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History Park
San Jose Electric Light Tower replica (1).JPG
San Jose Light Tower half-height replica.
Type Historical recreation of early 20th century California
Location 635 Senter Road
Kelley Park
Nearest city San Jose
Area 14 acres (5.7 ha)
Created 1971
Operated by History San José
Public transit access VTA Line 73

History Park at Kelley Park in San Jose, California, USA is designed as an indoor/outdoor museum, arranged to appear as a small US town might have in the early 1900s (decade). Since its inauguration in 1971, 32 historic buildings and other landmarks have either been moved from their original San Jose locations or are represented by replicas.

History San José

History Park at Kelley Park is operated by History San José, which also has its headquarters at History Park. History San José (HSJ) is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was formed from the San José Historical Museum.

HSJ traces its origins back to 1945, when local volunteer Clyde Arbuckle was appointed to the honorary position of San José City Historian; Arbuckle had no formal training, but was well-known for his keen interest in local history. In 1949, a temporary replica of the first State House was built in San Jose Civic Plaza to celebrate the centennial of the first Legislature of California. Arbuckle curated a well-received exhibit of local history shown with the State House replica. The replica was moved to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in 1950 and became the State House Museum, where Arbuckle served as the first curator, collecting local historic artifacts. So much material was donated that an annex, built in 1958 to house additional items, was full by 1962.

The Historical Museum of San José, managed by the city of San Jose, was founded in 1949 simultaneously with the State House centennial activities. In 1965, Theron Fox persuaded the city of San Jose to set aside 16 acres (6.5 ha) at the south end of Kelley Park to house the San José Historical Museum, intended to be a historical reconstruction of a small town, which opened on June 18, 1971. The San Jose Historical Museum Association was also founded in 1971 to administer Historical Museum activities. The architectural firm of Churchill & Zlatunich were retained to develop a master plan for the site by July 1, 1972. By February 1972, the museum was averaging over 1,000 visitors per month; admission prices were modest, at a maximum of $0.25 per adult ($1 for an annual pass).

On February 24, 1977, the half-scale replica of the Electric Light Tower was placed upright, and later that year, on September 25, the first major buildings were dedicated on the site, including the replica Pacific Hotel and historic Umbarger House. By 1980, the Historical Museum had brought onsite the Associated Oil Company Gas Station, Chiechi House, Coyote Post Office, Dashaway Stables, Doctor's Office, Empire Fire House, Print Shop, and Steven's Ranch Fruit Barn, although not all of them were open to the public; admission prices had risen modestly to $0.50 per adult.

The San José Historical Museum was spun off as the History San José nonprofit in 1998. HSJ manages History Park at Kelley Park from the upper floor of the Pacific Hotel in History Park, a replica of a historic hotel originally in downtown San Jose. HSJ is also responsible for the operation of the Peralta Adobe—Fallon House Historic Site and the Collection Center/Research Library & Archives, which are in downtown San Jose and Kelley Park, respectively.


Period exhibits consist mainly of the 32 historical buildings and replica buildings, including a doctor's office, a dentist's office (complete with an old foot-pedal-powered drill), blacksmith shed, a working print shop, the Pacific Hotel, the Empire Fire House, the Bank of Italy, a post office, and a number of houses of early Santa Clara Valley settlers. Some buildings house special interest historical societies and others host galleries. Admission is free, unless there is a special event being held.

On weekdays, tours are offered by paid staff, often for local students on class field trips. On weekends, selected exhibit buildings are staffed on a rotating schedule by volunteers, who also operate a vintage trolley over the length of the park, including under the Light Tower replica.


