In the early 1880s, the population of San Jose was over 12,000, and the city was thriving. The San Jose Electric Light Tower was constructed in 1881 with the help of a fierce campaign led by the editor of the San Jose Mercury, JJ Owen, whose newspaper had illuminated downtown San Jose since 1861 with gas streetlights. By 1884, it was only used for ceremonial purposes since it didn’t provide enough illumination.
The widow of William Winchester and heiress to the empire that manufactured the Winchester rifle, Sarah L. Winchester (née Pardee), moved to San Jose in 1884 and started a large construction project it occupied craftsmen and carpenters for thirty-eight years. The Winchester Mystery House reached a height of 7 stories before the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco; today, it stands three stories with approximately 160 rooms.
Here are some fabulous historical photos of San Jose, California, in the 1880s.
Looking southward through San Jose's Financial District, at the intersection of First Street and Santa Clara Street. Three banks and a large office building can be seen. On the left is the Bank of San Jose, with its four-way tower clock. Across the street, also on the left, is the Commercial and Savings Bank.
A photographer and camera stand in the dirt road leading to the main entrance of the asylum. The asylum consisted of an administration building in the center flanked on either side by wings housing more than 900 patients. The building was 750 feet long and was constructed at a cost of $750,000.
Designed by Levi Goodrich, this City Hall was constructed in 1855 at what later became 35 North Market Street. It was a two-story brick structure with council chambers on the ground floor and two small rooms and an assembly hall upstairs. The county leased the second floor as a courtroom for a short time but the lease was not renewed in 1862 because the city needed the space. In the 1890s the building was converted to a fire station and the castellations were removed. The building was demolished in 1951
The Alameda was once merely a path that linked Mission Santa Clara and the Pueblo of San José. The trees lining either side of The Alameda were planted in 1799 by Father Magin Catala, using the labor of 200 Native Americans. Over time, the street was developed with Victorian mansions
San Jose's Electric Light Tower under construction at Santa Clara Street looking north on Market Street. The two-story building in the lower left corner of the picture housed the San Jose News from 1889-1897. Editor James J. Owen led the efforts to build the 237-foot tower as a beacon to progress.