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1930s San Jose: What San Jose looked like During the Great Depression

San Jose was hit hard by the economic collapse of the 1930s. Many businesses failed, workers lost their jobs, and families became poor. Social messiahs offered alluring panaceas promising relief and recovery when the political response to the depression was often confused and ineffective.

The non-contracted workers went on the offensive. Farmers and farm owners engaged in yet another round of total engagement. Thousands of investors and depositors lost everything when businesses and banks throughout the state closed their doors in the 1930s. The number of building permits in 1933 was one-ninth of what it had been eight years earlier. Many landowners lost their farms and their homes. By 1932, unemployment in California reached 28 percent, and one in five Californians was on public assistance.

#1 First St. San Jose, looking north from San Carlos Street, 1930s

First St. San Jose, looking north from San Carlos Street, 1930s

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#2 Civic Auditorium, San Jose, located at West San Carlos Street near Market Street, 1937

Civic Auditorium, San Jose, located at West San Carlos Street near Market Street, 1937

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#3 Demolition of the Wells Fargo Building, 1937

Demolition of the Wells Fargo Building, 1937

Demolition of the Wells Fargo Building. First and San Fernando Streets, San Jose, California. Early 1973. Formerly the Garden City Bank, first skyscraper in San Jose.

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#4 Hotel Sainte Claire, San Carlos and Market Streets, San Jose, 1930s

Hotel Sainte Claire, San Carlos and Market Streets, San Jose, 1930s

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#5 San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1930s

San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1930s

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#6 View of Front and Gardens of Mystery House, Winchester Park, San Jose, 1930s

View of Front and Gardens of Mystery House, Winchester Park, San Jose, 1930s

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#7 View of houses behind Municipal Rose Garden, San Jose, 1937

View of houses behind Municipal Rose Garden, San Jose, 1937

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#8 House, 802 North 4th, San Jose, 1930s

House, 802 North 4th, San Jose, 1930s

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#9 Women Golfers at San Jose Country Club, 1935

Women Golfers at San Jose Country Club, 1935

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#10 McAdams speaking at dedication of Cahill Station, San Jose, 1935

McAdams speaking at dedication of Cahill Station, San Jose, 1935

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#11 San Jose Railroads Car #75 traveling eastbound on The Alameda near Newhall Street in San Jose, 1937

San Jose Railroads Car #75 traveling eastbound on The Alameda near Newhall Street in San Jose, 1937

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#12 Civic Auditorium under construction, 1934

Civic Auditorium under construction, 1934

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#13 Post Office San Jose, 1930s

Post Office San Jose, 1930s

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#14 Municipal Rose Garden, San Jose, 1930s

Municipal Rose Garden, San Jose, 1930s

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#15 St. Josephs Church, San Jose, 1930s

St. Josephs Church, San Jose, 1930s

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#16 Rosicrucian Museum, San Jose, California, 1935

Rosicrucian Museum, San Jose, California, 1935

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#17 Talisman Rose, Rose Garden, 1937

Talisman Rose, Rose Garden, 1937

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#18 Fallon House, Italian Restaurant, San Jose, 1930s

Fallon House, Italian Restaurant, San Jose, 1930s

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#19 San Jose Merchants Association float, 1930

San Jose Merchants Association float, 1930

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#20 Mitynice Donut Demonstration, 1935

Mitynice Donut Demonstration, 1935

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#21 Pumping gas from a barrel, San Jose, 1930

Pumping gas from a barrel, San Jose, 1930

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#22 San Jose Water Works, 1934

San Jose Water Works, 1934

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#23 Pine tree in front of residence, dusted with snow, snowstorm in San Jose, 1932

Pine tree in front of residence, dusted with snow, snowstorm in San Jose, 1932

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#24 Miniature Golf Course, near 1040 The Alameda, San Jose, 1935

Miniature Golf Course, near 1040 The Alameda, San Jose, 1935

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#25 Automobile on Highway 101 south of San Jose, 1931

Automobile on Highway 101 south of San Jose, 1931

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#26 Santa Clara County Hospital, 1930

Santa Clara County Hospital, 1930

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#27 The Buller home at 23 Scharff Ave, San Jose, 1939

The Buller home at 23 Scharff Ave, San Jose, 1939

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#28 Southern Pacific Railway Station – San Jose, 1936

Southern Pacific Railway Station - San Jose, 1936

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#29 Looking west on Santa Clara Street from 2nd Street, San Jose, 1930

Looking west on Santa Clara Street from 2nd Street, San Jose, 1930

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#30 Chamber of Commerce, San Jose, 1939

Chamber of Commerce, San Jose, 1939

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#31 Compton Blvd. and Tamarind St., Compton, 1933

Compton Blvd. and Tamarind St., Compton, 1933

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#32 Southern Pacific Train Engine #501, 1936

