This Place Matters: The First Ainsley House

Posted on December 11th, 2019 by susanblake

This month’s featured landmark home is the first J. C. Ainsley House at 84 North Third St. The Queen Anne cottage style house is estimated to have been built in 1874, on a 7 ½ acre ranch. It originally stood on the northeast corner of East Campbell Ave. and Winchester (Road) Blvd. Its story is another example how homes were saved rather than demolished by moving them to new locations as the township grew.

Yet another house built by George Whitney, it shows his talent for creating unique details in the Queen Anne Style. The wide shiplap siding made of clear heart redwood, was likely sourced in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Ornately carved brackets support the eaves, with cut scallop shaped shingles and decorative work underneath. The one story house with no basement and an unfinished attic, had a half story added in 1983. The addition maintains the exterior architectural integrity of the Queen Anne style.

When John Colpitts Ainsley first arrived in Campbell in 1887, he purchased this house and ranch lands. Originally from England, he came to the United States in 1884 to seek his fortune in America. While still a bachelor, Mr. Ainsley began to experiment with canning fruit on a stove in his backyard sheds. It was here that J.C. figured out how to keep our locally grown peaches, pears, apricots and prunes from spoiling, while maintaining their flavor and color. His canning methods allowed the fruits to be shipped back to eager buyers in England who were looking for quality above and beyond what they could get locally. J.C. Ainsley is credited with inventing canned fruit salad.

In 1891, his “Washboiler Cannery” produced a thousand cases of fruit. (See Jeanette Watson Campbell the Orchard City). Mr. Ainsley went on to become a highly successful business man, building the J.C. Ainsley Packing Company, while providing good employment for many of the town’s residents. He married a local young lady, Alcinda Shelly, on May 1, 1894 and they had two children.

In 1921, the Campbell Union School District purchased the house and property and built the Campbell Union Grammar School, now the Heritage Village Office Complex. The district moved the house to the rear of the property to make way for the new school building, where it was rented to the first school principal for $25 a month. At one point the house was converted to a Manual Arts shop for students when the principal’s wife decided their growing family needed more room.

During the Great Depression, the house was put up for sale, and in 1930, it was sold to the only bidder, the school custodian and volunteer fireman, Antone Ferro. Mr. Ferro bought the house for $150. In 1933, he moved the house once again, by using horses, a capstan and a system of 12 foot long wooden skids with short wooden rollers rather than a wheeled vehicle, to its current location on North Third St. This method of house moving was common in Campbell because it allowed the structures to be maneuvered through the orchards.

Want to learn more about Campbell’s historic structures? There’s a free app for that. Search for: Historic Campbell, available for Android or Apple.

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Susan Blake, Campbell Historic Preservation Board.

Check out the archives for This Place Matters for more stories about Campbell's historic homes.

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