The community of Skylonda is a hidden treasure amongst the winding curves and dense redwood forests of La Honda Road and Highway 35. The locally renowned Alice’s Restaurant is located there as are the Skywood Center and a real estate office you can find out how Silicon Valley tech investors have driven up land prices.
They Came for the Redwoods
The redwoods were key to development of this area of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Early timber cutters, beginning in the Spanish mission era, found redwoods in what is now nearby Woodside and Portola Valley. Later, Yankee woodsmen followed a diminishing supply of redwood timber up the steep slope to the summit and down over into La Honda. The lumber had to be transported to local mills and then to the port of Redwood City on San Francisco Bay. Several turnpikes were built to serve the timber mills, the ranching community, and to transport tourists to the coast. Old La Honda Road to the south is a remnant of the turnpike era. In 1914 a new La Honda Road, which became state route 84, replaced them. In 1929, the junction of the two state highways became an important crossroads when Skyline Boulevard (state route 35) passed through on its way along the summit from San Francisco.
A Community Forms
The Chapman family who owned the surrounding timberland, took advantage of the new highways and filed a series of subdivisions under the names of “Sky L’Onda,” “Sky-Londa,” and “Sky Londa,” combining the names of Skyline and La Honda. The lots, about one quarter acre in size, were marketed to middle class families in San Francisco. The down payment was low, and with the right financing, a log cabin could be built for only $750. More affluent city dwellers had already established large estates nearby. By 1932 there were about 60 summer cabins that could, if you were hardy, be used in the winter. The community grew as more lots were sold, and a mutual water company was formed. Today, most of the cabins have been remodeled and updated into permanent residences for commuters to the Santa Clara Valley.
Not the Alice’s Restaurant
The first commercial building at Skylonda was a small store that predated the state highways. It catered to the local logging community. In the 1960s, Alice Taylor opened a coffee shop in the little building now called Alice’s Restaurant. There is no relationship to Alice Brock and her Massachusetts restaurant made famous by Arlo Guthrie’s famous 1967 song of the same name.
Nevertheless, the several owners over the years kept the name because it was good for business. Motorists who grew up in the ‘60s can’t help but remember the song and tend to stop and eat. The Kerr brothers, the present owners, went so far as to install a “Group W Bench.” For those not familiar with the Vietnam War protest song, this bench was the place at the army recruiting center where you were sidelined if you had ever committed a crime. Songwriter Guthrie and his buddy landed there because they had been fined $50 for illegally dumping garbage, and thus evaded the draft during the Vietnam War – according to the song (and movie) anyway.
The Skywood Center
Across Skyline Boulevard one finds the newer Skywood Center, which is within the Town of Woodside. The center was completed in 1950 by Joseph Stadler and his nephew, Ralph Oswald. The low ranch style complex has housed a series of restaurants, a coffee shop, real estate offices, and the Skywood Market.
The market, formerly a general store, now specializes in food and offers a deli counter for picnickers. It also sells gas, as does Alice’s across the way. To the northeast of the Skywood Center lies the subdivision of Skywood Acres where the country lots, ranging from one to ten acres, purposefully snake around the largest redwood trees.
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
Much of the information in this tour comes from a book called The South Skyline Story by Janet Schwind and the Skyline Historical Society, 2014. It is a well written, fun and informative read from the Native Americans, through the early loggers and ranchers, commune dwellers, wine makers, conservationists and homebuilders. You can get a copy at Alice’s Restaurant in Skylonda (the junction of Highways 35 and 84) or by contacting Skyline History President Chuck Schoppe, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 408-867-9229.
- The South Skyline Story. Janet Schwind and the Skyline Historical Society. 2014.