If you are like me, anytime you see a sign to San Jose you know what to sing. One of the ways to arrive at or leave San Jose is via Amtrak at the Diridon station. If you happen to be in the waiting room and need to pass time you should check out the displays around. ‘The way to San Jose’ is an exhibit that showcases the different transportation options in the Santa Clara Valley.
From early tule boats, a canoe used by the Oholone, to the BART extension program, the exhibit highlights different ways to travel. Mineta airport and the former port of Alviso are also stations to learn about. There is quite a history in this area about transportation!
If you enjoy architecture, the Italian Renaissance Revival style of the Diridon station might intrigue you as well.
I hope your summer travel is going well and you’ll find your way back to San Jose.
History Park in San Jose preserved a lot of buildings by moving them from their original location to Kelly Park. Some of the buildings are replications of former glory, like the Bank of Italy and the candy shop next door.
Nevertheless, the most recognized structure is the electric tower framing the intersection next to the Bank of Italy building. It is a half-scale replica of the original 237-foot tower that was builtat the intersection of Santa Clara and Market Street in San Jose in 1881. The tower collapsed in a storm in 1915. As a monument to progress it was hoped to illuminate the downtown area by imitating moon light. J.J. Owens, editor of the San Jose Mercury, is credited with the idea. In an editorial piece, he proclaimed that by “providing a high and immense source of arc light, the night would become as day for the downtown area.” (Information signage at History Park)
Hailed as the world’s tallest free-standing iron structure of its time,some said the design influenced the 1889 Eiffel Tower. After a mock trial at Santa Clara State University, it was decided that two minds had independently come up with similar ideas.
Ironically this concept of lighting up the downtown didn’t prove to be successful. The tower did not light the immediate area, and farmers nearby complained that the moon-imitating structure confused their chickens.
But this was the beginning of available electricity in in cities, and gas lamps were slowly replaced with electric lights.
A much smaller reproduction of this landmark can be seen lit up at Christmas in the Park sponsored by the Rotary Club.
Did you know about the electric light tower?
History in San Jose is located at 635 Phelan Avenue. Admission is free, except during special events, but parking is $6 for an all-day pass. The park is open Mondays thru Sundays, 9 am to 4 pm.
Combining art with a relaxing garden is a win-win experience. At the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross this is exactly what you will get. The garden grounds are open from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week with free admission.
There are sculptures placed around the ground. I most liked the Amongus from Marcia Donahue – stacks of mushroom like objects in earthy tones.
The center also has an art gallery. The hours for visiting the gallery are: Thursdays to Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm, and Sundays 12 pm – 4 pm. The latest exhibit Confluence: Reflections on Our Shifting Environmentzero in on the climate crisis and the relationship between humans and the natural world. Laura Corallo-Titus’s multi-media paintings, Cindy Stokes’s installation and wall sculpture, and Arminée Chahbazian’s large multi-media imagery on paper can be seen until August 28th, 2022.
Highlights from the garden include the Magnolia circle and the rose garden with over 150 varieties. The fountain with its water lilies is a nice place to contemplate.
Summer fun includes concerts in July every Thursday night and a yoga class on Wednesdays.
The Marin Art and Garden Center is located at 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. Admission is free and donations are appreciated. Open from sunrise to sunset everyday.
Have you relaxed at the Marin Art and Garden Center?
There are plenty of different ‘fleets’ at the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum. The model train set in the backroom was the most unusual.
The Moffett Field Historical Society Museum illustrates the history of the various military and NASA commands at this military base. There are many fascinating exhibits illuminating the long history of the airbase.
For example: The history of the iconic Hanger One and the rigid airship industry was the most compelling reason to go to the museum. I have always been impressed with the size of the zeppelin hangers you can see from the 101. I learned that the USS Macon that was housed in Hangar One, together with her sister airship the USS Akron, is still the world record holder for helium-filled rigid airships. In 1935 the USS Macon was lost in a storm off the coast off Big Sur.
On Saturdays you also have the pleasure to check out the train room. The building that is now the museum used to be the recreation building for the Navy. Model train building was a nice pastime. The trains ride through interesting model areas with various levels.
To enter the base you are required to show a valid ID. Admission to the museum is $8 for adults, $3 for 13 – 17 year olds, and $5 for seniors and disabled persons. Persons that serve active military duty and members of the museum are free.
