Question of the Week: Rediscovering Luna Park in San Jose

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Frontier Village book coverI met a man in the California Room who was researching Luna Park in San Jose. I was not familiar with the park name. As he told me, he was a member of a group collecting information on forgotten or near-forgotten amusement parks in and around the Bay Area. He had already done some initial research on the park using our resources: such as the California Room Index, old city directories, city maps, and books. We discussed using the microfilm of old San Jose newspapers, particularly the sports sections for baseball scores and stories. Also, he was planning to use the resources of History San Jose

 

After he left, I decided to use some of our resources that he used in order to create a profile of Luna Park. I found fragments of disconnected information. I also found statements without reference to any supporting sources. My profile, such as it is, has plenty of room for corrections and refinements.

 

Using old San Jose City Directories, I determined that Luna Park probably began in 1907 and lasted until sometime in 1921. Luna Park was sold to National Axle Corporation in July 1922.

 

Luna Park was apparently created by a light rail company. Possible names include the San Jose and Santa Clara Interurban and/or the San Jose Street Car Company. Streetcar service was extended to east San Jose and the Berryessa area. The park was created as a desired destination, and the rail line was the means to get visitors to the park. This probably proved mutually profitable.

 

Luna Park was a combination baseball park and amusement park with baseball coming first. Baseball was minor league. Team names included the San Jose Bears and San Jose Prune Pickers, and possibly others. League names included San Jose Baseball Club, San Jose State League and California State League. The park included carnival attractions, a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster (from 1910-1916).

 

The location of the park is generally known. A 1909 map of San Jose shows the Luna Park name located above the intersection of Berryessa Road and Milpitas Road. Today, Milpitas Road is probably Old Oakland Road, which becomes North 13th Street in San Jose.  On the 1909 map a light rail line is shown going up then 14th Street and ending at Berryessa Road. North 14th Street probably served as the entrance to the park. Successive city directories indicated the park location as Berryessa Road opposite 14th Street. The northern boundary of the park is thought to be where Bayshore Freeway (101) currently exists.

 

This is a bare bones description. There are no photographs of the park, and there are no narratives and personal anecdotes of the park experience. This is what happens all the time in the California Room. Through the interests of amateur and professional historians, genealogists, and other researchers, we get to see glimpses of San Jose’s past in patchwork form. For information on a more recently closed park, see the book, Frontier Village by Bob Johnson.

 

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Posted by Bruce England on Apr 15, 2013 | Comments: 4 |
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Comments from our readers...

Luna Park Video RELEASED!

Hello everyone - Here is the link to our final LUna Park video...hope you enjoy it! http://youtu.be/JuxKjopy180 We'll be by in the net few days to drop off a DVD of it for inclusion into the library, so that others can learn about Luna Park and it's amazing history in San Jose.

luna park

I have some information regarding Luna Park in San Jose...this has been an ongoing search for us...I have several news articles and a few photos of the roundup and baseball teams...it was also the home of balloon launches...I am part of the Luna Park Business Association, which was renamed for the park that existed in our district...Since, we have added the Luna Park Chalk Art Festival and formed the Luna Park Arts Foundation.I would be interested in a more comprehensive search regarding this lost piece of San Jose history...I'm sure there are families out there who have stories, photos, and other artifacts from this park. It was once a key destination for visitors young and old.

The Lost Parks of Northern California

I believe I may be your mystery man - I'm working to try and re-discover all our lost amusement history here in Northern California (we're up to 15 parks we've found so far that are no longer with us.) We have discovered that the no. 124 trolley at History San Jose is indeed the same model that would have delivered happy people to the park. And one of the "destination plates" hanging from the rafters of the barn - the "Berryessa" line, DID in fact go to Luna Park. It's amazing all the small history you can find when you start looking! We'll be posting the link to the Luna Park video soon, but in the meantime, if anyone is interested in contributing photos of Luna Park, we'd greatly appreciate it - specifically the amusement park. They've been hard to come by.

Luna Park Drawing

The Sourisseau Academy, next door to the California Room in the King Library, has a circa 1912 poster for the 4th of July that depicts Luna Park and all the activities there. Sorry I didn't know that you were looking until after you finished your video. I can be reached at cduval@sourisseauacademy.org