Historical Buildings and Replicas at History Park
Name Image Partner Original location Notes Ref.
Associated Oil Service Station Old Truck and Gas Station in History Park (16682991897).jpg Market & Julian
San Jose
Gas station built in 1927 for Associated Oil Company and saved from demolition for Guadalupe Freeway expansion by moving to History Park in July/Aug 1978. Dedicated Sept 9, 1979.
Bank of Italy History Park (4527119462).jpg (replica) Replica of the San Jose branch of the Bank of Italy, the first branch built outside San Francisco. Bank of Italy was founded by A.P. Giannini, precursor to the Bank of America.
Blacksmith Shed History Park (4527121042).jpg
Chiechi House History Park (4527101842).jpg 820 Northrup Ave
San Jose
Built originally around 1880; moved to History Park in 1973.
Coyote Post Office Post office at History Park.jpg Coyote, California in unincorporated Santa Clara County, on Monterey Rd between San Jose and Morgan Hill Built in 1862; postal service moved out of building in 1973. Building moved to History Park in 1974 and dedicated on Apr 5, 1981.
Dashaway Stables Dashaway Stables in History Park (16864414166).jpg 130 S 2nd St
San Jose
Replica of stables built in 1888 and destroyed in 1928; replica dedicated in 1975. Livery stable is the US term for a business that rented out horse-drawn carriages.
Dr. Warburton's Office Originally built in 1870s; first building to be relocated to History Park, 1966.
Empire Firehouse Empire Fire House at History Park (16864382856).jpg 76 S Second St
San Jose
Replica of original firehouse built 1869 and destroyed by fire in 1892, dedicated in 1984.
Gordon House History Park (4527114930).jpg Rotary Club of San Jose 5303 McKee Rd
San Jose
House built before 1887; moved to History Park in 1986 and currently houses the administrative offices of the Rotary Club of San Jose.
Greenawalt House Viet Museum (4821761850).jpg Museum of the Boat People & the Republic of Vietnam Almaden near US 85
San Jose
Built in 1877 and moved to History Park in 1991.
Hill House Andrew P. Hill house at History Park.jpg 1350 Sherman St
San Jose
Built in 1898; moved to History Park in 1997.
Markham House History Park (4526475557).jpg Poetry Center San Jose 432 S Eighth St
San Jose
Built in the 1860s, moved to History Park in 1987. Used as the San Jose Center for Poetry and Literature prior to the move; Poetry Center San Jose returned in 2002.
Migrant Worker Houses North First St
San Jose
Originally built c.1905–20 for Pratt-Low Preserving Company in Santa Clara and moved to San Jose in 1952; donated to History Park in the 1980s.
Nelson – De Luz House S 11th & William
San Jose
Built 1905; donated to History Park in 1986.
Ng Shing Gung Chinese Historical & Cultural Project Taylor & Cleveland
San Jose
Replica of "Temple of Five Gods" building, a former Chinatown religious and community center, built in 1888 and demolished in 1949. Now hosts the Chinese American Historical Museum.
Pacific Hotel Pacific Hotel at History Park (16889285391).jpg 74-80 S Market St
San Jose
Replica of original hotel built in 1880; dedicated in 1977 and serves as Historical Museum headquarters. Main floor has a candy and ice cream shop and an exhibit gallery.
Pasetta House Houses the Leonard and David McKay Gallery.
Paulson House History Park (4526492353).jpg California Pioneers of Santa Clara County Downtown San Jose Built in the 1890s and moved to History Park in 1986, displaced by Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose. Queen Anne-style residence with local history exhibits from the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County.
Portuguese Historical Museum at the Imperio PortugueseHistoricalMuseum-cropped.jpg Portuguese Heritage Society of California E Santa Clara St & US 101
San Jose
Replica of the first permanent imperio built in San Jose (1915), dedicated 1997.
Print Shop History Park (4526489917).jpg Printers' Guild 91 N San Pedro St
San Jose
Residence, built in 1884; moved to History Park in 1972 and remodeled into a print shop.
Santa Ana One-Room Schoolhouse History Park (4527106560).jpg Connie L. Lurie College of Education Alumni Association of San Jose State University Hollister Opened at History Park in 1998. A one-room schoolhouse, originally built in 1871 in Hollister, in the Santa Ana Valley in San Benito County. Santa Ana School was used as schoolhouse for grades one through eight from 1872 to 1967. SJSU College of Education Alumni Board raised funds to move the schoolhouse to History Park and renovate it.
Stevens Ranch Fruit Barn History Park (4527116554).jpg 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Coyote Fruit barn (packing shed) built c.1890 and moved to History Park in 1979, displaced by US 101 expansion. The fruit barn not only has many farm implements and devices from the period, but also displays hundreds of photographs documenting the area's development. It also includes a collection of fruit picker wooden "box ends" from the families and companies of fruit growers from the Valley's history.
Trolley Barn History Park Trolley Barn 3447 01.JPG California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (replica) Replica built in 1984. Houses and operates restored antique trolleys, both horse-drawn and electric, and automobiles, both gasoline and battery powered, along with other antique trolleys and cars awaiting restoration.
Umbarger House History Park (4527105484).jpg 2662 S First
San Jose
Built in 1870s; moved to History Park in August 1970.
Zanker House Zanker House in History Park (16704162589).jpg African American Heritage House Zanker Road
Built in 1868; moved to History Park in 1987. Later additions removed during restoration.

Other structures

  • A half scale replica of the San Jose Electric Light Tower that used to tower 237 feet (72 m) over downtown San Jose at Santa Clara and Market.
  • A bandstand


Southern Pacific Steam Locomotive -1215 in History Park (16889114382)
SP 1215 at History Park

Other attractions include:

  • Hellenic Heritage Museum, a museum of Greek heritage, operated by the Hellenic Heritage Institute
  • The Leonard and David McKay Gallery, opened on March 13, 2005, contains a collection of paintings of people, buildings, and landscapes from in and around San Jose.
  • The Perham Collection of Early Electronics, previously at Foothills Electronics Museum.
  • Steam locomotive Southern Pacific 1215 and tender, Orchard Supply Hardware boxcar, and Missouri Pacific caboose, in a static display.


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