Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains lies a Silicon Valley town by the named of Los Gatos. Spanish for “the cats”, the original name of this smaller Silicon Valley town was La Rinconada de Los Gatos (corner of the cats). The name stems from the screams of mountain lions heard by Mexican settlers who came to the area and established the town in 1868. Los Gatos was incorporated in 1887.
Mountain Lion entrance signs for Los Gatos
Homage to the town’s namesakes can be seen dotted throughout the town. Visitors to Los Gatos who cross at some of the town’s most trafficked points of entry will see metal cat sculptures created by Seattle artist Matt Babock. Babock was selected from 14 submission as part of the Los Gatos Arts Commission’s effort to bring in new signage that was more aligned with the town’s art focused scene.
Motorists who take the Lark Avenue exit off Highway 17 are greeting with one of the sculptures created by Babock. A five-and-half foot gold abstract mountain lion sits perched on top of a blue sign with the name of the town.
This isn’t the first time that Los Gatos has commissioned artists. Pedestrians strolling down one of the shopping streets in downtown Los Gatos might be unaware that they are being “watched.” Peer up into some of the trees that line the shopping district and you might see a pair of eyes staring right back at you.
Cat Walk in downtown Los Gatos
The artwork was created by Solomon Bassoff from the Sierra Nevada based Faducci art studio. Ten sculptured cement cats were installed in 2014 along North Santa Cruz Avenue between Main and Bachman streets in downtown Los Gatos. Known as “Cat Walk” each cat sculpture was installed high up in the city trees.
Art Deco cat
It’s not just the trees where cats can be found. Los Gatos Theatre is adorned by a stylized silver Art Deco cat. The theater was first built in 1915 and was called The Strand. After a fire in 1929, the theater was rebuilt with an Art Deco motif.
Leo and Leona
Los Gatos has a long tradition of combing art and cats. Located just south of downtown Los Gatos off Highway 17, a pair of white bobcats stand guard at the entrance of a private driveway. Known affectionately as Leo and Leona, the sculptures, created by Robert Treat Paine, were installed in 1922 by writer Colonel Charles Erskine Scott Wood and poet, suffragist Sara Bard Field.
Robert Treat Paine studied cats at the San Francisco Zoo as his inspiration for the twin statues that resemble bobcats. The eight-foot high cat sculptures are made of poured concrete and were originally painted a pale brown color. Today the two wild cats stand as bright white sculptures framing a gated entrance.
It was the property’s second owners who gave the two statues their nicknames that have endured to this day. When sports psychologist Dr. Bruce Ogilvie and his wife, Diane, purchased the property in the middle of the 20th century, they decided to name the cat on the left with the alert eyes, “Leona” and the cat on the right with the squinting eyes, “Leo.”
The Cats Roadhouse
A smaller duplicate pair of cats next door greet diners as they enter The Cats, a restaurant and bar that dates back to 1896 when it was a weigh-in station for loggers from the redwoods into San Jose. The Cats has had a colorful history, having been a bordello, a speakeasy, and a mixed-used building housing a realty office, gun shop and sporting goods store. Since 1967, the Cats has reverted to serving drinks and food.
Wildcat redwood sculpture at Los Gatos High
Greeting passersby in front of Los Gatos High is a unique sculpture of the schools mascot, the Wildcat. The wood sculpture came about as a way to pay homage to the fifty year old Sequoia redwood that died after a prolonged drought in 2016. The tree was cut down, leaving a 12 foot high stump on the expansive lawn that fronts the school.