Frontier Village History
Part II

In 1973, Zukin wanted to expand Frontier Village, but the 2300 shareholders that had a stake in the park couldn't finance such a large and ambitious project. As a result, Frontier Village was sold to Rio Grande Industries (who incidentally also eventually owned Arrow arrowbrochure.jpg (52046 bytes)Development, a roller coaster and amusement park ride manufacturer in nearby Mountain View, California) for $1.7 million. Zukin was still involved with the park, however.

Frontier Village's new owners were ready to expand the park onto another 60 acres on the Hayes estate and Hollings was all ready to design the new park attractions for the new expansion. The problem was that the land surrounding the Hayes estate had, in the mean time, become a quiet suburb full of family homes. Those families fought against Frontier Village's ambitious expansion project. In an interview for the San Jose Mercury News in 1988, Zukin said "We got to the point where the planning commission was ready to grant us permission to expand, but the homeowners protested and Rio Grande decided it wasn't worth the hassle."

In a San Francisco Chronicle article from 1980, a spokesman for Rio Grande Industries named Marq Lipton said that Frontier Village "...wasn't bringing the return on investment it should have. In the end, it didn't make good business sense to keep it open as an amusement park." He later said "We didn't want to see Frontier Village close. We're not happy either, but business is business." The legal hassles with the nearby homeowners, the skyrocketing San Jose land value, plus increasing competition from the new Marriott's Great America in nearby Santa Clara, California that opened in 1976 all put the squeeze on little Frontier Village. Rio Grande sold Frontier Village to a real estate developer in Los Angeles named Bren Company in 1980. A public auction for all the rides and buildings had been held and all the rides were sold, as was the lumber used in the buildings. Frontier Village closed forever on September 28, 1980, almost twenty years after it opened.

Frontier Village did not close without a fight from concerned San Jose citizens. Lillyan Brannon, president of United New Conservationists, led a petition drive to save Frontier Village. By September 19, 1980, the group had collected half of the 20,000 signatures needed by October 1, 1980 to require San Jose's City Council to declare the park's site a historical landmark or place a measure on the Frontier Village issue before the city voters. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Brannon said "It's too bad children can't sign our petition because this would be a cinch." If the petition passed, the ordinance would also have preserved the Hayes Mansion.

The new Frontier Village owners quickly capitalized on the rapidly rising San Jose property values and they built condominiums on the 60 acres that were originally planned for the park's first expansion. More condominiums were built where Frontier Village's parking lot and its main entrance gate were located. The new housing development was insultingly named "Frontier Village." The land that the park occupied was eventually made into a city park called Edenvale Garden Park, where some remains of Frontier Village still exist, if you know where to look. The Hayes Mansion is a state, local, and national historic landmark and was completely restored. It now can be rented for conventions and weddings.

After Frontier Village closed, Joe Zukin lived in Los Altos, California and owned a broadcasting and outdoor advertising business called Meadowland Pacific Company. Laurie Hollings continued to live within walking distance of Frontier Village for many years. He lived near the park that in his own words he designed as "a labor of love." Just before Frontier Village closed in 1980, Lillyan Brannon said "We seem to be uprooting anything that has to do with our heritage and replacing old, historically important buildings with modern tract homes." Mrs. Brannon could have not been more correct.

Pictured: Joe Zukin and Allen Weitzel, 11/2004.