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What San Jose, California looked like in the Late 19th Century

In 1846, after the Americans occupied California; San Jose briefly became the state’s first capital, and the first state legislature convened there in December 1849. The city was incorporated along with San Diego and Benicia on the same day; these three cities were California’s first incorporated cities. State Senator Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo offered the legislature land in Benicia that he had donated to the state for a state capital, as the city did not have any buildings suitable for a state legislature.

By 1850, San Jose had already become a bustling trade depot for the goldfields east of Sacramento, when it became the first chartered city in California. San Jose’s railway connections improved in 1864, and produce from nearby farms could be quickly shipped to San Francisco thanks to the railroad up from San Francisco. As a result, the Santa Clara Valley soon became a fruit-growing and processing region.

The San Jose Electric Light Tower was built in 1881 due to a campaign led by J.J. Owen of the San Jose Mercury to replace the gas streetlights that had illuminated Downtown since 1861. The light did not provide enough illumination, so by 1884, it was only used for ceremonial purposes. During the great gale of 1915, it collapsed. A formal “Court of Historical Inquiry” conducted an informal investigation in 1989, after which it was determined that the Eiffel Tower was not a copyright infringement.

#1 View down The Alameda, 1870.

View down The Alameda, 1870.

Photograph of a portion of The Alameda in Santa Clara County. The Alameda was the principal road between San Jose and the city of Santa Clara. Willow trees line the center and sides of the road. The track of a horse car line can be seen on the right. In the far distance a horse car is approaching.

#2 McGlincy house and barn, 1896.

McGlincy house and barn, 1896.

Photograph of the McGlincy house and barn, site of a mass murder on May 26, 1896. James Dunham murdered his wife, stepfather, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, the family maid, and a farm hand. James Dunham fled and was never caught. The house where most of the murders were committed is on the left. A horse and carriage waits outside the house. Another carriage can be seen through one of the open barn doors. The house was demolished in 1955.

#3 The Alameda, 1860s

The Alameda, 1860s

This is an early photograph of The Alameda, the main road between the cities of San Jose and Santa Clara. Several men and a girl stand in the road, along with a horse and carriage. The road is lined with willows which provided shade for travelers.

#4 Victory Theater playbills, 1865.

Victory Theater playbills, 1865.

Clyde Arbuckle examines archives of Victory Theater. The Victory Theater, later known as the Crest Theater, was erected in 1899 at 45 North First Street. It was demolished in 1965.

#5 San Jose, Bank of San Jose, 1866.

San Jose, Bank of San Jose, 1866.

The Bank of San Jose on the northeast corner of Santa Clara and First streets. The Leon Millinery was located on the first floor.

#6 Intersection of First Street and El Dorado Street, 1867

Intersection of First Street and El Dorado Street, 1867

Street scene with horse drawn vehicles. Signs on buildings can be seen: "Hardware,""Stoves,""Printing Office" and partially obscured "El Dorado Street."

#7 Market Street, 1867

Market Street, 1867

Looking south along Market Street. Photograph taken from the top of Hensley House on Market Street and Santa Clara Street. The windmill is at the corner of Market and El Dorado. In the center, are the black towers of Saint Joseph's Church, which burned in 1875.

#9 San Jose, Bergmann’s Wagon Manufactory, 1867.

San Jose, Bergmann's Wagon Manufactory, 1867.

Nicholas Bergmann's Wagon Manufactory, Mission San Jose. Corner sign reads, "Eureka Saloon." A man stands on the second floor balcony of the building. Carriages are parked in front of the building. Several men stand in the street.

#10 College of Notre Dame, 1868.

College of Notre Dame, 1868.

The College of Notre Dame, located on West Santa Clara Street between Alamaden Avenue and Santa Teresa. The school was designed by San Jose architect Levi Goodrich. Founded in 1851 by the Sisters of Notre Dame, this was the order's first school established in California.

#11 King, Meyer & Company Paper Mill, 1870.

King, Meyer & Company Paper Mill, 1870.

View of the King, Meyer & Company paper mill, which stood on Big Basin Way from 1868 to 1883, when it burned down. The mill manufactured butcher paper. The plant was steam-powered despite the abundance of water power nearby.

#12 Lick Mill office, 1871.

Lick Mill office, 1871.

Exterior view of an office at Lick Mill. A woman sits on the office porch.

#14 Highland School, 1876.

Highland School, 1876.

Sixteen schoolchildren and their teacher stand in front of Highland School, which was located in San Felipe Valley, southeast of San Jose.

