People standing under the electric tower in History Park

Admire a Former Landmark of San Jose

The electric tower at the History of San Jose parkHistory 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. 

An old photograph of the original electric tower taken from the information signage at History ParkNevertheless, 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 built at 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)

Side view of the electric towerHailed 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. 

Lit up replica of the electric tower during Christmas in the ParkA 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.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jose_electric_light_tower

https://historysanjose.org/plan-your-visit/history-park/electric-light-tower/

https://www.sjpl.org/blog/looking-back-san-joses-electric-light-tower

 

Relax in Marin’s Art and Garden Center, Ross

Relax in Marin’s Art and Garden Center, Ross

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. 

Amongus art work by Marcia DonahueThere 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 Environment zero 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. 

Fountain with water liliesHighlights 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.A pink rose from the rose garden at the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross

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?

Model train set with a train station

Follow the Trains at Moffett Field

War planes painted on the ceiling of the Moffett Field Historical Society MuseumThere 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.

A model of the USS MaconFor 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. And ad for halicrafters TV for the model trains set-up

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?

 

Top of Lyford Tower, Tiburon.

Pleasant Views at Lyford Tower, Tiburon

And old fireplace with a plaque above and a window overlooking the BayThe 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. 

A stone bench at the overlook at 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. Lyford Tower streetview

Have you appreciated the views of Lyford’s tower?

Resources:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/lyfords-tower

https://marinmagazine.com/community/local-news/travel-and-explore-tiburon-the-rich-story-behind-lyfords-tower/

https://localwiki.org/tiburon/Lyford%27s_Stone_Tower

Fandango in Petaluma, Petaluma Adobe

A shady spot in the courtyard of the Petaluma Adobe.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.

Cowhides piled up in one room of the Petaluma AdobeThe 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). 

View from the upstairs veranda of the Petaluma AdobeDon’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. 

Have you ever danced a fandango?

Petaluma Historical Library & Museum

Walk into History, Petaluma

Glass dome of the Petaluma Historical MuseumThe 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.

A sign the reads: school cross walkOn 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/).

Memorabilia of American GraffitiAlong 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.

A small carouselThe 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.

 

Do you enjoy local historical museums?

At the Bay Model. The sign reads: Find your way around the Bay

Walk around the Bay, Bay Model, Sausalito

An info sign at the Bay Model.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. 

The round view point at the Bay Model is a nice view around the BayOn 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! A model of the Golden Gate Bridge

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.

 

Sign for Cascade Falls at the entrance to the park.

Chase a Waterfall, Cascade Falls, Mill Valley

It is always great to hear water running down a creek and catching the sight of a waterfall. Mill Valley’s Cascade Falls is a short drive from downtown, up Cascade Road. Be aware the parking is very limited. You can also walk up Cascade Drive and marvel at the imposing houses along this curvy road.

A fork in the path. The right one leads to a bridge and the waterfall.On entering the park you will quickly come upon a split in the road. The right path leads over a bridge to the waterfall. It is a short hike and any further hike is blocked off for now. We first went up the left path. When asked some passersby about the waterfall they directed us back and mentioned that the water is getting low. 

I still found the amount of falling water from the maybe 10 feet drop impressive and calming. Cascade Falls waterfall.

There is also a bench where you can take in the scenery and listen to the burble.

Three wells from the path on top.According to my research Three Wells (three swimming holes) is nearby. When you take the left path going up you can see two of the swimming holes below.

Cascade Falls is located in Cascade Park, at 420 Cascade Drive, Mill Valley 94941. 

Have you listened to a waterfall burble recently?

Have a swimmingly good time at the Rotary PlayGarden, San Jose

Have a swimmingly good time at the Rotary PlayGarden, San Jose

A climbing structure at the Rotary PlayGarden.As I said before, when my child was younger we searched out interesting playgrounds. I am a big fan of the all-inclusive playgrounds here in the Bay Area. There is usually a lot of thought that goes into the design of these playing areas. One of these all-ability playgrounds is the Rotary PlayGarden in San Jose. A fun place to climb, swing, ride, and run around. Swings at the PlayGarden

When you enter the PlayGarden the theme is clear, you are ‘swimming’ in an imagined river with fishes. The beige and blue foam ground reflects the beach and water features remarkably well. Fishes are objects to touch everywhere. 

The Rotary PlayGarden is part of the Guadalupe Gardens, a collection of ‘gardens’ that also include the Heritage Rose Garden, the historic orchard, and the community gardens.  Adjacent to the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy Visitor & Education Center, it has ample parking in front. 

As the playground is gated you have to adhere to the opening hours, which are Thursday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm. Metal structure at the PlayGarden

 

Where do you go and play?

 

Other all-ability playgrounds are the Magical Bridge playgrounds and Walnut Creek near Heather’s Farm.

Experience 50 things to do in Mountain View, CA

Experience 50 things to do in Mountain View, CA

50 Things to do in Mountain View, CAIn 2017 I started my series of 50 things, a challenge to find 50 interesting things to explore in one city. Mountain View, CA was the first city I chose and it was about time to update it. 

Many attractions I had previously mentioned changed. Places closed down, Android figures disappeared, and new gardens came to my attention. It’s clear that this project is constantly  in motion and I will do my very best to keep everything up to date.

Luckily some of my favorite things are still around, like relaxing at Shoreline Park, the in-person festivals, and the farmers’ market on Sundays. 

What are your highlights in Mountain View, CA?

Please let me know if there are any places you would like to see on this list, or have any comments.

Watch the YouTube video of 50 things to do in Mountain View!