The History of the Term/Neighborhood “Goosetown”

The Goosetown Lounge is inarguably Willow Glen’s most famous drinking establishment, but few people know there’s a lot of history behind the unusual name.

According to Gary Rovai, who with his wife Lynn owns Goosetown Lounge and Goosetown Mercantile, a long time ago the residents of the area, who were mostly Italian immigrants, would catch geese that stopped in as part of their migration, clip their wings and keep ’em around for their big holiday dinners. (not as guests…)

When the Rovais opened a new gift shop down the street called “Goosetown Mercantile” last year, Holly did a video in which she interviewed owner Gary Rovai about the origin of the term, and showed off a great mural in the shop that shows old time Willow Glen, including comparisons of the buildings in the mural with what’s there today. Watch it and enjoy!

Excerpt from San Jose and Other Famous Places

Thanks to Richard Zapelli of the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association for sharing this information from the first chapter of the book San Jose and Other Famous Places, by Harry Farrell. I think it’s worth noting that Farrell says as part of this excerpt that the name Goosetown “is virtually gone from our vocabulary” — that might have been true in 1983 when the book was published but thanks to the Rovais two establishments on Lincoln Avenue, the term is now quite famous!

When San Jose was small, its districts we’re distinct. Neighborhoods were important, each with its own flavor. None had a zestier flavor than Goosetown.

Goosetown was essentially the old “Fourth Ward”, south of downtown San Jose and west of First Street and east of Bird Avenue, north of San Jose Avenue. In the early 1900’s it was marshy, traversed by two creeks that often overflowed, the Canoas Creek and the Guadalupe.

Over decades Goosetown, whose name is virtually gone from our vocabulary, underwent a series of ethnic metamorphoses. The Irish were there, and the Germans. In the first quarter of the century it became a magnet for Italians newly arrived from the Old Country. That was when the Para Family family from Lucca Italy arrived and founded the Roma Bakery on Almaden Avenue, which still produces bread and rolls for the best restaurants in Northern California. Sacred Heart Church Parish became the social center of Goosetown as it is today, now that the neighborhood became mainly Chicano.

There is something about the soil, and even the asphalt and concrete, of Goosetown that has consistently produced a hardy breed. Each of its ethnic waves turned out leaders of the city of San Jose, of the business and the arts. Life was not easy in Goosetown. It was the stepchild section of San Jose and Willow Glen – the last section for example to get telephones, Goosetowner Hank Calloway remembers. The bicycle was a popular mode of transportation, otherwise we resulted to foot transportation weather we needed a midwife, a doctor, a priest or a fire truck.

Washington Elementary School was a homely, turn-of-the-century structure with a Victorian cupola topped by a flagpole. One of the schools mo re noted graduates were A.P? Giannini, founder of the Bank of Italy, Bank of America and Transamerica Corporation.

Until 1935 goats roamed the pasture area along Willow Street when Graham Field , San Jose’s Formosa Ballpark for some years opened in 1936.This was San Jose’s most foremost ball park for some years before the Municipal Stadium. Graham field had a capacity of 1,200. One of the most famous minor league baseball players to play in this stadium was Joe DiMaggio.

Other Goosetown residents in the sports world were Albert Ruffo and his partner Tony Moribito who formed the San Francisco 49ers at meetings held at the Ruffo home dinner table. Yes the founders of the 49ers were Goosetown residents.

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Corner of Lincoln and Minnesota WAY Back When