Alviso is a seemingly out of place neighbourhood of Silicon Valley's sprawling San Jose. It is a small, quiet residential community at the southern edge of San Francisco Bay with a long history as a port dating back to the days of the Spanish missions. Alviso is named after Ygnacio Alviso, majordomo at Mission Santa Clara. He was the owner of Rancho Rincón de los Esteros, granted to him in 1838.
Originally called the Embarcadero de Santa Clara de Asis in its pre-America days, its purpose was to support the trade from Mission Santa Clara and the tiny community of San Jose (not much more than a dozen or so mud huts), as well as the ranchos that bordered on the Bay. Mercury from the New Almaden mines (opened in 1845) was shipped through Alviso and several years later years, traffic increased considerably to support the Gold Rush. The town of Alviso was formally laid out in 1849 by Chester Layman, and in the same year a toll road was built from San Jose to Alviso. The town was incorporated in 1852, by which time it was a lively community of homes, bars, hotels, and stores.
In 1865, the newly opened San Francisco and San Jose Railroad began to take over the shipping of goods and as a result Alviso declined dramatically. By the turn of the century, little was left of the once-bustling shipping trade.
In 1906, Thomas Foon Chew opened the Bayside Canning Company in Alviso, taking over the Precita Canning Company from his father. Chew grew the business into California's third largest cannery and, at its peak, it employed hundreds of Chinese workers who were lodged in company houses nearby the factory. The depression and the death of Chew in 1931 brought the cannery to the end. The abandoned cannery building is one of the landmarks of Alviso and is covered by a wonderful mural painted in 1981 depicting the history of Alviso.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Alviso was infamous for its rampant gambling and prostitution, a reputation it shared with neighbouring Drawbridge.
The abandoned marina was built in 1965, but the receding water level cut short its future. In 1968, Alviso was annexed by the city of San Jose.
The ghost marina.
The Laine Store at 996 Elizabeth Street, ran by the Tilden family from 1865 to 1912. In the 1920's it became a Chinese gambling hall.
The Tilden-Laine House, last of the Italianate Victorian homes that once lined Elizabeth Street.
The Bayside Cannery.
Details from the Bayside Cannery mural.