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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Santa Clara, 1962 to the present

Back in the '60s, Santa Clara decided it was time to knock down a bunch of blocks in its downtown area in the name of urban renewal. These blocks were ancient. This area, essentially centered on Franklin Street, was the main drag back in the day. Back in the 19th century, there were dirt roads, horses, wooden sidewalks, general stores, and that sort of thing.

As a result, they moved out some of the businesses and leveled basically everything. Then it just sort of stagnated for a while. Eventually, some businesses went up around the outside of that area, and a bunch of condos took over the middle. There's also a courthouse which didn't seem to be there before. Several intersections effectively disappeared.

What used to look fairly busy and interesting like Castro Street in Mountain View or that one block of Murphy in Sunnyvale now looked like a glorified strip mall. I found this interesting and decided to see what I could learn about this. One thing I've uncovered is a series of pictures in the SCU archives from 1962, or just before they razed all of those buildings. I've been matching those pictures to present-day locations and have been taking new ones.

Monroe at Franklin, 1962 Here's the first set. In the original 1962 picture, the photographer stood on the sidewalk in front of the house at 962 Monroe. Bank of America is down the block on the other side of Franklin, which crosses left to right in this picture behind the bus. Off to the left, you can see Safeway and a sign on the building which proclaims "Free Parking". There's another sign saying the same thing on the corner.

The area which is to be renewed is more or less off-camera, to the right. What you see in this picture didn't change much due to that urban renewal program. Instead, it evolved just a bit, and picked up a few subtle changes.

Monroe at Franklin, 2010 Jump forward 48 years to the summer of 2010. I'm standing in the same place as the original photographer. The fence has changed but is otherwise the same basic idea. There are actually trees on this side of Monroe now. There was an election on with a contentious battle over having a football stadium built for the 49ers, which is why there are "prop J" signs all over the place.

The old Safeway building is still there -- note that it has those white vertical lines which go part-way up from the ground. They are in the original picture, but with different coloring. There are several businesses in this old building which are using the side as frontage. The one you see there is Seniore's Pizza. This building is surprisingly narrow for what used to be a supermarket. I'll have to put up a picture of its original Franklin-facing front to give some idea of just how narrow it was.

Old BofA night depository hatch, 2010 Way in the background, the old Bank of America building is still there, but now it's the Neto Sausage company. It's hard to see for the trees, but check out those glass block windows. They're the real deal. As proof, I submit this bonus picture of the night depository door on the front of Neto's building.

Off to my right, you can see that Franklin no longer goes anywhere. All of those buildings constitute "Franklin Square", which is a pedestrian mall of sorts. There's a beauty school, and a post office, a liquor store and a bar, plus a bunch of other random things, but it just doesn't have the same character as those other downtowns.

This is just the first set. Check back for more.

August 8, 2011: This post has an update.