I highly recommend the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum to any person with an affinity to aviation (and model trains).
The museum is open Wednesdays through Saturdays 10am – 3pm.
Have you been to the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum?
The picturesque town of Tiburon has much to offer. A stunning view of Angel Island and the Golden Gate Bridge are particularly special when you walk from downtown to the Lyford Tower.
This stone tower is named after Dr. Benjamin Lyford, a medical embalmer and surgeon in the Union Army during the Civil War. His vision for the area was to create the utopian village of “Hygeia”. Strict rules on how to build the houses and Lyford’s lack of enthusiasm stalled the project. The tower and Lyford’s house are all that remains of this development. The house was moved in 1957 and both are now owned by Tiburon’s Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
With no nearby parking the best way to reach the tower is a short walk up Shoreline Park. When I reached it, I was surprised by the fireplace inside and the stone bench facing the water that invites you to sit and enjoy the view.
Tiburon’s first historical landmark is definitely worth a visit.
The Petaluma Adobe was once the largest privately owned adobe building in Northern California;the owner – General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. From 1834 – 1846 this adobe supported the military efforts in Sonoma.
Vallejo was the most powerful man of his time in Mexican California. His mission was to secularize the San Francisco Solano Mission in Sonoma and be a countermeasure to the Russian outpost in Fort Ross.
The rancho is two stories. The exhibits show life on the rancho, with hides piled in one room, sleeping quarters from workers to supervisors, and a courtyard with two large ovens.
Now the rooms of the adobe complex have been furnished to re-enact the end of slaughtering season (matanza) and the preparation for the festivities for the workers (fandango).
Don’t miss walking around the veranda upstairs. You will be rewarded with a nice view of the valley.
The Petaluma Adobe is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Due to staffing constraints please call 707-938-9560. The park is located at 3325 Adobe Road in Petaluma. Admission is $3.00 for adults, $2.00 for children between 6 and 16, and children under 5 are free.
The building that houses the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum is in itself a representation of history. The former Carnegie Library was built in 1904. Entering through the massive stone columns the tiled floor reads: Free to all. The most stunning feature is the glass dome. The dome is the largest free standing stained glass dome in Northern California. It is definitely worth admiring it with an upward tilted head.
On entering the museum we were greeted by a friendly attendant and she told us about the layout of the exhibit. The lower floor has the current exhibit: Local Ties – Histories of the Petaluma & Haystack Railway, Northwestern Pacific Railroad and Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway. You can view it through July 24th, 2022. While the upper floor is dedicated to the permanent exhibition of the history of Petaluma. This reaches from the life of the native population, over school life of the past, to the history of dairy farmers.
A signage of Petaluma’s Black History reveals Petaluma’s less glorious moments. Redlining was, while banned by the Supreme Court in 1948, still a common practice in the North Bay in the 1960s. Due to this housing discrimination only one black family lived in Petaluma in 1960. In 2020 the black population accounted for 1.2%. For comparison, overall there were 5% of blacks in California listed in the 2020 census (https://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-population/).
Along with the current exhibit downstairs is a tribute to American Graffiti. Most of the film was shot in Petaluma. Even these days Petaluma is in great demand as a filming location. We saw a film crew for a Christmas movie at the high school.
The Petaluma Historical Library & Museum
is located on 20 4th Street in Petaluma. Opening hours are Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 4:40 pm. Admission is free but a suggested donation of $5 is appreciated.
It is really an accomplishment of the US Army Corps of Engineers: The Bay Model in Sausalito is as large as two football fields. If you are like me this sounds big, but you only get the real idea of how big this actually is once you stand in the viewing area and you are trying to grasp the entirety.
The Bay Model was built in 1957 to simulate salt-water intrusion, changes to tidal flows, and even movement of pollution. Nowadays the computer models have taken over and this is an educational facility. The US Army Corps of Engineers still operates the facility and offers educational programs and tours.
On my recent visit I was greeted by a ranger. Before I got my map and self-guided tour brochure she gave me a run-down on the model. Going first up a ramp I choose the outside lookout to see kayakers leaving the marina. When you enter the exhibit there are historic facts and explanations of the Bay. Did you know that the gold diggers used hydraulic mining? The run-off was full of sediments and made the Bay rise by more than 10 feet, causing muddy floods!
