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Neighborhood Landmarks

(from the Northside Neighborhood website)

Photo of the Hensley House

The Hensley House
One of the most attractive Victorian homes in the San Jose downtown area is the Hensley House, located at 456 North 3rd Street.

The Eastlake-Queen Anne style home was formally a bed and breakfast inn, but now is back to being a single family home. America's love affair with the porch and veranda is exemplified in this Victorian.

This lovely home is appointed with ancient, stained glass windows and decorative wrought iron fencing on roof peaks. Rooms are beautifully furnished and decorated with fine French and English crafted antiques, crystal chandeliers, wall coverings, painted gilded ceilings, curtains and furniture, all of the Victorian era. Halls, closets and bathrooms exhibit extensive use of decorative hardwood molding and trim. The living room, serving as a reception and dining area, also is decorated with Victorian era furniture and antiques. The ceiling is supported by dark stained, heavy wooden beams.

The Hensley Historical District was designated a National Historical District in February, 1990 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo of the Oberon Saloon

The Henry & Florence Reed House

Henry & Florence Reed House Landmark #160 The house was designed by notable architect W.D. Van Siclen, and represents one of the first houses he designed after settling in San Jose as a young architect in the early 1890s. The original owner, Henry Reed, was associated with the Independent Mill and Lumber Company, a supplier of fine wood products.

The Queen Anne details found in this house are exemplary, such as the unusual shingled eyebrow over the front bay window, a rare curved porch, a gabled and angled corner bay, and sophisticated trim work associated with the high-point of Victorian-era ornamentation such as carved wood brackets, turned spindles, wide frieze boards, and rope pattern trim.

The Reed House boasts one of the finest examples of Renaissance Revival interiors with much of the interior is still in pristine original condition. The house remains a distinctive representation of its era, in both design and detailing. It is clearly the work of a master architect, being an especially fine example of the Queen Ann architecture in San Jose.

To view other Landmarks in the Hensley Historic District, visit

Photo of the McKee-Lundy House


McKee-Lundy House J.O. McKee sailed around the Horn in 1849 aboard the Isabella, a ship captained by his father, Henry. Arriving in San Francisco harbor in May 1850, the two McKees started a shipping business and transported the first fruit from Santa Clara County to the San Francisco market place. In 1850, captains Henry and Joseph were credited with moving the archives of California's first state capitol, north from Alviso, aboard their sloop.

Backesto Fountain Photo

Photo Courtesey of
Northside Neighborhood


Backesto FountainThe clay fountain is a jewel, the symbolic face of Backesto Park. The fountain, installed in 1922, dates back to the founding of the park nearly 80 years ago. Yet the most exceptional thing about the fountain is that it is emblazoned with beautifully decorative Arts & Crafts tiles manufactured here in San Jose by one of the most prominent tile makers of the era, Solon & Schemmel.


Photo of Morrill House


John C. Morrill House John C. Morrill was born in New Hampshire in 1820. He sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco in 1852 and headed to gold country. He later retrieved his family back east and returned in 1855, setting up an orchard in Milpitas. He sold the property, purchased land in Northside, and in 1887 built this home. He also started the Garden City Lumber Company.


Our Neighborhood History

The Vendome Hotel

(from http://www.vendome.org/history/hotel.shtml)

Photo of the Oberon Saloon

Vendome Hotel and grounds

The Vendome Hotel was built in 1888 as a response to the business community who felt that that the city needed a First Class Resort-like hotel.

Photo of the Vendome Hotel

Vendome Hotel

The hotel was built upon the estate of early San Jose Mayor, Josiah Belden. The 12 acre estate sat on Hobson Street (N), First Street (E), San Pedro Steet (W) and Empire Street (S) and was purchased for $60,000.00.

The architect hired for this monumental task was Theodore Lenzen (who also designed the original San Jose City Hall as well as many other promement buildings and private residences). The construction of the hotel was both grand and difficult. Ultimately, the cost exceed the budget and cost a whopping $250,000.

Photo of the Oberon Saloon

May 12, 1903;
The Vendome
receives a visit from
President Theodore Roosevelt

The Queen Anne Style hotel boasted four floors which held 150 rooms (quite unheard of in the day). Hotel brochures touted that each room was "en suite" and offered toilet and bath accomodation. Another feature the hotel touted was the beautiful sun parlor which boasted glass walls.

To read more about the history of this fascinating hotel (rich with images) click here


Saint James Park

From PAC's website, for more go to: http://www.preservation.org/stjames.html

Postcard of Saint James Park

Postcard of Saint James Park

Photo of the Oberon Saloon

Saint James Park

The origin of St. James Square dates back to the beginning of San Jose's American period (1848) when the city fathers commissioned the Yale educated surveyor Charles S. Lyman to lay out a plan for the future city of San Jose. Lyman reserved a large open area for public open space by combining twin rectangular blocks within the standard grid plan for the city, This area was called St. James Square. Twenty years later Frederick Law Olmsted, America's greatest pioneer landscape architect, laid out the diagonal and peripheral walkways. Plantings were begun. With this addition, St. James Square became officially known as St. James Park.