Southern Pacific Train Engine #501, 1936

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#33 Red Star Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Co. delivery vehicle, 1938

Red Star Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Co. delivery vehicle, 1938

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#34 St. Joseph’s Church, 1935

St. Joseph's Church, 1935

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#35 Hotel Sainte Claire Lobby, San Jose, 1937

Hotel Sainte Claire Lobby, San Jose, 1937

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#36 View of the Santa Clara County Courthouse fire from a local office window, 1931

View of the Santa Clara County Courthouse fire from a local office window, 1931

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#37 M.R. Trace School children at Rose Garden, San Jose, 1937

M.R. Trace School children at Rose Garden, San Jose, 1937

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#38 Sainte Claire Hotel, San Jose, 1930s

Sainte Claire Hotel, San Jose, 1930s

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#39 The San Jose Railroads #75 traveling east bound on The Alameda, 1937

The San Jose Railroads #75 traveling east bound on The Alameda, 1937

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#40 Hotel Sainte Claire Lobby, 1937

Hotel Sainte Claire Lobby, 1937

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#41 Pool and roses at Rose Garden, San Jose, 1937

Pool and roses at Rose Garden, San Jose, 1937

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#42 King Road trolley, San Jose, 1938

King Road trolley, San Jose, 1938

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#43 Cannery was located at 361 North Fourth Street, San Jose, 1930s

Cannery was located at 361 North Fourth Street, San Jose, 1930s

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#44 Santa Clara County Hospital and nursing school, 1930

Santa Clara County Hospital and nursing school, 1930

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#45 San Francisco building across the water, 1939

San Francisco building across the water, 1939

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#46 Hale Brothers store on First and San Carlos streets, 1930

Hale Brothers store on First and San Carlos streets, 1930

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#47 Post Office, San Jose, 1933

Post Office, San Jose, 1933

Adjoining the Post Office is the new County Court House and Hall of Records.

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#48 Bemis and Moe Super Station, San Jose, 1930

Bemis and Moe Super Station, San Jose, 1930

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#49 South First Street, San Jose, 1930s

South First Street, San Jose, 1930s

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#50 San Jose Railroads car No.2, 1938

San Jose Railroads car No.2, 1938

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#51 First Street and Santa Clara Street, San Jose, 1937

First Street and Santa Clara Street, San Jose, 1937

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#52 Temple of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, San Jose, 1930s

Temple of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, San Jose, 1930s

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#53 Close up of the Municipal Rose Garden fountain, created and paid for by the Rotary Club of San Jose in the 1930s

Close up of the Municipal Rose Garden fountain, created and paid for by the Rotary Club of San Jose in the 1930s

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#54 Grower’s Market at 7th and Taylor Streets, 1937

Grower's Market at 7th and Taylor Streets, 1937

Series of four photographs from the Grower's Wholesale Market located near the corner of East Taylor Street and North Seventh Street, San Jose. The Mobilgas sign is visible in the bottom right of the first image; the service station was located right next to the market. San Jose Berry & Produce can be seen in the last image.

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#55 Downtown San Jose, First Street, 1930

Downtown San Jose, First Street, 1930

Bustling street activity; many cars parked and driving down First Street; a man on a bicycle crossing the street in foreground.

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#56 Japanese family in front of their house, 1930

Japanese family in front of their house, 1930

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#57 Nickell’s Transfer and Storage, 1935

Nickell's Transfer and Storage, 1935

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#58 Group of school children on steps, 1930

Group of school children on steps, 1930

Black-and-white photograph of a group of school children standing on the porch and steps of their school.

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#59 Robert F. Benson Studebaker, San Jose, 1933

Robert F. Benson Studebaker, San Jose, 1933

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#60 Tower of the Sun, 1939

Tower of the Sun, 1939

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#61 The Court of Pacifica, 1939

The Court of Pacifica, 1939

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#62 Marsh Station interior, 1933

Marsh Station interior, 1933

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#63 Group of workers picking apricots, 1930s

Group of workers picking apricots, 1930s

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#64 Marsh Station, Palo Alto, 1930

Marsh Station, Palo Alto, 1930

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#65 Economy Cleaners located on the north west corner of Second and Santa Clara Streets about 1935.

Economy Cleaners located on the north west corner of Second and Santa Clara Streets about 1935.

