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Friday, August 19, 2011

Disappearing history and missing bridges

It can be annoying to find out much too late that some piece of history has been paved over, or bulldozed, or blown up, or otherwise removed without an appropriate update. This particular case pertains to wherever the second Santa Clara mission may have been, somewhere up by the San Jose airport. Apparently, they lost it along the way, and what you can find now is pretty bizarre.

This particular bit of text is set into a marker in an odd and tiny little park just inside the Santa Clara city limits. It's much darker than the other text on that marker, suggesting it is newer than the other text (not shown) which probably dates to the original 1953 installation.

If you were to actually travel 967 yards north from this marker, you'd have to jump a couple of fences with barbed wire. Then you'd have to deal with a bunch of interesting people with guns, because that spot seems to be under a runway now. So much for history.

There's more brokenness here. Another way to find the original site is to start at this "37-64" bridge and go south 334 yards. Okay. So let's just turn to the Caltrans bridge log to find out just which bridge that is.

Bridge log screen shot Or not. None of the bridges which are actually in that area right now have that identifier. You can search that entire file and will never find a bridge labeled 37-0064. So we have a point of reference which doesn't exist, pointing to a place which seems to be completely off limits and devoid of anything anyway.

It's likely that this bridge vanished during some widening job or seismic refit since this marker was updated. However, the complete inability to find such data online is frustrating. It does mean one thing, though: the days of going to libraries, sifting through musty old catalogs and scrolling around microfiche sheets are not gone yet.