#15 Knox Building, 1876.

Knox Building, 1876.

Engraving of the Knox Building, also called the Knox Block. The Knox Building stood at the northwest corner of First Street and Santa Clara Street. It was constructed in 1866, and demolished in 1945. Businesses housed in the Knox Building included: a real estate office, a musical instruments shop, the Feist Brothers' dry goods store and two cigar shops. A doctor, a contractor, lawyers and architect Levi Goodrich had offices on the second floor. Note the San Jose Library on the second floor at far right. Horse drawn trolleys pass through a busy intersection. This engraving is from Thompson & West's 1876 Historical Atlas of Santa Clara County.

#16 Commercial and Savings Bank, 1878.

Commercial and Savings Bank, 1878.

The Commercial and Savings Bank, also known as the McLaughlin and Ryland Bank, at the corner of First Street and Santa Clara Street. View of street, with storefronts.

#18 Santa Clara Street, San Jose, 1880.

Santa Clara Street, San Jose, 1880.

View of Santa Clara Street looking westward across the intersection with First Street. Knox Block. The three-story building, with the sign, "Auzerais House," was a hotel built by Theodore Lenzen.

#19 Santa Clara Street, San Jose, 1880.

Santa Clara Street, San Jose, 1880.

View of Santa Clara Street looking westward across the intersection with First Street. Building in the foreground has sign, at roofline, "Feist Brothers Dry Goods Emporium." The three-story building next to it has sign, at roofline, "Auzerais House." In the background, a sign reads, "Auction Store."

#20 South First Street, San Jose, 1880.

South First Street, San Jose, 1880.

Looking south along First Street towards intersection with Santa Clara Street. On the near left, the two story building is the Music Hall, built in 1870; next, is the Bank of San Jose, built in 1871. Across Santa Clara Street is the Commercial and Savings Bank. In foreground, on the right, is M. Gliubetich's Overland Chop House and Coffee Saloon.

#21 Fort Marcy Headquarters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1881.

Fort Marcy Headquarters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1881.

View of the headquarters building at Fort Marcy in Santa Fe, New Mexico. An American flag flies outside the headquarters. The sign for the Staab & Bro. general store is in foreground. The fort was decommissioned in 1868.

#22 Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1881.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1881.

View of the town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, looking from the southwest.

#24 San Francisco, Bancroft Library, 1882.

San Francisco, Bancroft Library, 1882.

Exterior view of the building which housed the Bancroft collection between 1882 and 1906, when it was moved to the University of California at Berkeley. The building survived the earthquake and fire of 1906, and many one-of-a-kind items were preserved.

#25 Commercial and Savings Bank, 1885.

Commercial and Savings Bank, 1885.

The Commercial and Savings Bank, also known as the McLaughlin and Ryland Bank, at the corner of First Street and Santa Clara Street.

#26 San Jose, Alum Rock House, 1885.

San Jose, Alum Rock House, 1885.

Alum Rock House provided lodging to visitors to Alum Rock Park in the 1870s and 1880s. It stood on the south side of the canyon opposite the main bridge across Penitencia Creek. It burned down in 1890.

#27 San Francisco, Market Street, Bancroft’s History Company building, 1886.

San Francisco, Market Street, Bancroft's History Company building, 1886.

View of construction taking place at Hubert Howe Bancroft's "History Company" publishing house, which was rebuilt following a fire in 1886. The property was at 721 Market Street, between Third and Fourth Streets.

#28 John M. Battee House, 1887.

John M. Battee House, 1887.

Home of John M. Battee (1827-1921), at Sunol Street and San Carlos Street. Three girls stand in front on the house. John Battee was county supervisor 1870-1878.

#29 Camp Terrell National Guard encampment, 1888.

Camp Terrell National Guard encampment, 1888.

Photograph of Company B, First Regiment National Guard of California. Soldiers are in dress uniforms with guests at camp reception. The regiment was based in San Francisco. Summer camp was at Camp Terrell, at the Agricultural Park in San Jose, July 21-29, 1888.

#31 Santa Clara, Agnews Asylum under construction, 1888.

Santa Clara, Agnews Asylum under construction, 1888.

Agnews Asylum under construction. Agnews, a state institution for the mentally ill, was completed in 1888 at a cost of $750,000. It had a frontage of 750 feet, and housed over 900 patients.

#32 Santa Clara, Agnews State Asylum for the Insane, 1888.

Santa Clara, Agnews State Asylum for the Insane, 1888.

