Stroll into the past

Stroll into the past

To really understand something you should know it’s history. On my recent exploration through Santa Clara I came across a few opportunities to learn the city’s history.

The first one is the Stroll Into The Past, a seven station, self-guided tour behind City Hall. The stations start with the Ohlone, and move to the Mission and to the settlers that came, to being the center of the tech evolution. There is a good overview, and a lot of reading.

Santa Clara Brewery, 1890If you prefer a more visual approach, stroll over to City Hall and check out the photographs that are displayed in the hallway. Here, I learned that Santa Clara was once the home of one of the largest tanneries in the world.

To complete the historic overview I recommend the walking tour of historic buildings. The city of Santa Clara put out a map: ( , it has a lot of information about the houses and their architecture. On rare occasions, the Santa Clara Historic Home Tour is offered and gives you a glimpse into the houses. Jamison-Brown House, Santa Clara

Finally you can arrange a visit to the Harris-Lass House Museum, the last farm site in Santa Clara, and number 11 on your walking tour. This place is only open by appointment (408-249-7905, leave a message).

Where do you stroll into the past?

Uncover a museum and cemetery

Uncover a museum and cemetery

Sometimes you expect something, but then it turns out to be something totally different!

The Agnews Historic Cemetery and Museum in Santa Clara sounded to me like a very cool burial ground with interesting tombstones and I thought the museum would be related to that.

When you enter you see to your right a gated grass field, that is probably the size of half a soccer field. I later learned this to be the burial ground for 600 people. To the left in a small cottage building is the museum. Upon entering I was greeted by Pat, a volunteer at the museum and former employee of the Agnews State Mental Hospital, who helped me uncover the mystery of this institution.

Pharmacy at the Agnews Museum in Santa ClaraAgnews, it turns out, was the largest hospital for the mentally ill in the Bay Area during the Gold Rush, with over 1,200 patients at a time. Back in those days there was no industry near and they had to be self-sufficient. The patients worked to earn their stay in the hospital’s own cannery, or they made mattresses or tended to the pigs and chicken. This place was almost like a little village with a pharmacy and their own fire station.


Unfortunately the 1906 earthquake destroyed a lot of the buildings, including the prominent clock tower and was responsible for the loss of many lives at the hospital. In fact this was the largest tragedy of that quake which killed more than 100 people. When they rebuilt Agnews it was considered the most progressive institution in the 20th century, as they established a ‘cheerful’ place.

In 1971 the Laterman Act transferred mental health programs to local communities and as an outcome of this the state closed many hospitals, including Agnews.

In the late 1990’s, the area got bought by Sun Microsystems. Sun had to keep some of the historic buildings and the cemetery and park for public use.

Agnews Historic Park, Santa ClaraToday Oracle owns the land; the restored clocktower building is now a center for the developmentally disabled. The park in front of the buildings is a nice quiet space and in a pavillion you can read about its former glory.  

The Agnews Historic Museum and Cemetery is only open on Fridays from 10 am – 2 pm, no admission.

Have you ever heard about the Agnews?

Jazz in the de Saisset

Jazz in the de Saisset

A new exhibit just opened in Santa Clara University’s Museum de Saisset: Jazz Greats. A loan from the Bank of America collection, the free exhibit is open until June 16th, 2018.

Poster of the exhibit Jazz Greats currently at the de Saisset, Santa Clara UniversityThere are two galleries filled with black and white images. In gallery I, among others, are pictures of a young Miles Davis and Billy Holiday. One that impressed me the most is an image of Dizzy Gillespie in France, showing kids how to blow up their cheeks. Gillespie clearly wins with the most volume

Gallery II greets you with jazz music of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. An old record player is set up to have an authentic experience of the music. There are two couches in the middle. When you looked at the pictures of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, you can then relax with some coffee table books about jazz.

As a contrast. the other upper gallery is showing Michael Mazur’s illustrations to Dante’s inferno.

Ohlone hut from the permanent exhibit of de Saisset at Santa Clara UniversityDownstairs is the permanent collection. A historic résumé of the beginning of the mission and it’s interaction with the Ohlone and the evolution into the university.

The most prominent piece is a replica of an Ohlone hut. But you can’t go inside.

Overall a nice museum that is free with the option of giving a donation.

Where do you get your jazz?


