Alma College

The Alma Cultural Landscape Rehabilitation Project is part of the Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve Plan, a long-term use and management plan for the preserve.

Location and Background

The Alma Cultural Landscape is a historic site that preserves remnants of many layers of past human use, reflecting the successive eras of California history.  “Upper Lake,” near the preserve entrance, was originally formed by movement along the San Andreas Fault, then expanded to serve as a timber mill pond. The pond then became the center of a lavish and vast estate named Alma Dale. Carriage roads and bridges, still visible among the redwoods, linked the estate to nearby towns. In 1934 the property was purchased by the Jesuit order, classrooms and dormitories were constructed, and the site again transformed into Alma College, the first Jesuit college of theology on the west coast.

Detailed information about the Alma cultural landscape can be found in these documents:

Historic Resource Study
Conditions Assessment
Cultural Landscape Rehabilitation Plan

Project Details

The Alma Cultural Landscape Rehabilitation Project seeks to implement a fiscally-sustainable, clean-up and rehabilitation plan that allows the historic site’s significance to be understood and safely enjoyed by the public. The plan and project follow the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes. These standards define rehabilitation as “the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions of features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values." 

The compatible use for the Alma cultural landscape is an open space preserve and the rehabilitation plan balances these objectives with Midpen’s mission “to protect and restore the natural environment, and provide opportunities for ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education.” Identifying potential partnerships and funding opportunities to help restore the site features is integral to the rehabilitation plan. In 2020, the County of Santa Clara’s Historic Grant Program awarded Midpen $200,000 to help preserve the historic structures.

Rehabilitation actions include:

  • Hazardous materials abatement, site clean-up and demolition of the garage upper level, classroom and 1950 library (retaining foundation “footprints” for interpretive purposes);
  • Mothballing the 1934 library and 1909 Chapel, and stabilizing the Chapel porch to allow public access;
  • Rehabilitating historic terracing and landscape forms; interpreting historic plantings with native species;
  • Restoring the historic circulation pattern and providing accessible routes for persons with disabilities;
  • Providing visitor and operational amenities including interpretative signage and programming, benches and picnic tables, safety railings, patrol routes and emergency vehicle turnaround.

Rehabilitation Project Schedule

Spring 2018Planning and Natural Resources Committee Meeting
Summer 2018 – Summer 2020Permitting
Fall 2020Clean-up and Demolition
Spring – Fall 2021Stabilization and Rehabilitation