E. Carlson, 1999

A marketing man ahead of his time, P.H. Wheeler came to Alviso in 1891 and had a vision. His contribution to lunacy remains in the street names of the New Chicago district.

A schemer and dreamer, he left behind a bankrupt watch factory in San Diego to "build anew" in the blessed fields of Alviso. He saw the potential of Alviso with regards to its port capability and access to the South Pacific Coast Railroad.

In 1891 he built the San Jose Watch Factory near the intersection of Wabash and Archer. To finance this dream, he sold 4,000 plots of land located on the northeast side of Alviso. The streets were named after prominent streets in Chicago. P.H. was not deterred that most of the plots were located on wetlands. Investors didn't seem to mind either, and bought them up like hotcakes. A good salesman is a thing of beauty. Many people could see their land only at low tide.

The watch factory went broke immediately. Some say only one watch was manufactured before the business went belly-up. The company was sold to a Japanese company which continued to make watches stamped 'San Jose Watch Factory California.' The building was demolished in the 1920's.

No houses were built on the New Chicago tract until the 1950's, and then only on land that was high and dry. The "wetland" portion was eventually bequeathed to the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and is named, appropriately, New Chicago Marsh. A last remnant of wetlands in San Francisco Bay.








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