History of William Wehner Estate
William Wehner Mansion
The old historic William Wehner Mansion, located in the Villages Golf and Country
Club area, in the Southwest Foothills of San Jose, California, is being completely renovated for
sale as a residence for seniors. This property, historically named Villa Lomas Azules
(Blue Hills Estate) by its original owner William Wehner, is a 3-story, Queen Ann style,
6500 sq. ft. mansion with full basement, 2 detached buildings of 500 sq. ft. each, known as the Summer Kitchen and Garden house, on 1.7 acres. The prestigious Chicago firm of Burnham and Root designed Mr. Wehner's mansion in 1888 and construction was completed in 1891. The dominant architectural feature is the repeated use of the round arch in the carriage entrance, doorways and porch windows. The mansion (before renovation) had 7 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and 6 fireplaces. See below for renovation plan.
William Wehner paid $20,000 for 718 spring-watered foothill acres in the Evergreen area of San Jose, California, in 1887. Today part of this land is the adult community known as the Villages. This land was part of Rancho Yerba Buena purchased by John and Mary McCarty in 1863.
The Wehners became part of San Jose's large German community, coming here from Chicago. He had been listed as a farmer when he entered the United States in 1860, from Hanover Germany. Mr. Wehner made his fortune prior to moving west as a talented artist with a keen business sense. William Wehner had the vision and financial resources to recreate a vast wine growing estate. Working with his brother Earnest, over 3000 acres were planted. He was a leader in the development of the wine industry in California.
By 1915 the aging Wehner sold a large portion of the estate to the Albert Haentze, another experienced German winemaker and businessman from Chicago. Renaming the winery Rancho Villa Vista, Haentze succeeded as leader of the Santa Clara Valley grape growers, but fought a loosing battle with the forces of prohibition, which closed most of the wineries in 1918. When prohibition was lifted in 1933, the estate came under the control of the Cribari family who maintained the winery on site until 1959 when the land passed through the hands of several would-be developers. Eventually, it became the site for the Villages.
The mansion, the summer kitchen, the garden house, along with the 1890 hillside winery building comprised the original Lomas Azules Estate. A larger winery building was added in 1908, and was still functional in the mid 1970's, being then used by the nearby Mirassou Winery to cellar wines. All winery buildings along with the adjacent barns were destroyed in 1994 under pressure from the Villages community.
On Oct. 17, 1989 Wehner Mansion was designated Historic Landmark Building by the City of San Jose. It has been nominated for the National Registry but not formally listed. Its official name in the National Registry will be Villa Lomas Azules.
Renovation of Mansion
In 1994 Laura and Robert Thompson purchased the Mansion property from UDC Homes, the Villages builder. On October 17, 1994 Laura Thompson submitted a Use Plan to the City of San Jose for restoration of the mansion as a residence for seniors. Title to the property passed on to Robert and Evonne Helwig and subsequently to Carlton B. Craighead. In August 1997, Security West Investment Group took over management of the project, obtaining Historic Preservation and Planned Development Permits from the City of San Jose. The renovation plan calls for completion in the fall of 2002, which will include 6 bedroom suites, 8 bathrooms, 6 fireplaces, a hobby shop, recreation room and library. For further details and sales information, please call 408-867-6000.
Public Visits Restricted
Currently, the Wehner Mansion is not accessible for public viewing, being located within the private Villages Community. However, plans are being developed for special open houses after renovation is completed.