The next stop was a short movie, conveniently translated in four other languages besides english. After the movie, be prepared to be blown away. As I mentioned earlier, the scale is massive! Every 14.9 minutes a 24 hour tidal cycle gets recreated. Some of the educational devices are closed off due to COVID restrictions.
Have you walked around the Bay?
The Bay Model Visitor Center is located at 2100 Bridgeway in Sausalito. Admission is free. Opening hours are Tuesday through Friday, 9 am – 4 pm and Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm.
It’s not just local art at the Richmond Art Center. But the nod to local artists are clear in the two large exhibition rooms. The main gallery shows well-known artists that have a connection to the Bay Area. Currently, until June 4th, this is Dewey Crumpler: Crossing. A take on the impact of the global shipping industry, with large scale collages, drawings, and paintings. There is also one sculpture, I almost missed, but really was my favorite! Multiple dragons crashing into and out of shipping containers.
The West gallery honors local artists. Right Here, Right Now: A Biennial of Richmond Art is a collection of eight Richmond artists ( Adrian Delgado, AJ Serrano, Daniel Ballesteros, Heather McAlister, Janet Lipkin, Jeff Maylath, Karen Seneferu, Melanin Buford). This exemplary exhibit ends on June 3rd, 2022 but the idea will be part of the Art Center’s biennially showcase.
The West galleries new exhibit The Eastern Shore, ofartist J.B. Broussard opens June 8th till July 22, 2022. Broussard’s work centers around bronze sculptures of Tubman and Douglass shared with earlier charcoal drawings, sculptures, and paintings reflecting the Black experience. The opening reception will be together with Emmy Lou Packard: Artist of Conscience on June 18th, 2022.
When I spoke with the attendant she was very excited about the upcoming exhibit of Emmy Lou Packard. Packard was a student of Diego Rivera and has worked at the Kaiser shipyard’s newspaper, Fore ‘n’ Aft, in Richmond. She is well-known for her linoleum prints. The exhibit will be on view from June 22 till August 20th. This will also be accompanied by some events.
Mark your calendars:
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 18, 2pm-4pm
How Emmy Lou Packard Made Her Prints (demonstration): Saturday, July 16, 12pm-2pm
I’m sorry, it is not cheesy at all. Pacifica actually has a pretty cool history, and a visit to the Pacifica Coastside Museum, also known as the Little Brown Church, will tell you all about it. You’ll be greeted by one of the volunteer guides and walked through the two rooms full of artifacts and information signs.
The other greeter is a 8-foot statue of Pacifica. This is a replication of 80-foot Pacifica used at the Golden Gate International Exposition 1939/40 held on Treasure Island off of San Francisco. Our guide informs us proudly that she was there!
A contest was held in 1957 to find a name for this newly incorporated coastal city. Maybe still reminiscent of the International Expo, or an urge for peace after WWII, Pacifica won the contest. Wikipedia explains the symbolism for Pacifica at the Expo: “Pacifica was the theme statue for the exposition, representing world peace, neighborliness, and the power of a unified Pacific coast.”
Upstairs, the first thing you’ll notice is the model train set up in the middle of the room. Before 1920 the railroad planned to go from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. It was never completed as it ran into major obstacles, like the earthquake in 1906 and numerous landslides. But at the beginning it was thought to be a great escape for city dwellers tired of San Francisco to acquire a beach escape in Salada Beach, as it was known back then.
Other exhibit items talk about the history before beach culture like, Mammoth bones, First Nations and their conquerors.
Returning to the cheesy part – you did not think I forgot? – we have to enter the gift shop. Oh yes, the tiny room is filled with history books and local art. The real kicker is the contents in the little fridge in the back. Cheese!! This history begins with Pacifican Kathleen Manning’s discovery of an old cookbook and how she uncovered the origin of Monterey Jack. Apparently this cheese was created in Pacifica’s Mori Point Inn in 1888! The recipe was stolen by a disgruntled employee and he ran with it to Jack’s Ranch in Monterey where the cheese made a name for itself. Read more here about the fascinating story. Or better yet, stop by the Pacifica Coastside Museum and buy a pound of this historical cheese for $8.
The Pacifica Coastside Museum, on 1850 Francisco Blvd, is currently open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, from 1 pm to 4 pm. Visits to the museum are free. Proceeds of the cheese sale go to the Pacifica Historical Society.