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#66 Vehicle towing older car as young boy looks on from the curb, 1932

Vehicle towing older car as young boy looks on from the curb, 1932

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#67 Seal Rocks, San Jose, 1938

Seal Rocks, San Jose, 1938

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#68 Load of mattresses for L. Hart & Son, 1930

Load of mattresses for L. Hart & Son, 1930

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#69 The Firestone Auto Supply and Service Station, 1935

The Firestone Auto Supply and Service Station, 1935

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#70 Front of the Peralta Adobe, May 1993

Front of the Peralta Adobe, May 1993

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#71 Robert F. Benson Auto Agency, Palo Alto, 1933

Robert F. Benson Auto Agency, Palo Alto, 1933

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#72 Marsh Station interior, 1932

Marsh Station interior, 1932

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#73 Hester Grammar School, 1930s

Hester Grammar School, 1930s

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#74 E.H. Renzel warehouse loading dock in 1930

E.H. Renzel warehouse loading dock in 1930

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#75 Sainte Claire Hotel, 1935

Sainte Claire Hotel, 1935

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#76 Flood conditions near Agnew, California, 1931

Flood conditions near Agnew, California, 1931

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#77 Start of bicycle race, 1933

Start of bicycle race, 1933

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#78 Standard Oil Products Service Station, 1935

Standard Oil Products Service Station, 1935

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#79 Courthouse Fire, 1931

Courthouse Fire, 1931

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#80 San Jose, Moffett Field, Airship mooring mast, 1933

San Jose, Moffett Field, Airship mooring mast, 1933

The airship mooring mast at Moffett Field. The mooring mast would secure the airship when it was not in flight. Once secure, the moored airship could be guided into its hangar.

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#81 Central California Traction Company car, 1937

Central California Traction Company car, 1937

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#82 Permanente Corporation Cement Facility, 1939

Permanente Corporation Cement Facility, 1939

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#83 Bicycle race track, 1933

Bicycle race track, 1933

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#84 Dairy cattle in field next to dairy buildings near Bayshore Highway, 1930s

Dairy cattle in field next to dairy buildings near Bayshore Highway, 1930s

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#85 University of Santa Clara, 1930

University of Santa Clara, 1930

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#86 Santa Clara County Courthouse Fire, 1931

Santa Clara County Courthouse Fire, 1931

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#87 Hotel De Anza, 1934

Hotel De Anza, 1934

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#88 Food Machinery Corporation, 1930s

Food Machinery Corporation, 1930s

Food Machinery Corporation plant on Julian Street. Manufacturing area for pressure cookers for canneries.

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#89 Children harvesting prunes, 1930

Children harvesting prunes, 1930

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#90 Field workers in fruit drying yard, 1935

Field workers in fruit drying yard, 1935

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#91 Spartan Stadium, San Jose State University, 1933

Spartan Stadium, San Jose State University, 1933

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#92 San Jose State College, 1935

San Jose State College, 1935

Students mingle on the quadrangle among the lawns and trees of San Jose State College. On the left is Tower Hall. To the right of Tower Hall is Morris Dailey Auditorium. The tower, auditorium and colonnaded arcade were built of reinforced concrete in 1910. The arcade has since been demolished but the tower and auditorium still survive.

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#93 Old Post Office building under construction, 1932

Old Post Office building under construction, 1932

Post Office building under construction on St. James Park, with automobiles parked in front, and Hotel St. James in the background. The street railroad lines can be seen in the middle of the street. The old Post Office building was a Works Progress Administration project designed by Ralph Wyckoff, and this image was likely taken by him.

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#94 Three men with horses, in the woods, holding rifles, 1937

Three men with horses, in the woods, holding rifles, 1937

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#95 Corner of North First Street and St. John Street, 1932

Corner of North First Street and St. John Street, 1932

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#96 Roosevelt Tennis Courts, San Jose, California. People playing on one of three tennis courts, 1935

Roosevelt Tennis Courts, San Jose, California. People playing on one of three tennis courts, 1935

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#97 Three men with horses, in the woods, holding rifles, 1937

Three men with horses, in the woods, holding rifles, 1937

Three men standing in front of horses, in the woods, holding rifles. This photo is the same composition as photo 1981-1-2-43, but the man on the left is replaced with a different man.

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#98 San Jose Post Office Building, 1935

San Jose Post Office Building, 1935

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#99 San Jose Building and Loan Association, 1935

San Jose Building and Loan Association, 1935

Exterior view of San Jose Building and Loan Association at 81 West Santa Clara Street. Several cars are parked along the street. Also visible is Ellert's Clock Shop, which was next door to the San Jose Building and Loan. Cars are parked in front of the building.

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#100 Norris’ Silk House window displays, 1936

Norris' Silk House window displays, 1936

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#101 Berryessa trolley No. 126, 1938

Berryessa trolley No. 126, 1938

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#102 Red Star Laundry, located at 360 Park Avenue, San Jose, 1939

Red Star Laundry, located at 360 Park Avenue, San Jose, 1939

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#103 Hale Brothers department store, 1930

Hale Brothers department store, 1930

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#104 San Jose, Bank of America Building, 1930

San Jose, Bank of America Building, 1930

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#105 Santa Clara County Courthouse fire, 1931

Santa Clara County Courthouse fire, 1931

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#106 Santa Clara County Courthouse fire, 1931

Santa Clara County Courthouse fire, 1931

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#107 Nun and Students from Notre Dame High School Outdoors, 1932

Nun and Students from Notre Dame High School Outdoors, 1932

One of the nuns that taught at Notre Dame High School standing with a group of young women on a dirt path. The group is turned looking down that path at the camera. They are next to a stone column and are surrounded by trees.

