reserved