ThirtyThree: Sin City

Continuing the ‘Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley’ year long quest.

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Alviso, the Port of San Jose
Alviso, the Port of San Jose

Well, ok, I am not talking about that Sin City. I’m talking about an all but forgotten settlement on San Francisco Bay in Silicon Valley, a little town called Alviso. (If you live in Alviso, apologies for the title, just making a rhyme about the past…read on.)

Settled in the early 1800’s, started in 1836, and incorporated as a town in 1852, it was once the bustling Port of San Jose. Steamships regularly plowed their way between San Francisco and Alviso carrying passengers, shipping agricultural products from Santa Clara Valley, the “Valley of Hearts Delight’, hides, tallow, grains, redwood timber, and mercury from the New Almaden mines. (I did paintings Eighteen and Nineteen near the old Almaden mines).

On April 11, 1853, a boiler on the steamboat, the Jenny Lind exploded, killing 31 passengers. Soon a railroad was built between San Jose and San Francisco, being much cheaper to operate soon doomed the Port of San Jose.

Over the years a number of notable industries were built here, including the third largest cannery in the world, the Otay Watch Company, flour mills, and more. AP Giannini, the founder of Bank of America, grew up and attended a one-room schoolhouse there.

However, in the Roaring Twenties and then the Great Depression (the 1920’s and 30’s for you youngsters), Alviso became sin city with saloons, dog tracks, bordellos, Filipino taxi-dance halls, and casinos. More history can be found here, and here. here. Well, it made a catchy title.

Listed as a National Historic District, Alviso is now part of the city of San Jose. High tech companies are being built right up to the town, and the residents don’t really like it. TiVo, Foundry Networks, and others are now listed under Alviso.

The old harbor fell into disuse except for a few boats, has mostly silted in, and filled with rushes and other natural vegetation. It is still used today for a few small boats. However, it is the mecca for naturalists who want to kayak, hike, and otherwise enjoy the nature of the southern tip of San Francisco Bay.

The Guadalupe River terminates here and empties into San Francisco Bay. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

Below are a couple panorama photos I took with my iPhone. Click on each photo to get the entire view—

The old Port of San Jose (Alviso Marina) now silted in and choked with vegetation.
The old Port of San Jose (Alviso Marina) now silted in and choked with vegetation.
A 180 view of the dock where I was painting.
A 180 view of the dock where I was painting.

I haven’t painted many boats, but for variety’s sake, did one today. It was an old shrimper boat called the Sea Dive. Although there is a ‘do not enter gate’ on the boardwalk/pier, a path right around it on the grass let me get on the dock to do the painting.

Sin City, 8x10, oil on board
Sin City, 8×10, oil on board

For the artists, a word about technique and brushes. I painted the entire boat with a #8 bright brush, which is about 2/3 inch across. The brand was Rosemary, which I have been trying out since purchasing a few at the Plein Air Convention, but my normal Silver Ruby Satin brushes would have worked just as well. You don’t need tiny brushes to paint details…in fact, the larger the brush you use the better.

Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.

***Email subscribers may not see all pictures. Just click on the title for a link to the online version.

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