Photograph of the Agnews State Asylum for the Insane shortly after its construction in 1888. 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. Much of the stone and masonry building collapsed during the 1906 earthquake, killing 11 staff members and 101 patients.

#33 Cookhouse wagon, 1890.

Cookhouse wagon, 1890.

Photograph of a cookhouse wagon that fed hay baling crews as they traveled to different farms. A small child sits in the grass in front of the cookhouse.

#34 Fair Mansion, 1890.

Fair Mansion, 1890.

Residence of Theresa Fair, divorced wife of James G. Fair, a millionaire who made his fortune in Virginia City's Comstock mines.

#35 Guadalupe River flood near Notre Dame College, 1890.

Guadalupe River flood near Notre Dame College, 1890.

Scene of people gathered outside of Notre Dame College, now the site of the DeAnza Hotel, and in the street on Santa Clara Street between Santa Teresa Street and Notre Dame. The area is flooded.

#36 Lick Observatory 36-inch telescope, 1890.

Lick Observatory 36-inch telescope, 1890.

Photograph of the Lick Observatory 36-inch refracting telescope. When built, it was the most powerful telescope in the world. Weight: 13 tons. Length: 60 feet.

#37 Mount Hamilton stage at Lick Observatory, 1890.

Mount Hamilton stage at Lick Observatory, 1890.

One of the Mount Hamilton Stage Company's carriages is parked at the Lick Observatory. The stage transported thousands of tourists to the Lick Observatory every year. The twenty-eight mile winding road was a three and a half to four hours ride each way. The dome on the left houses a 12-inch refracting telescope.

#38 San Jose Mercury newspaper office, 1890.

San Jose Mercury newspaper office, 1890.

Photograph of an office shared by the San Jose Mercury and the Santa Clara Valley Land Agency. The space used by the San Jose Mercury is on the right and the space used by the Santa Clara Valley Land Agency is on the left. Both spaces are fronted by long counters with men sitting/standing behind them. More men are standing at the rear of the photograph. This office was located at 171 West Santa Clara Street in San Jose. Office space was shared by these two companies for only a few years.

#39 Second Street Parade, San Jose, 1890.

Second Street Parade, San Jose, 1890.

A marching band and a column of men form part of a parade on Second Street near San Fernando Street. The Empire Fire House at 76 Second Street can be seen. Some people stand on the building's roof near the bell tower to get a better view. Flags, banners and bunting are on buildings and strung across Second Street.

#40 Twelve Mile House, 1890.

Twelve Mile House, 1890.

Several men pose with their bicycles and horses in front of Twelve Mile House and Coyote Store.

#41 Smith Creek Hotel, 1890.

Smith Creek Hotel, 1890.

Winter snow scene, Mount Hamilton Road with Smith Creek bridge in foreground. Smith Creek Hotel and stables appear in the distance. Smith Creek was a stop for changing horses for the Mount Hamilton Stage Company.

#42 Haypress on Santa Clara County ranch, 1891

Haypress on Santa Clara County ranch, 1891

Photograph of a haypress and crew baling hay somewhere in Santa Clara County. The haypress is the tall wooden structure in the center. The horses to the right power the haypress to compress the hay into bales. In the background on the right is the cook wagon with the cook, in apron, standing next to it. A child can be seen in the cook house's window.

#43 Fire damage in San Jose, 1892

Fire damage in San Jose, 1892

Scene looking eastward from Second Street and San Fernando Street. Damage from fire.

#44 Fire damage in San Jose, 1892.

Fire damage in San Jose, 1892.

Scene of damage from "Great Fire of 1892," which started on the north side of San Fernando Street, between First Street and Second Street, and spread eastward nearly to Fourth Street.

#45 Northwest corner of San Martin Ranch, 1892.

Northwest corner of San Martin Ranch, 1892.

Photograph of a part of the San Martin Ranch, taken from the northwest looking toward the southeast. To the left several dead trees are covered by Spanish Moss. To the right is a line of oaks. The San Martin ranch was a 9000 acre ranch owned by Hiram Morgan Hill. On the other side of the photograph is an advertisement by developer C. H. Phillips offering lots in San Martin Ranch for sale.

#46 Oak trees on San Martin Ranch, 1892.

Oak trees on San Martin Ranch, 1892.

Photograph of a stand of coast live oak on San Martin Ranch. The San Martin ranch was a 9000 acre ranch owned by Hiram Morgan Hill located between Morgan Hill and Gilroy in southern Santa Clara County. On the other side of the photograph is an advertisement by developer C. H. Phillips offering lots in San Martin Ranch for sale.

