Photography by J. Gilbert Smith Captures a Lost World

By January 7, 2020Press Releases

LOS ALTOS, CA (January 7, 2020) Before the dramatic black and white photography of Ansel Adams, local orchardist and avid photographer J. Gilbert Smith was inspired by scenes of the West. He took his camera along on trips to Yosemite, Big Sur, and the Santa Cruz Mountains, capturing a love of nature. His photographs of the natural world, and of Los Altos in days gone by, are the subject of a new exhibit, “The Photography of J. Gilbert Smith,” on display in Los Altos History Museum‘s historic J. Gilbert Smith House from January 16 to May 24, 2020.

The photography exhibition complements an art exhibition on display in the Museum’s main gallery, allowing visitors to see several different mediums and artistic expressions created over the last 100 years. J. Gilbert Smith developed his photographic talent after arriving in the Bay Area from Oregon in 1899 to pursue an engineering degree at Stanford. Though best known locally for the apricot orchard he established on what is now the Civic Center grounds near downtown Los Altos in 1901, he was also a published photographer.

“These photographs are some of my favorite artifacts in the Museum’s collections because they let us see the world through J. Gilbert Smith’s eyes, showing us what California and Los Altos looked like 100 years ago,” said Exhibition Curator, Dr. Amy Ellison. “His photographs show an ardent love and respect for nature, and I think they also show him to be someone who took joy in both beauty and creative expression. We also discovered that some of his photographs had been used in a book about Yosemite!”

The exhibition is admission free, open Thursdays-Sundays, noon-4pm.

Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibits, store and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.

The Museum and J. Gilbert Smith House are open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. The gardens, outdoor agricultural exhibits and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit:, email, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.

Media Contact:

Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10,