Parks of Downtown San Jose

Saint James Park

St. James Park and its environs were the heart of nineteenth century San Jose. While the Plaza had been the center of the older Hispanic settlement, St. James Park and its surrounding buildings reflect the aspirations of an emerging American city. Platted by Chester Lyman in his 1848 survey, the park evolved, over the next half century, as the focus of many of San Jose's most important civic and religious buildings. It remains, even today, the most significant urban open space.

While the site had been considered as a future plaza by Spanish and Mexican authorities, it was not formally developed until after the U.S. takeover. In the years following the official survey, the park served a variety of purposes but remained unlandscaped until 1868. With the building of what is now the Santa Clara County Courthouse, the park came of age. This elegant structure was designed to attract the State Capital back to San Jose and the park, which it fronted, was envisioned as a grand public open space. A major landscaping plan was initiated and the square became known as St. James Park.

Throughout the late 19th century and early 20th century, the park took on increasing importance. Major public and private buildings-the Post Office, several churches, club and lodge headquarters-were all built along its perimeter, and it became a site for public gatherings and demonstrations. Major labor rallies took place in the park in 1931 and 1933. California's last lynching occurred here in 1931: John Holmes and Thomas Thurmond, accused of kidnapping and killing the son of the Hart Department Store president, were taken from county jail by a mob and hanged. Monuments commemorate speeches made here by President McKinley and Senator Robert Kennedy, both assassinated shortly after their visits to San Jose.

In 1955, the character of the park was altered when it was bisected by North Second Street. The gracious scale of the surrounding buildings remains intact, and the park is a welcome counterpoint to San Jose's busy downtown.

Pellier Park

Pellier Park is all that remains of the City Gardens Nursery, established by Louis Pellier in 1850. Here, with his brothers, Pierre and Jean, Louis introduced "la petite d'Agen,," the French Prune, during the winter of 1856-1857. It was this variety that became the mainstay of the California prune industry-the backbone of San Jose's economy for more than 70 years.

Plaza Park

Plaza Park is part of the original plaza of the 1779 Pueblo de San Jose and is the oldest continuously used public open spaces in the city. The Plaza was the hub of the old Spanish settlements; the site of the Juzgado and the church, it was a focus for the public life of the pueblo. After the U.S. takeover, surveyor Chester Lyman laid out the present elliptical park at the southern end of the plaza. This became the primary civic open space of the new American city and, in 1849, the first State Capitol was situated on its eastern edge.

Plaza Park continued to serve the functions of the original Hispanic plaza-parade ground, cock-pit, racetrack, but a particularly American use for it was as a site for public hangings. The park declined in favor during the 1870's when San Jose's large Chinese population established itself along the eastern side of Market street. City leaders contemplated closing the park and running Market Street through it. Public protest quashed this scheme and, when a fire destroyed the adjacent Chinatown in 1887, the park was selected as a site for a new City Hall. Until its demolition in 1858, is elaborate brick and stone building dominated the park. With the emergence of St. James Park as a site for public buildings and the destruction of the City Hall, Plaza Park lost much of its public prominence. It remains, however, an important reminder of San Jose's past.

Edenvale Garden Park

Santa Teresa County Park

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