History San José collects, preserves and celebrates the stories of diversity and innovation in San José and the Santa Clara Valley. Operating in three locations: History Park, a historical and cultural campus featuring 19 partner organizations; the Peralta Adobe-Fallon House Historic Site, one of the oldest and most significant locales in San José; and the Collection Center, the Valley’s collective memory, housing one of the largest regional collections in the State of California.
Empire Fire House & the Pacific Hotel at History Park
History San José’s activities began in 1949 following the centennial celebration of the California Gold Rush and statehood. Known initially as the Historical Museum of San José and managed by the City of San José, History San José was incorporated with its current name as an independent nonprofit organization in 1998.
History Park, nestled in Kelley Park, is a 14-acre town-like assemblage of 32 original and reconstructed homes, businesses, and landmarks highlighting the culture and history of San José and Santa Clara Valley. Complete with paved streets, running trolleys and an old fashion ice cream parlor, History Park and allows you to step back in time. The park welcomes over 125,000 visitors each year and hosts a variety of events and exhibits. One of the most prominent landmarks at History Park is the Electric Light Tower was originally the inspiration of J. J. Owen, editor of the San José Mercury News. In 1881, Owen printed an editorial suggesting that by providing one high and immense source of arc light, the night would become as day for the downtown San José. Straddling the intersection of Santa Clara and Market Streets, the tower proved to be more spectacular than practical, since its 24,000 candlepower failed to sufficiently light the area. Although the tower did not fulfill its original purpose, it became a San Jose landmark. It represented progress to the people of San José because electricity was a relatively new source of power. The tower at History Park is a replica of the original and is 115 feet tall.
The Electric Light Tower & Pacific Hotel at History Park
Current exhibits on display at History San José include Slugs, Dingbats, & Tramp Printers! Printing in Santa Clara Valley, which explores the fascinating stories of the local people and companies that helped advance printing technology; and The Wireless Age: Electronics Entrepreneurs Before Silicon Valley, which looks at early electronic pioneers who produced some of the most revolutionary communication devices and laid the foundation for what is Silicon Valley. The Wireless Age features rare artifacts from History San José’s Perham Collection of Early Electronics, including surveillance equipment, radios, televisions, and electronic components. The exhibit opened in conjunction with the first ever San Jose Mini Maker Faire that showcased more than 100 local artists, inventors, tinkerers, and builders!
Historic Trolley at History Park
The Peralta Adobe-Fallon House Historic Site is located in historic San Pedro Square. The 1855 Victorian Fallon House showcases 15 furnished period rooms. Across the street, the Peralta Adobe, built in 1797, is San Jose’s oldest surviving address, and is the only structure remaining from El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe. History San José offers special programs that recreate the lives, celebrations, music, dance, art and stories of this period in an interactive way that engages the entire family. Both History Park and the Peralta-Fallon Historic Site are field ,trip destinations for local kids, serving over 20,000 students each year!
Hands on History Day's activities at the Peralta Adobe
The History San José Collections Center cares for more than 500,000 artifacts that celebrate the diverse community of San Jose of Santa Clara Valley. More than 1200 researchers from 26 countries use the Research Library and Archive.
Visit History San José’s Google Cultural Institute site to take virtual tours of some of our buildings and browse our online exhibits!
Make sure to visit the History San José during the Western Museums Association 2015 Annual Meeting in the nearby San Jose in October! Visit during the San Jose Stories event on Monday, October 26, 2015.