Just outside Los Gatos, California stand two stone cats that are a familiar sight to anyone who makes the winding drive from Silicon Valley to the surf in Santa Cruz. Named “Leo” and “Leona,” these tall white statues guard the gated entrance to Poets Canyon and the grand estate known as “The Cats.”
The author Charles Erskine Scott Wood and his wife, poet Sara Bard Field purchased land in Los Gatos in 1919. They built the grand estate as a home and artists’ retreat. The sculptor Robert Paine was commissioned to create the cat sculptures, who have been watching over the driveway gates since 1922. The property has changed hands only a few times, and remains one of the most prized estates in an already exclusive area.
Just outside the gates is a BBQ joint called The Cats Restaurant and Tavern. Originally, it served as a stage stop for loggers hauling lumber to San Jose from the Santa Cruz mountains. In the 1920s it was a notorious speakeasy and bordello. Since then it has housed a variety of businesses from realty to sporting goods to guns–all on the way back to becoming a roadhouse.
Although today the booze is legal and the prostitutes are long gone, you can still gaze out the windows of the tavern onto busy Highway 17 and imagine what it was like when the only traffic was horse-drawn wagons and poets lived behind the cat-guarded gates next door.
Know Before You Go
Can't miss it, right off of Highway 17 in Los Gatos.