#47 San Jose Post Office cornerstone ceremony, 1892.

San Jose Post Office cornerstone ceremony, 1892.

A crowd gathers at the San Jose Post Office cornerstone ceremony at San Fernando and Market streets.

#48 Kensington Post Office, 1893.

Kensington Post Office, 1893.

Black-and-white photograph of the Kensington Post Office, Willow Glen. Between Jan. 14, 1893 and Jan. 14, 1895, all mail addressed to residents of Kensington, California, went to the Kensington Post Office, housed in this grocery store on the northeast corner of Minnesota and Cherry avenues in what is now San Jose. This post office bore the name Kensington until it became Willowglen in 1895. It continued as Willowglen until the transferring of its mail service to San Jose on Jan. 15, 1900. It continued to house a store until razed to make way for Station 6 of the San Jose Fire Department, built in 1963. The bearded man in the photo is probably Postmaster Albert E. Winlow who, with D. W. Smythe, operated the grocery store under the name of A. E. Winlow & Co." Grocery items can be seen stacked on the porch and in the windows.

#49 First Unitarian Church, 1895.

First Unitarian Church, 1895.

A front exterior view of the First Unitarian Church of San Jose. Printed below the image, "FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH OF SAN JOSE, CA. AS IT APPEARED IN 1895 Courtesy of San Jose Mercury News.

#50 Fredricksburg Brewery, 1895.

Fredricksburg Brewery, 1895.

The Fredricksburg Brewery was built on the corner of Cinnabar Street and The Alameda in 1869. A sign on the side of the building reads "FREDRICKSBURG RESTAURANT." Banners on the front and side of the building say "FREDRICKSBURG RESORT." Image also shows horse-drawn carriages with people.

#51 Hester School eighth grade class, 1897.

Hester School eighth grade class, 1897.

Group of sixteen students and a teacher sitting on the steps outside of Hester School on The Alameda. Girl in front row holds a small chalkboard upon which is written: "High Room Alemada [sic] June 1897."

#52 Smith Creek Hotel, 1895.

Smith Creek Hotel, 1895.

Photograph of the front of the Smith Creek Hotel. It was also known as the Santa Ysabel Hotel. The hotel was located on the banks of Smith Creek on Mount Hamilton Road. This road led from San Jose to Lick Observatory. A group of ladies sits on the front steps of the hotel. Two gentleman stand on the veranda behind them. The standing man on the right may be Thomas Snell, owner and builder of the hotel. Another gentleman stands to the left of the ladies. This may be a photograph of the hotel staff taken shortly after the hotel opened in 1895.

#53 Santa Clara County Greenhouse interior, 1897.

Santa Clara County Greenhouse interior, 1897.

Interior of a greenhouse with ornamental plants on shelves.

#59 Water fountain in ornamental pool, 1897.

Water fountain in ornamental pool, 1897.

Water fountain in an ornamental pool. Sheltered structures in background.

#60 Woman in garden, 1897.

Woman in garden, 1897.

A woman sits by a statue of a lion in a formal garden with pergola in background.

#61 Woman with tandem bicycle, 1897.

Woman with tandem bicycle, 1897.

Woman stands with a tandem bicycle. Written on verso: "Palo Alto."

#62 East San Jose School classroom, 1898

East San Jose School classroom, 1898

An East San Jose School classroom in 1898. The boys and girls have turned to face the camera, while sitting at their desks. The room is decorated with bunting at the teacher's desk, above the windows and the door. Streamers are seen; most likely, these are attached to a light fixture that cannot be seen in the picture. "Learning by Doing," is written on a blackboard at the front of the classroom. East San Jose School was located on Adams between Alum Rock Avenue and Jefferson.

#63 California Jubilee Parade, 1899.

California Jubilee Parade, 1899.

Uniformed mounted group in front of Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church. Appears to be a military group. The California State Legislature had met for the first time in San Jose fifty years before.

#64 California Jubilee Parade, 1899.

California Jubilee Parade, 1899.

Carriage passes Market Street and San Fernando Street. A trolley can be seen behind the float, waiting for the parade to pass. Saint Joseph's Roman Church in background. The California State Legislature had met for the first time in San Jose fifty years before.

#65 California Jubilee Parade, 1899.

California Jubilee Parade, 1899.