Postcard of Saint James Park

Saint James Park Fountain

Below text is from the wonderful website: http://www.sanjose.com/underbelly/unbelly/Sanjose/

Original Layout of St. James Park

Layout plans of original park

St. James Square remained a barren, dusty lot until landscape architect Frederick Ohmstead laid out diagonal and peripheral walkways, and planted trees in 1868. The park became known as St. James Park at this time. By the mid 1890's the crosswalks, laid out in a Union Jack pattern, radiated from a central fountain.

In 1977 the park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nine buildings at the perimeter of the park are designated National Register and San Jose landmarks. The place is running amuck with historic edifices.




The Tower

Photo of the Tower being built

Aug. 11, 1881, Tower
foundation laid at Santa
Clara and Market Streets.

The tower was 237 feet high, counting a 30-foot flag pole. A platform at the top of tower was home for six carbon arc lamps protected by an overhead reflecting shield. Each lamp produced 4,000 candle power of light - 24,000 candle power total.

Photo of the Tower looking towards city hall

Look! Underneath the Electric Light Tower! it's old Gothic
City Hall. City Hall, San Jose's 2nd, was smack dab in the
middle of Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez - known previously as
Plaza Park.

The tower would be hailed as the "Seventh Wonder of the West."

On December 13, 1881, the ceremonial first lighting of the San Jose Electric Light Tower took place. The San Jose Daily Herald set the scene thusly,

"... For the first time the citizens of San Jose realized that they lived in the only city lighted by electric light, supported by a tower, which like the Colossus at Rhodes, stood astride her two principal streets."

"Today San Jose may be more proud of her tower than Egypt of its Sphinx and obelesques, than Pisa of her Leaning Tower, England of her monuments of war, New York of her Cleopatra's Needle. These are monuments of pride and raised by a proud and haughty aristocracy. This is a monument to progress and the diffusion of light in our midst."

Six carbon arc lamps - state of the art for 1881. The lamps were topped with a shield protecting the lamps and diffusing the light downward, onto San Jose's golden streets.

Postcard of Tower

The Tower Saloon was located in a building on
the lower left. It became a favorite launching
pad for San Joseans wanting to climb the
tower—after consuming the requisite quantity
of liquid-courage.

to read the rest of the Tower's facinating story, visit www.sanjose.com

In 1891, incandescent light bulbs replaced the carbon arc lamps.

Photo of the Tower lit up

"San Jose's era of illuminating gas officially
ended on August 9, 1930. On that date an
electric light replaced the city's last surviving
gas street lamp."—Clyde Arbuckle.

Ducks crashed into the tower and plummeted to the street below. Some say the fowl were drawn to the bright lights—like moths. Cops favored "the Tower Beat" because ducks could be recovered and sold to local eateries.

Another hazard was the proximity of the tower to saloons. On Saturday night, liquored-up San Joseans tried to climb the tower.

Looking west down Santa Clara St. According to Leonard McKay and Nestor "Wally" Wahlberg in their pivotal work "A Postcard History of San Jose," the biplane in the postcard was probably "painted in" - planes being rare in 1910.

Not far from the electric light tower was San Jose's first fire station & tower. A bell at the top of the fire tower being the very bell that would later reside in Plaza Park, then lovely St. James Park (bone-yard for unwanted statues & souls) and finally arrive at Fire Station 1 on North Market St. (to the right of tower a few blocks.)

Postcard of Tower

The tower at night

Photo of collapsed tower

Noon. Dec 13, 1915

On December 3, 1915, gale force winds unleashed a terrible fury on San Jose. Sixty-knot winds slammed into the tower . . . and it buckled in the middle.

At 11:55 a.m., the 15-ton tower which had provided light, ducks, and merriment to hard-working, God-fearing San Joseans ... jack-knifed, and crashed to the street in a tortured knot of pipe and metal.

When the tower was constructed in 1881 the process of galvanization (a coating of zinc to prevent rust) was unknown. The tower joints had rusted and crystalized ... and were no match for forces set in motion once the tower began to sway.




The San José Fruit Packing Company

Photo of SJ Cannery

San Jose Fruit Packing Company

Photo of SJ Cannery

San Jose Fruit Packing Company

The area was named "the Valley of Heart's Delight" not just because it was so picturesque, but also because the ground was rich for growing crops. With the temperate climate, good rainfall and rich soil, almost any crop could be grown. Miles of orchards were planted and produced the most beautiful fruit. The harvests whould overflow the barns, bins and storehouses. With such ample fruit growing right next door, the canneries were sure to come.

In 1893 the San José Fruit Packing Company constructed a state-of-the-art cannery on Sainsevain Street (now Auzerais Avenue) near downtown San José.

Both images courtesy of www.historysanjose.org

Image of can label

Label from San Jose Fruit Packing Company

Image of can label

Label from San Jose Fruit Packing Company


Photo of the San Jose Brewery

San Jose Brewery

Photo of the California Theater

The California Theater

Photo of Couthouse in 1868

Courthouse in 1868


Photo of the Scottish Rite Temple

The Scottish Rite Temple

Buddhist Temple Photo 1 Buddhist Temple Photo 3

Postcard of Plaza Park

Plaza Park

Postcard of Plaza Park

Plaza Park

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