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Mural on Bayside Canning Co. building

Bayside Canning Co., by Jonathan Khoo

Alviso’s Colorful History

You will forget you are in the heart of Silicon Valley while visiting the sleepy community of Alviso. Alviso was once the busiest port on the Bay, shipping goods, lumber, and quicksilver from the New Almaden mines to San Francisco and beyond. The Port of Alviso declined when the San Francisco-San Jose Railroad was completed in 1864, since shipping goods by rail was cheaper and faster than by water. During the 1920’s and 30’s Alviso had a reputation as a rough town, with rampant gambling and prostitution. Alviso is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and many buildings illustrating Alviso’s colorful history exist today.

Bayside Canning Company

In 1906 Thomas Foon Chew took over his father’s canning company and re-named it the Bayside Canning Company, turning it into the third largest cannery in the world. The cannery was successful until Chew’s death in 1931 and the Great Depression, and closed in 1936. The Cannery building still stands on Hope Street, just south of the marina, and is covered by a mural.

Historical photo of the South Bay Yacht Club from 1905-1910

South Bay Yacht Club (1905-1910), courtesy History San José

South Bay Yacht Club

In 1888, the South Bay Yacht Club was formed (originally called the South Bay Yachting Association). The Clubhouse, built in 1903, is still used by the club today and can be seen on the corner of Hope and Catherine Streets.

Tilden-Laine house

This Victorian house was built by Susan Tilden in 1887 and is one of the best examples of Victorian architecture in town. Descendants of the Tilden family still live here.

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

In 1890 P.H. Wheeler began promoting “New Chicago” as a new manufacturing center. He sold 4,000 lots, most of them located on wetlands. Wheeler built the San Jose Watch Factory in 1891 but the company could not cover the first payroll. Since many of the lots were unbuildable, the land was eventually given to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and re-named New Chicago Marsh.

Sources/Further Reading

Alviso History website

San Francisco Bay Shoreline Guide, a State Coastal Conservancy book Order book