Seal of State of California" float passes the Pacific Hotel and Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church on Market Street. The California State Legislature had met for the first time in San Jose fifty years before.

#66 California Jubilee Parade, 1899.

California Jubilee Parade, 1899.

Carriage with banner, "California Pioneers," heading north on Market Street passes the southbound "Old Mission" float. A trolley can be seen behind the float, waiting for the float and carriage to pass. Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church can be seen in background. The California State Legislature had met for the first time in San Jose fifty years before.

#67 Train derailment outside of Santa Clara, 1899

Train derailment outside of Santa Clara, 1899

Photograph of a railroad derailment that took place in Santa Clara on August 28, 1899. Two engines derailed here, although one is under No. 1377 and cannot be seen. These two trains in tandem were pulling a heavy load of passengers returning from Monterey. They derailed at this intersection of broad and narrow gauge railroad tracks when a switchman switched the track to narrow gauge without realizing a broad gauge train was fast approaching. There were a few minor injuries but no one was seriously hurt. A large crowd is milling around examining the wreck. Note that many of the men have their train tickets tucked into their hatbands. In the background is the Santa Clara Depot as well as two trains unable to proceed.

#68 Fourth Ward School, 1892.

Fourth Ward School, 1892.

Exterior view of the Fourth Ward school built in 1874 on the southeast corner of Auzerais Avenue and Orchard Street (now Almaden Boulevard). It was renamed Lincoln School in 1892.

#69 Replica of California’s first State House, 1890s.

Replica of California's first State House, 1890s.

Men and women gather at a replica of California's first State House. It was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of the State Legislature in San Jose.

#70 Richards’ family parlor, 1890s.

Richards' family parlor, 1890s.

William Sidney Richards' home was at Third and San Salvador. This is a view of the home's parlor, also called the music room.

#71 Saddle Room at Agricultural Park, 1890s.

Saddle Room at Agricultural Park, 1890s.

The Saddle Room at Agricultural Park. Agricultural Park was the site of the County Fair for many years. These appear to be racing saddles. Agricultural Park was located to the west of Race Street and south of The Alameda. It eventually became the Hanchett Park residential area.

#72 Sailboat “Wanderer” at Alviso, 1890s.

Sailboat "Wanderer" at Alviso, 1890s.

Women and men stand on board the sailboat "Wanderer" at Alviso.

#73 Saint James Hotel, 1890s.

Saint James Hotel, 1890s.

Exterior view of the St. James Hotel on First street opposite of St. James Park.

#74 Saint James Hotel, 1890s.

Saint James Hotel, 1890s.

Exterior view of the St. James Hotel on First street opposite of St. James Park.

#75 San Joaquin County Courthouse, 1890s.

San Joaquin County Courthouse, 1890s.

A drawing of the San Joaquin County Courthouse mounted on a cardboard mat. This is advertising for the office of L. M. Cutting & Son, real estate, stock and money brokers, based in Stockton, California. The item is dated 1888 and was produced by Batchelder, also of Stockton, California.

#76 San Jose during the winter of 1880

San Jose during the winter of 1880

Photograph taken from the dome of the Santa Clara County Courthouse looking east toward the snow covered Mount Hamilton Range of San Jose during the winter of 1880. Saint James Park is in foreground.

#77 San Jose letter carriers

San Jose letter carriers

San Jose Postmaster from 1878-1886 Daniel C. Bailey stands with the four original letter carriers William Clark, Gerhardus De Wit, George Scott, and Herbert R. Tripp.

#78 San Jose mail carriers, 1890s.

San Jose mail carriers, 1890s.

The San Jose mail carriers pose for a portrait with postmaster Samuel H. Wagener in the post office in the O'Brien Building on the northeast corner of First and San Antonio streets.

#79 San Jose’s Financial District, 1890s

San Jose's Financial District, 1890s

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. On the far right corner stands the First National Bank. The Knox Block, dating back to 1865, takes up the near-right corner.

#80 San Martin Ranch, 1890s

San Martin Ranch, 1890s

View from Llagas Creek near railroad bridge on San Martin Ranch. The San Martin ranch was a 9000 acre ranch owned by Hiram Morgan Hill located between Morgan Hill and Gilroy in southern Santa Clara County. On the other side of the photograph is an advertisement by developer C. H. Phillips offering lots in San Martin Ranch for sale.

#81 San Jose, Adams residence, 1860

San Jose, Adams residence, 1860

A half a dozen men tending to some small trees in front of a two-story farmhouse. A woman stands near the front porch.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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