THE "BOX OF GHOSTS"
PHOTOS OF SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
This page brought to you by the Buena Vista Neighborhood Association ... www.bvnasj.org

Last Update 10/10/07

Links to other pages of Photos:
San Jose 1975-2006 (the original inspiration for these pages)
San Jose Then and Now 
(Public Buildings) 
San Jose Then and Now (Homes)

San Jose From the Air 2007
(aerials)
Many thanks to the San Jose Historical Museum and especially their archivist, Jim Reed, in locating the "THEN" photographs.

Some of these photos may break your heart. At the San Jose Historical Museum I discovered a small box of photos, organized by street. The photos are tiny and old, almost gray and white with age. The label on the box said they were from the Tax Assessor's Office.

I made copies of about 3 dozen photos that I found interesting, thinking I could do more Then-Now photos. Boy, was I wrong. I drove by address after address only to find an apartment building, a parking lot, a freeway overpass, etc. Of the over 3 dozen addresses -- I found only 3 houses still standing. I had found a box full of ghosts.

Why would the Tax Assessor want to take a photo of a building? Two reasons came to mind:

(1)   the building was being taken by eminent domain to be replaced by something for the public good - a new roadway, an auditorium, a musem, a court house; and

(2)   the building was being torn down by the property owner who wanted to build something else.

I really am not complaining about reason #1. I understand the need for public buildings and roadways, etc.. What I find appalling are the apartments that replaced lovely old homes. What were they thinking? Was it all about turning a single-family home into something that would produce greater income for the landlord?

Decades ago there was a system (or lack of one) that allowed a lovely old Victorian or bungalow to be torn down and replaced by a boxy concrete apartment house. It is heartening to know that such things would not happen in today's San Jose, due to City oversight and regulations with respect to remodeling, razing, and rebuilding in keeping with the surrounding environment.

What you will see below are the saddest cases. I found so many lovely tree-lined streets with house after house in wonderful condition and then there was this architectural sore thumb.

Brace yourself.. .

THEN 2007
This stunning Queen Anne at 487 South Sixth Street probably had an attic as well as a basement -- and was replaced by the four-plex on the right.
A bungalow at 49 South 15th was replaced by a duplex. Below are photos of the houses on either side of it that survived, restored and still useful.

In the next block of 15th Street (180 S. 15th) is this bungalow that gave way to a duplex. You can see the chimney of the house next door in both photos.
This 2-story house on the left stood at 63 South 12th. According to the grandson of the owner, it burned down in the 1950s. Why else would anyone just tear it down and replace it with the house shown on the right?
A simple home at 333 North Fifth Street became a multi-unit apartment building of such beauty!
The building at the left at 70 South Eighth was built in 1880, a majestic structure. It may have been a duplex as there appear to be two doorways at the top of the stairs. And what a stairway! Someone decided an apartment for San Jose State University students would serve their purposes better.
At 30 North Eighth, the house on the left (built in 1885) gave way to a church parking lot.
 
The homes on the left stood side by side at 510 and 514 North First Street, both built in the 1880s. See what became of them?
A house built in 1925 at 816 North First Street became this utilitarian office building! What makes it even sadder is that several other homes built at the same time on First Street were modified and became office buildings without destroying the entire structure.
  
It is possible that a small part of the original house at 381 North 13th Street survived? Look at the front left windows!
Another bungalow at 537 South Fifth was replaced by this lovely apartment building. It houses more people, but at what cost?
The photo of this house at 642 South Seventh came from Milt Peddy who sent it to me after visiting this website. The house belonged to his wife and her parents from the mid-1940s until the mid-1960s when it was sold to a developer who built the apartment building on the right. The original owner was Charles Herrmann and the house was originally on the south side of Reed St. between 6th and 7th Streets. It was moved (!) when the school was expanded in the early 1900's. [I know houses were moved and still are moved from one site to another, but it is still an amazing feat!]
At 630 South Seventh this house was built in 1875. Now there's a modern apartment.
At one time the two houses above stood side by side on South Eighth. The two apartment houses below replaced them. Makes me wince! Looks like there is a survivor on the left though! Note added 2012: I heard from a visitor to these pages "The house on the left is on 7th, and it is still there. I know because I lived there. As did many friends. My friend's brother still owns it. 553 S 7th."  A photo of the house at 553 S. 7th today is below. You be the judge!

Here's the house at 553 South 7th Street today. Compare it to the house above that was removed on 6th Street. I don't think it's the same house: the two windows in the upper story are different (three windows versus one) and the porch on this house is wider and wraps around the side of the house on the left. Also the window on THIS house does not connect to the door as it does on the house on 6th Street.

The houses probably have the same floor plan, though I think this house is a slightly larger version of the house that was destroyed on 6th Street.

Before leaving the downtown area, the photo on the left is of the building that served as San Jose City Hall from 1889 (when San Jose had 17,000 residents) to 1958. It housed the city government offices, the city library and the jail (in the basement). It stood in the center of what is now Cesar Chavez Park which splits Market Street just north of San Carlos. Local sentiment couldn't save it (and it needed costly retrofitting), so the city offices were moved to new quarters on North First Street.

While others thought it was an architectural monstrosity, I think it is awesome. Today it's just wide open spaces and a fountain.

At 985 The Alameda there was the mansion in the photo on the left that, for a time, was a popular and elegant restaurant. Now it's a parking lot for the U-Haul store next door. Below is an ealier photo of the same house (CFBB).
This home was at 1425 Naglee, just off the corner of Park and Naglee. By the 1970s it and the house next door had been replaced by a hamburger and hot dog stand popular with the students attending Lincoln High School two blocks away. It has more recently been remodeled into Antonella's an Italian restaurant.
At 1547 Hedding, this house was built in 1918. A lovely tract home replaced it.
The building on the right on Bellarmine College Prepartory's campus replaced the mansion at 911 University seen on the left.
No date on the photo of this lovely home at 998 South Second Street. Is anyone going to tell me this was an improvement? The house next door on the left seems to have survived, but not this one.
On Morrison Street there was once a grande old dame on a large lot. It was a vacant lot for as long as I could remember, so perhaps it fell to fire long ago. In any event, now it's a condominium complex.
Another home - not as spectacular as the mansion on The Alameda, but still a nice home - made way for a parking lot. This street is just one block long and runs between Park Avenue and San Carlos near Race Street is called, ironically, Grand Street!
     
These three homes once stood side-by-side on North Third Street - 612, 614, and 618 - simple single-family homes that probably saw their share of San Jose's history. They were replaced by the apartment complex below. Was it worth it?
Willow Glen is known for its collection of older homes, but this is one that didn't survive. Built in 1888, it may have been the home of one of the orchardists and surrounded by groves of fruit trees. It made way for apartments.

 

Links to other pages of Photos:
San Jose 1975-2006   
San Jose Then and Now 
(Public Buildings) 
San Jose Then and Now (Homes)

San Jose From the Air 2007
(aerials)
Many thanks to the San Jose Historical Museum and especially their archivist, Jim Reed, in locating the "THEN" photographs.

This page brought to you by the Buena Vista Neighborhood Association ... www.bvnasj.org


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