From hosting intimate gatherings to high-end affairs, the Jamison-Brown House is just one of Santa Clara’s historical homes that can be rented for special occasions. But not many people know the history behind the elegant two-story home that sits behind the Triton Museum of Art.
It was 1886 when Samuel Jamison, a state assemblyman and county supervisor built the house, which served as the home for his 18 children. Less than thirty years (1914) after the structure was built, the Jamison family sold it to Alfred Brown, who decided to remodel the home so extensively that it was essentially rebuilt from the ground up. “[Brown] made a continuous concrete foundation, increased the size of the living area, removed partitions, removed all lath and plaster from walls and ceiling and provided a second floor where an unfinished attic existed,” according to a document the city has on the home. It later says, “He literally tore the old house apart until today there is a main entrance hall, two generous bedrooms, modern bath on one side of the living room which extends the length of the house with very large picture windows on each end. The modern kitchen, breakfast room, dining room and service room are on the other side of the living room on the first floor.
“The great achievement was the transformation of the attic space into a second floor and the building of the wood room. He lowered the first floor ceiling, restructured the roof, built dormer windows on all sides in the roof, [and] installed an oak staircase in the central hall leading to the hall upstairs where there is a bedroom and a separate half bath.”
The home’s shining glory, however, is the wood room – an upstairs room adorned with various types of wood placed in fascinating patterns. An Oct. 25, 1970 San Jose Mercury News article calls it a “magnificent room paneled with some 100 different kinds of wood from all over the world.” Among the woods are “Zebrawood, hatberry, Brazil rosewood, Burma ironwood, boxwood, East India rosewood, Cuban mahogany, satinwood, sandalwood, teak and cascara.”
The seven-room, three-bath home was almost demolished in 1970 when the 50-acre parcel of property it sat on was purchased by Kaiser Aetna for the expansion of its 300-acre San Tomas Industrial Park. While the company understood the beauty of the home, it had no need for the structure and decided to tear it down.
The owners of the home at that time, Brown’s nephew George and his wife Lois, held a farewell party where friends decided that the home should be moved to the site of the Triton Museum of Art across from the Santa Clara Civic Center. Robert Morgan, the attorney who founded the museum, was on board with the idea and Kaiser Aetna enthusiastically agreed to donate the house and “all transplantable plantings accumulated over decades,” according to a Nov. 4, 1970 Santa Clara Valley Journal article.
City council then agreed to appropriate the $10,000 to cover the costs of moving the home, which was considered to be in excellent condition despite its 104-year age, to the Triton, and the Jamison-Brown Historical House Committee worked to raise an additional $10,000 – with Kaiser, Aetna and Coldwell Banker making the initial donations – to cover re-roofing and rehabilitating the structure.
For years, the home accented by gabled lofts and a wide, covered porch along two sides, was used as an art library, art gallery and front office for the Triton staff (who eventually vacated the premises once the museum on Warburton and Don Avenues was built). The home was remodeled in the mid-2000s and is currently managed by the museum, which rents it out for weddings, parties and community events. Visit http://tritonmuseum.org/FacilityJamison.php for rental information.