The History of San Jose, California

The origins of San Jose run deep across the Bay Area and California. San Jose was the first state capitol, played a major role in the gold rush, and today it is the heart of the Silicon Valley. No matter what history inspires your interest, you can visit the places and learn more about the events that have taken root in San Jose and have influenced the world. While Silicon Valley looks to the future with new, innovative ideas, past glimpses can be found around every corner. Visit some of our most famous historical sites and explore the rich history of San Jose.

For thousands of years before the arrival of the European settlers, the area now known as San Jose was inhabited by several groups of Ohlone Native Americans. A permanent European presence in the region was established in 1770 by the Presidio de Monterey and the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo by Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra, some sixty miles (100 km) south. Don Pedro Fages, the military governor of Monterey, crossed the area during his expeditions in 1770 and 1772 to explore the East Bay and the delta of the Sacramento River.

Late in 1775, Juan Bautista de Anza led the first overland expedition to bring colonizers from New Spain (Mexico) to California and to find sites for two missions, one presidio and one village (town). He abandoned the colonizers at Monterey in 1776 and visited the north with a small group. He chose the sites of the San Francisco Presidio and the San Francisco de Asís Mission in what is now San Francisco; on his way back to Monterey, he set up the Santa Clara de Asís Mission and the San Jose Village in the Santa Clara Valley. Anza returned to Mexico City before any of the settlements had actually been founded, but his name still lives on in many buildings and street names.

The city adopted a general plan that established a "urban service area" (also known as a "urban growth boundary") within existing city boundaries, limited development in the eastern foothills, and delayed growth in the Coyote Valley to the south. To the west, suburbs such as Campbell and Cupertino had built up settlements to prevent annexation to San Jose, while expansion to the north was impossible due to San Francisco Bay. The city has introduced more robust planning strategies and a pay-as-you-go program to pay for new services. Nevertheless, the new policies of San Jose did not stop or even significantly reduce growth; instead, they directed development into interconnected areas and mitigated the costs of growth. The housing stock and population of the city have steadily increased over the next decades.

In reality, continued growth has created tremendous challenges for the city and the area. With the boom in the electronics industry, primarily personal computers and integrated circuits, the population of San Jose and Silicon Valley continued to grow exponentially. In 1980, the population of the city was 629,442; in 1990, it had reached 782,248; and at that point, Santa Clara County as a whole had risen to 1,682,585 people.

Due to rapid job growth and migration, the cost of housing in San Jose and the rest of the Bay Area rose faster than the national average in the 1980s and 1990s; between 1976 and 2001, the cost of housing in San Jose increased by 936 percent, the nation's fastest growth over that span. The average 2003 household price in Santa Clara County was nearly 330 percent of the national average.

In August 1989, San Francisco was first exceeded in population by San Jose, and San Francisco is now the second-largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area in population after San Jose.

You should visit the must-see attractions in San Jose, California:

  • Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
  • Emma Prusch Farm Park
  • San Jose Vietnam War Memorial
  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
  • Hakone Gardens
  • The Viet Museum
  • San Jose Woman's Club
  • San Pedro Square
  • Winchester Mystery House
And, of course, after you’re done visiting any and all of these landmarks don’t forget to visit us at Sacred Space Memorial on Bernal Road!

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