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Friday, June 10, 2005


Weird SJ

Light tower

The story is just too weird, and I don’t know it well, so I’ll refer you to the entertaining and informative Soft Underbelly of San Jose, which has an exhaustive rundown on the San Jose Electric Light Tower. Only recently did I learn that such a marvel once existed. (Long story short: Wealthy, forward-looking newspaper publisher plans electric street lamps to replace gas lights. Weird part: The electric lights were to sit atop giant towers, illuminating blocks at a time. Weirder part: They actually built one, right on top of a major intersection, with buggies driving underneath. Weirdest part: San Jose charged the city of Paris —in 1989— with copyright infringement for “stealing” the design for their Eiffel Tower.)

Today I visited Kelley Park for the first time, and what did I see but a half-scale replica of the Electric Light Tower, honoring San Jose’s history as the first electrified city west of the Rockies. Even though it doesn’t reach the original’s 237 feet, it’s pretty cool.

There’s been some talk on the city council lately about building a 21st-century version of the tower. It won’t make San Jose a tourist destination, but I say go for it.

(Just so’s you know, Soft Underbelly of SJ is new to me. I started photographing the crazy signs around here before I saw his stuff.)