Like many other cities in the Santa Clara Valley, Campbell was originally orchard & farm land that was later developed into housing communities. Campbell was founded by Benjamin Campbell, after whom the city was named. He came to California in 1846 with his father, William Campbell. William started a sawmill in Saratoga and surveyed the cities of San Jose and Santa Clara. In 1851, Benjamin bought 160 acres in southern Santa Clara Valley and cultivated hay and grain on it. This area later became Campbell’s historical downtown core.
About a third of Campbell was a part of the 1839 Alta California Rancho Rinconada de Los Gatos land grant. The Northern extent of the granted land was along present-day Rincon Avenue and across the North end of John D. Morgan Park in central Campbell. In 1878, Campbell sold his land for $5 an acre to a railroad company. By 1887, the first subdivision was recorded west of the railroad from Campbell Avenue to the spot where the Water Tower Plaza now stands. The area became the center for shipping fruit, grown in the surrounding area, and within a short time, the drying grounds and canneries made Campbell an important rail center. The Campbell Fruit Growers’ Union became a well-known cooperative with its 17-acre drying yard. J.C. Ainsley Packing Company, Hyde Cannery, and Payne Cannery were the main fruit packing companies. The Bank of Campbell was founded in 1895. Campbell was officially incorporated as a city in 1952. The city then grew rapidly as orchard lands disappeared tract by tract. Today, Campbell is a suburban residential neighborhood in the southern part of the Santa Clara Valley. Campbell’s downtown is located near where Campbell Avenue intersects with the railroad. The downtown has many shops, bars, and restaurants. The oldest commercial building in the city was erected in 1920, originally for the Grower’s Bank. The building was converted to a movie theater in 1938. In 1968, The Gaslighter Theater Company purchased and refurbished the building with a small stage and bar. (The Gaslighter home page. Retrieved on 2008-02-18.). The Gaslighter produced melodramas and Vaudeville-style shows there until it closed in 2006. In 2013 the building was sold and underwent refurbishment to become a wine bar, tasting room, and restaurant. (Howe, Sally (February 12, 2013). “Gaslighter may have found its niche”. Campbell Express. )