Sunrise over Alviso — and History of the Town

I’m introducing a new adventure series to my site. This week I was upgraded to a new “special” car: a Challenger. Because of this, I wanted to do a theme different from the Mustang journeys.

I toyed with the idea of a space theme (inspired by NASA’s Challenger space shuttle) or a nautical theme (many British ships have been named Challenger). But both of these assume that I will be in a place that has space ships and water.

In the end, I found a club in California called the West Coast Challengers comprised of people who own Dodge muscle cars and frequently get together for weekend drives (Cruisin’ Events). One popular destination is Ghost Towns.

So, I opted for this as my Challenger theme: visiting ghost towns.

Anyway… on to Alviso.

Alviso is named after Juan Ignacio Alviso, the son of one of the first Spanish explorers to settle in California. Ignacio Alviso was granted the land by the Mexican Government in their push to encourage Mexican settlement in Las Californias. He used it primarily as a shipping port and because of this the city quickly became a transportation hub for Santa Clara Valley.

In the 1800s the city thrived. It was a popular weekend destination for people living in SF/SJ and was the home of a handful of successful businesses including Alviso Mills and the Bayside Canning Company. But as transportation needs changing in Silicon Valley and railway routes bypassed the area, the city began to decline; eventually, it was absorbed by San José.

The area is somewhat doomed because it’s elevation is below sea level and floods when water levels rise; as you drive into the area, community sandbags greet you on one street corner.

Technically Alviso is too populous to be a ghost town (population: 2,128); and, just a little under a year ago, the Bloomberg Businessweek got in trouble for calling Alviso “Silicon Valley’s Ghost Town.”

The thing to note is that, while Alviso is deemed small, there are still people who live, dine, and work in the community; and, there are large companies that thrive and conduct business here (Oracle being one). Drawbridge was briefly mentioned in the video linked above; this is the real ghost town (population 0) but the history of the two places is so intertwined that it’s difficult to differentiate where one starts and the other ends.

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