An unofficial piece of Santa Clara’s history is on track to be preserved. A single-level, white craftsman home, originally located at 1493 Clay Street, which subsequently became 1493 El Camino Real, built in the 1920s had been threatened with demolition. The property that included the house had been sold to SCS Development that’s building a 39-unit residential project at the site. A historic resources survey was conducted to determine if the house had historical value and thus sparred demolition, however it lacked the necessary criteria.
Although not deemed a historic resource, the little home still remains of immense value to the descendants of John Nicolas Ivankovic who built it for his family. Ivankovic was born in Yugoslavia in 1892 and came to the U.S. in 1911. In 1923 he purchased two acres of land on what was then Clay Street for $10 in gold coins and then borrowed $1,600 to build the house with plans to start a family. Ivankovic worked as a fruit farmer until his death in 1964.
“I grew up being the youngest by 11 years from the sister closest in years to me,” recalled Linda Mancini, Ivankovic’s daughter. “I remember getting in my dad’s pickup at 5:00 in the morning and heading off to his apricot ranch in Almaden — taking over two hours to get there down Old Almaden Road. My job was to punch the cards of the workers that were picking the buckets. I think it was then 20 cents per bucket. Then as I got older, I joined the ‘cot cutters’ and eventually was promoted to forelady.
“Summers were great,” continued Mancini. “Everyone brought their lunch and we just hung out. My friends (about 10 years old) would come over in the evenings and we’d take turns riding on the carts that took the trays into the sulfur house for curing.”
Given the rich memories of growing up in Santa Clara, Mancini was apprehensive about losing some connection to those childhood stories if the house were demolished. The house was put up for sale by SCS Development, and, in June, Monroe Street resident Neil Cortez happened to be driving down El Camino Real and saw the for-sale sign.
Cortez owns a double lot on Monroe Street and had a longstanding dream of building a craftsman style home on the property. When he saw the little white house, he immediately knew that it fit with his vision. Cortez is now in the process of finalizing the purchase and working out the painstaking details of moving the house from its current location to its new home three miles away on Monroe Street.
He plans to keep the house much the same as it is, though some repairs will have to be made to fix such things as broken windows. He plans to put a white picket fence in the yard around the house, which will sit right next to an apricot tree and a few other mature trees that he’s retained on the property.
“It’s all happened so quickly,” Cortez said. “I’m hoping to have it up to habitability by the end of the year. I think it’s going to survive another 100 years.”
In addition to fulfilling his personal dream of having a quaint craftsman home, saving the little white house is also meaningful to Cortez because he didn’t want to see such valuable materials end up in a landfill. He also said that by rehabilitating the old home, trees will be saved from being cut down for new construction.
“I’m anxious, excited and optimistic at the same time,” said Cortez. “It’s a challenging and expensive process but overall I’m very happy with my decision to move forward and make it livable.”
The next step is to get the house moved to its new foundation and then get it connected to utilities. Cortez explained that the process involves a lot of coordination with contractors and paperwork with the City.
“I can’t tell you how much this means to my family,” expressed Mancini. “There are so many memories, not only for me, but all the grandkids, great grandkids, cousins and my aunt. So many people in Santa Clara remember the little white house, the apricot cutting, working at the car wash (after my dad passed). It was really heartbreaking to think the house was going to be torn down so you can imagine our reaction when we heard it had been sold.”