San Jose Postcard


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"It was a dump, an architectural monstrosity" - Harry Farrell

Venerable City Hall with statue of Henry D. Cogswell in foreground.

Built in 1887 for $139,482.00. The City Council stipulated that no brick or sewer pipe made by Chinese labor should be used. It was designed by Theodore Lenzen in a style that is hard to describe. The American Institute of Architects summed it up thusly, "A design importation, reflecting a very bad period of German architecture. It is not typical of any period of design, and it is not a reflection of the art and culture of the community." The term "bastard baroque" has been applied to it. A non-functioning Victorian cupola topped off the gingerbread Gargantua.

Mayor Samuel Boring made the dedicatory speech on the evening of April 17, 1889. The first order of business, after Boring's speech, was a protest against spending money on repairing Market Street.

The ground floor of the building served as the city jail, and sported a drive-through entrance. The cell blocks were on the south side and the drunk tank, described by Harry Farrell as "malodorous from seven decades of boozy sweat, vomit, urine, and Lysol," was on the north. Prisoners would scrape tin cups against the bars, attracting the attention of God fearing San Joseans, and disturbing the monkey business of Council meetings on the floor above.

San Francisco dentist/prohibitionist Henry D. Cogswell provided statues of himself to cities - based on the number of saloons. California's cities qualified for many statues, one of which was placed in The Plaza. The statue was constructed of cast-iron, and mounted on a base that provided drinking facilities for both man and horse. In 1944, the statue was ignominiously melted down during a scrap metal drive. When The Mountain Charley Chapter of E. Clampus Vitus tried to replace the statue, it was discovered that all copies had been destroyed.


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