Gateway to Niles Canyon
Occupied Historic Town
Circa mid 1800's
Sunol was originally settled by the Ohlone Indian Tribe who lived in small villages throughout the canyon. When the Mission San Jose was established by the Spanish, the ohlone population began to decline drastically, mostly due to the contraction of European diseases. By the mid 1800’s, Antonio Maria Sunol and Maria Bernal Sunol had obtained ownership of the Rancho El Valle de San Jose, which consisted of approx. 14,000 acres. One of their sons built a complex of ranching support buildings near the present-day Sunol Water Temple. As years past a larger community was created as farmers began to settle the area.
By the late 1800’s the railroad had arrived at Sunol and continued through the Niles Canyon. Its arrival helped speed up the development of the town which became a popular vacation destination among city dwellers. The town eventually bragged of four hotels, three grocery stores, a meat market, two barber shops and restaurants and a soda fountain shop. Water rights were acquired by the Spring Valley Water Company, supplying the much needed commodity for San Francisco and Oakland.
In 1884 the Sunol Rail Station was founded, at the same time the Southern Pacific had assumed exclusive service following the Union Pacific’s abandonment of their interests. In 1906 William Bourn of Spring Valley Water Company, hired a designer to construct the “Water Temple”
Sunol was victim to many fires over the years. Most recently in 1987 and again in 1989 in which 7 businesses and a home near main street were destroyed. Today the town consists of a few historic buildings, and the rail way station, yet it still attracts visitors from all around.