One of the worst decisions and a hidden secret of Silicon Valley was written by Scott Herhold in the April 24, 2017 Mercury News article about the 100 year history of a vibrant Downtown Santa Clara, CA community that was torn down by government urban renewal in 1963.
The 1906 earthquake and the 1963 demolition of the downtown are two significant transitions of the central business district buildings and Downtown Santa Clara, CA. This story begins and is a share of the early years of Historic Downtown Santa Clara CA since 1852 when California entered statehood of USA. Santa Clara, CA is one of the 10 oldest incorporated cities of the San Francisco Bay region.
Remember Santa Clara, California was settled with Native Americans and still has thriving people who identify as Ohlone and trace their ancestry. Please read this article from Santa Clara University Education additional information of these early people.
There is known documented Spanish mission settlements in 1769 and 1777 in this region and the Mission Santa Clara de Asis is one of 21 missions in California.
Small Town Begins
DOWNTOWN SANTA CLARA. 1908 Written by Bob Emerson, Santa Clara and San Jose Resident and Historian. This story first appeared on Facebook and is with permission to reprint.
The 1850’s the hamlet of Santa Clara began to take shape as a recognizable small town.
The town site was surveyed by William Campbell into lots one hundred yards square, and one lot was given to each citizen with the understanding that he was to build a house on it within three months or lose the property.
A schoolhouse and a church were built, several hotels erected, mercantile businesses established, and 23 houses were imported from Boston to be set up in the town.
As the town grew, it was supported by a variety of manufacturing, seed, and fruit industries. The immediate vicinity around Santa Clara became famous for its acre-upon-acre of flower and vegetable seed farms. The abundant fruit crop Santa Clara orchards produced was either shipped fresh, dried, or canned.
First Manufacturing Businesses
The Pacific Manufacturing Company was founded in 1875 and manufactured a variety of wooden products. At its height, the firm occupied 10 city blocks and employed 500+ people. This company was founded by the late James Pierronett Pierce. One of the largest industrial plants in Santa Clara Valley at the time.
Pratt-Low Preserving Company, established in 1905, sent canned apricots, pears, peaches, cherries, and plums to all parts of the United States, England, and the Orient. During harvest season, 300 to 400 women and men were employed in the handling, sorting and canning process.
Building Changes after the 1906 Earthquake
The first major transition of Downtown Santa Clara town and buildings were from damage because of the 1906 earthquake. Many people know of this disaster from San Francisco, yet there was quite a bit of damage to our south bay communities that were recovered. The town buildings of Santa Clara were with damage shown in historic pictures.
Eight Block Grid Flattened and Urban Renewal Changed the Community
Downtown Santa Clara: the 1963 City Council voted to knock down the 8 block grid of downtown area next to Santa Clara University bordered by Lafayette, Benton, Monroe, and Homestead (previously named Liberty in 1963) to receive federal funding from Urban Renewal in USA. In 2018 there is a vacant parking lot along Lafayette St., and Franklin Mall on Jackson St (2 blocks) with the one federal historical building – Santa Clara Post Office, apartment building, county courthouse, and strip mall.
The town of Santa Clara is with one the ten oldest incorporated cities of the San Francisco region with history that predates California statehood. This is the first short story of a series of the wonderful town history of Santa Clara not to be forgotten.
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Editor’s Note: Thank you to the following articles and pictures and are used with permission from Donna West. Please contact for permission to use. Comments are welcome..
Images are courtesy of Bob Emerson, Rod Dunham, and Reclaiming Our Downtown and In the News page.
Santa Clara Journal Newspaper articles Microfilm 1960 – 1970, Santa Clara City Central Park Library
San Jose Mercury Articles by Scott Herhold