Smith’s Corners/Campbell’s Corner



This may be the oldest continuously occupied commercial lot in Milpitas. 

On February 14, 1856, Michael Hughes bought 800 acres of the northwest corner of Rancho San Miguel (Milpitas) from Juana Galindo Alviso, widow of Jose Maria Alviso for $225.  Hughes had filed a preemption claim in March 1853, presumably to the land that he later purchased from Mrs. Alviso.  Five minutes after he bought the land from Alviso, he sold this lot and four acres between the Mission Road (Main St.) and Penitencia Creek (near the Foster's Freeze) for $150 to Richard Greenham, who had been renting the lot from Hughes.  Five minutes later, Greenham sold the four acres along with "improvements" to Augustus Rathbone for $1,500.  The dramatic increase in price indicates that there were structures on the land and since it was difficult to farm four acres and make a living, it is likely that Greenham had operated a business there.  By 1862, Rathbone's Saloon was the site of the first recorded murder in Milpitas (the killer escaped). 

Penitencia Creek was relocated to its present location, 500 feet west of Main Street, in the 1960s to help control the frequent winter flooding of the downtown district.

In the 1880s, the saloon was replaced by a hotel operated by a man named Goodwin.  It is likely that Goodwin kept a saloon downstairs.  The 1893 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows this lot occupied by "Goodwin Hotel".  Presumably, the hotel burned prior to 1900, perhaps in the same fire that destroyed French's Hotel a few feet north and across the Alviso Road (now Serra Way).

Happy Serpa
              Bartender According to Clarence Smith, nephew of John Smith and owner of the bar until the late 1940s, his uncle built the present structure in the mid-1890s.  The building can be seen on the Sanborn Fire Insurance map of 1908 but is not shown on the 1893 Sanborn map.  John Smith named his saloon Smith's Corner and began serving liquid refreshment to local farmers and travelers.

At left:  John "Happy" Serpa tending bar in Campbell's Corner, c. 1954.


In the late 1940s, Clarence Smith sold the property to the Campbell family who renamed it Campbell’s Corner. Although the property was owned by others during the next fifty years, the name remained unchanged until it was purchased in 1997 for use as a restaurant. The new owner removed the west wall and gutted the interior including discarding the 100 year old bar.  In 1999 he applied for a permit to demolish the remaining shell but the request to tear down this local landmark was refused.

The photo at the top of the page (view is from the northeast) was taken just prior to the the building changing hands in 1997.

The building has served as a restaurant under several different names since 1997.


The present building may be only the third structure to be on this site since 1856, and is certainly over 100 years old.


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