Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Probably a good thing this never caught on...

Last week, we stumbled across an interesting place in San Jose, The San Jose Historical Museum. We were actually walking around a park looking for the Japanese Gardens, but instead stumbled across a street that was closed to traffic, but was surrounded on all sides by old historical buildings. It looked like it was a street taken directly from the 1920's or something. And since it was the middle of the week, it was pretty much deserted. Upon further investigating, we discovered the entire street made up the San Jose Historical Museum. Basically, a 12 acre piece of land has been set a side as a historical preservation, in which 26 historical building have been moved to. It's kind of a hodge podge of historical buildings, that don't quite fit together, but each one has an interesting history. After walking around for a while we came across this strange tower standing in the middle of the street...

I was a little confused and intrigued by this tower. As it turns out it's a half scale replica of an actual tower that was built in the middle of San Jose in 1881. The original tower was 237 feet hight and held six carbon arc lights with attached reflectors. The idea was to do away with street lights and have the tower provide enough light to cover the entire city. This seems like a slightly flawed idea, but none the less the tower was built and stood until 1930 before collapsing in a wind storm. I found an interesting article about the tower here...

A few highlights:

Even with 24,000 candle power the tower was not up to the task of lighting downtown San Jose effectively. The problem was distance. As any schoolchild can tell you, usefull light, when transmitted in free wave form, diminishes inversely as the square of the distance. Even if you concentrate or beam the light, you end up with only one fourth the light you emitted at every doubling of distance. By 1884 the towers lights were used only for weekends, holidays, and festive occasions.

Ducks crashed into the tower and plummeted to the street below. Some say the fowl were drawn to the bright lights - like moths. Cops favored "the Tower Beat" because ducks could be recovered and sold to local eateries.

And my favorite...

Another hazard was the proximity of the tower to saloons. On Saturday night, liquored-up San Joseans tried to climb the tower.

The Tower Saloon was located in a building on the lower left. It became a favorite launching pad for San Joseans wanting to climb the tower--after consuming the requisite quantity of liquid-courage.

That's what I call entertainment. Anyway, that's it. Just a little piece of quirky San Jose History.

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