St. James Park – San Jose History Walk Marker #23

San Jose, CA 95112, United States

By Ben Loomis – DSC_9441.jpg, CC BY 2.0,

St. James Park is a 2,8-acre park in downtown San Jose , California. Originally designed as St. James Square in 1848, local newspapers dubbed the park in 1885, shortly after a fountain had been installed in the center of the area. In 1933, St. James Park was the site of a notorious lynching of the two accused of kidnapping and murdering Brooke Hart. Since then, the park has been lined with a road and light rail tracks; it is now the focus of the homeless population of San Jose.

St. James Park and its surroundings where the heart of San Jose in the nineteenth century. While the Plaza was the center of the old Hispanic settlement, St. James Park and its surrounding buildings reflect the aspirations of an emerging American city. Surveyed by Chester Lyman in 1848, the park evolved over the next half-century as the focus of many of San Jose’s most important civic and religious buildings. Even today, it remains the most important urban open space in the city.

Although the site was considered a possible future plaza by the Spanish and Mexican authorities, it was not formally developed until after the US takeover. In the years following the official survey, the park served a variety of purposes, but remained unpaved until 1868. With the construction of what is now the Santa Clara County Courthouse, the park has grown older. This stylish structure was designed to attract the state capital back to San Jose, and the park in front of it was designed as a large open space for the public. A major landscaping plan was initiated and the square became known as St. James Park.

Throughout the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the park became increasingly important. Major public and private buildings – the Post Office, several churches, club and lodge headquarters – were built along its perimeter and became a venue for public gatherings and demonstrations. Major labor rallies took place in the park in 1931 and 1933, the last lynching of California occurred here in 1933: John Holmes and Thomas Thurmond, accused of kidnapping and killing the president of the Hart Department Store, were taken from the county jail by a mob and hanged. Monuments commemorate speeches make here by President McKinley and Senator Robert Kennedy, both assassinated coincidentally, shortly after their visits to San Jose.

In 1955, the nature of the park changed significantly when it was crossed by North Second Street. The graceful scale of the surrounding buildings remains intact. And the park is a welcome counterpoint to the busy downtown of San Jose.

St. James Park is bounded by East St. James Street (in the north), North Third St. (in the east), East St. John St. (in the south) and North First St. (in the west) and is divided by North Second Street in the west and east. As originally stated, it was 1.005 feet (306 m) (east-west between North First and North Third) and 610 feet (190 m) (north-south from East St James to East St John).

It is served by the Saint James Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, a light rail stop; northbound trains stop along the western edge, along the North First and southbound trains stop at the center of the park, along the North Second. Light rail lines were completed in 1988.

This amazing historical landmark is just one of the many must-see landmarks you don’t want to miss in San Jose, California:

  • Peralta Adobe-Fallon House Historic Site
  • Luis Maria Peralta Adobe
  • César Chávez Family Home 
  • History Park
  • James Lick Mansion
  • Winchester Mystery House
  • Southern Pacific Railroad Steam Locomotive #1215 
  • Olympic Black Power Statue  

All of these wonderful landmarks are located just a short distance from our location located at 3880 South Bascom Avenue in San Jose, California! Stop by for a visit anytime!