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#108 The Knox Block, 1935

The Knox Block, 1935

The Knox Block, also known as the Beans Block, at First and Santa Clara Streets. United Cigar Store, San Jose Liquor Store, Victory theatre in background later location of the Penny's Store Building, Now Lincoln Law School.

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#109 Ground-breaking ceremony for Civic Auditorium, 1934

Ground-breaking ceremony for Civic Auditorium, 1934

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#110 Birney Streetcar North bound on Second Street crossing Santa Clara Street, 1938

Birney Streetcar North bound on Second Street crossing Santa Clara Street, 1938

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#111 Schurra’s Candies, 1935

Schurra's Candies, 1935

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#112 1940 South First Street, San Jose, 1935

1940 South First Street, San Jose, 1935

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#113 San Jose, Beach Building, 1930

San Jose, Beach Building, 1930

Businesses of the northeast corner of Second Street and Santa Clara Street include Economy Cleaners, Haig's Jewelry Store, Harold H. Shanley Insurance, Gordon Hatters and Artana Drugs. Most of these establishments were housed on the lower level of the Beach Building. Cars are parked on the streets. The Beach Building was built in 1889 by Tyler Beach and was remodeled in 1913.

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#114 San Jose, Burrell Building, 1930

San Jose, Burrell Building, 1930

Exterior view of the Burrell Building which housed several businesses, including The Standard Furniture Company, The Hoover Company, and Burrell Beauty Shop. The building stood at 234 South First Street.

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#115 Sainte Clare building from First and San Carlos Streets at Christmas time, 1930s

Sainte Clare building from First and San Carlos Streets at Christmas time, 1930s

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#116 Porter Building, 1930

Porter Building, 1930

The Porter Building stands at the northeast corner of Second and Santa Clara Streets. Several pedestrians are crossing the street while two streetcars meet at the intersection. The Porter Building was demolished in the 1960s and the Pacific Telephone building constructed in its place.

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#117 Vertin Building, 1935

Vertin Building, 1935

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#118 Girls Pose on See-Saw, 1932

Girls Pose on See-Saw, 1932

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#119 Moffett at Air Base, 1931

Moffett at Air Base, 1931

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#120 American Legion Red Devils Band on parade.1932

American Legion Red Devils Band on parade.1932

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#121 YWCA Building, 1935

YWCA Building, 1935

The YWCA building stands at the corner of Second and Santa Clara Streets. Automobiles are parked at the front and side of the building. A palm is visible on the far right. The original building on the left was designed by Julia Morgan and opened in 1916.

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#122 Exterior view of the restored ruins of an Administrative Building of the San Jose Mission, 1937

Exterior view of the restored ruins of an Administrative Building of the San Jose Mission, 1937

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#123 Robert F. Benson’s multiple-use building, 1936

Robert F. Benson's multiple-use building, 1936

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#124 Adobe of the Alvisos of Rancho Milpitas in San Jose, 1937

Adobe of the Alvisos of Rancho Milpitas in San Jose, 1937

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#125 Bank of Italy Building, 1932

Bank of Italy Building, 1932

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#126 Casa Flores adobe, South Pasadena, 1936

Casa Flores adobe, South Pasadena, 1936

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#127 Mission San Bernardino Asistencia, 1939

Mission San Bernardino Asistencia, 1939

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#128 Ng Shing Gung Building, Heinlenville, 1932

Ng Shing Gung Building, Heinlenville, 1932

The Ng Shing Gung building was used as a multi-purpose community place for worship, community meeting room, Chinese school, and hostel for visitors without family in Heinlenville. This image is part of the Heinlenville Chinatown Exhibit and shows the temple with guardian effigies during Da Jui, "Feast of the Hungry Ghosts." The huge figures made of paper mache were burned at the last evening of the festival to satisfy the spirits. A reconstruction of the original Ng Shing Gung now houses the Chinese American Historical Museum at History Park.

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#129 Beatty’s American Theatre, 1930

Beatty's American Theatre, 1930

Show opening at Beatty's American Theatre on First Street. San José was a regular stop on the theater circuit, featuring such personalities as Lionel Barrymore and Sarah Bernhardt.

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#130 Chiechi family in front of house on Northrup Street, 1936

Chiechi family in front of house on Northrup Street, 1936

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#131 Post Office on North First Street, 1935

Post Office on North First Street, 1935

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