Be blessed by Our Lady of Peace

Be blessed by Our Lady of Peace

Even is you are not a catholic, you might be drawn toward the giant Madonna sculpture in Santa Clara off of the 101. The 32 foot tall shiny sculpture with her arms out and a peaceful look on her face has many admirer who bring her flowers or perch on the nearby bench. The sculpture is part of the Our Lady of Peace parish and was erected in 1982.

The small park that she oversees is a great place to contemplate.

One station of the cross, Santa ClaraThe Stations of the Cross that frame the park I found surprisingly simple. Wooden structures that house white plastered scenes depicting Christ on the day of his crucifixion.  

Sculpture of Pope John Paul II, Santa ClaraAcross from Mary is a sculpture of Pope John Paul II in memory of his visit. He is lifting his arm and it seems like he is waving and smiling at Mary.

They also have a gift shop filled with religious paraphernalia.

Where do you go to contemplate?

Play piano in the park

Play piano in the park

I’m always on the lookout for some unexpected. A grand piano at the park, now that’s what I call unexpected!

For the third year the Santa Clara County Parks together with Sunset Piano and DC Pianos have released five pianos into five parks. They will reside in the parks until October 5th.

Piano at Vasona Lake

What a beautiful idea to combine the outdoors with music.

Here are the locations:

  • Vasona Lake by the boat rental area
  • Historic Casa Grande/New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum on the patio deck
  • Uvas Canyon near the waterfalls at the outdoor amphitheater
  • Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch’s Anglers picnic area
  • Joseph D. Grant near the historic Grant house and rose garden


Unfortunately I don’t play. And when I visited some of the pianos no one was playing, in fact they were covePiano at the Quicksilver Mining Museumred up.

If you are like me but you still want to experience the music head out to Vasona Lake on October 2, from 4 to 6 Sunset Piano will perform Classical, Jazz, and pop selections.

Or encourage your piano playing friends to come out.

Anyone up for picnic, park and piano?

It’s all digital history to you

It’s all digital history to you

You probably heard about the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.  A lot of memories, from punch cards to the old mac computer.

This  is definitely the place to take your in-laws – they’ll remember all the times they used to program with the punch cards and every time they made a mistake they had to do all over again. This is impressive, but if you have a 11 year old with you, not too much.


Spell you name with binary code at the Intel MuseumAlso, there is the Intel Museum, a free museum about what gave Silicon Valley it’s name. Here are the most enthusiastic people working I have ever met in a museum. I tagged along for a bit while the guide explained everything about semi conductors to a bunch of 5th graders. Believe me, everyone learned something cool.

 You have to call to make sure they are not booked for some event, and yes the recording starts with the well known jingle: (408-765-5050).


If you and your 11 year old are lucky, the Digital Game Museum will have an exhibit somewhere near you. Right  now they are only open Saturday’s from 10 to 4 in their Santa Clara location. Here, your parents might recall how they played pong and then moved up to more innovative and challenging games.

This weekend you can make your own forthcoming. Go to the Maker Faire May 20 – 22 in San Mateo to get some ideas. This is great fun for all ages.

Will you go to the Maker Faire? What is your favorite digital recollection?

Holiday Markets

Holiday Markets

It seems these days I have only shopping on my mind. Well, Christmas is near, and while I am not really a big gift giver, I prefer to gift something homemade, or close to that.

This weekend (1/5/2015) are two holiday markets that I will try to catch. One is at my sons middle school: Graham Middle School in Mountain View, CA from 9am to 1 pm. I am hoping for a lot of crafty items. I also heard that the food is amazing!

The other on is at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara. This will feature local artists, not only paintings, but ceramics, jewelry and textiles. Sounds interesting, right? Well they have two bonus programs. One is a jazz pop performance from 3:30 to 4:30. The other one is the family art day from 10:00 to 2:00.

On December 12th, 2015 is the third annual German International School of Silicon Valley’s German Holiday Market from 11 am to 9 pm at the City Hall Plaza in Mountain View. This one I am really looking forward to! There are not many things I am missing from Germany (plenty people, not things!), but around Christmas time I like to stand in the cold and get warmed up by a nice mug of Glühwein. The food is also good traditional German fare.

Happy shopping, giving and partying!

Do you know of any Holiday Markets in the area?