Another historic San Jose sign has been revitalized. The old Hotel Metropole sign is now in the beer garden between Camino Brewing and Faber’s Cyclery on South First Street.
Hotel Metropole opened in 1903 and was located on the top floor of the Alcantara building, an 1890s brick beauty on Market and Post streets. The blue porcelain neon sign was a familiar sight for decades as a modern downtown San Jose grew up around it.
The Alcantara building in downtown San Jose, which was photographed on Wednesday, November 17, 2020, was once the Hotel Metropole. (Sal Pizarro / Bay Area news group)
As the fate of downtown went down in the 1960s, so did that of the hotel, which had always been a bit second-rate but became a flop in the early 1980s. The top floor was classified as unsafe after the Loma Prieta earthquake. The Alcantara building, which also housed the California Loan pawn shop and Keegans Kafe, a popular breakfast spot, was declared a city landmark in 1989 and sold in the late 1990s.
Jim Salata‘s Garden City Construction / Buccaneer Demolition was hired to demolish the building, which was converted into offices in 2001. (Knight Ridder Digital, Xactly, and Electric Cloud occupied the currently empty building for most of the next two decades.) He got both the porcelain sign and an older Smaltz sign from the owners who didn’t want them.
The older sign was hanging in the Garden City Construction offices until recently. Salata says he has circled the porcelain sign from camp to camp for the past 22 years. He also kept the original neon tubes in a 5 gallon bucket that allowed glass blowers and neon artists Kevin Chong to light them up and see what color they were when the shield was removed. Salata is planning a small, private re-lighting ceremony in early December, but the sign’s location on First Street just south of Interstate 280 means everyone can enjoy the sight.
Salata suggested creating a “neon alley” behind Camino Brewing – partly to preserve, partly to prevent crime in the region – but got no further with the city. He is excited to be part of the conservation movement and to work with people like Chong and others from the History San Jose and Preservation Action Council to keep these bright spots of our civic heritage alive.
“This is the end of a long journey for me and I trust the beginning of another,” said Salata. “Perhaps the re-lighting of the Metropolis sign will inspire others to support the restoration of neon signs from a planning and financial point of view.”
TECH PUTS LEADERS ONLINE: Back in the world before COVID – do you remember that? – Tech Interactive honored its Tech for Global Good winners at a major event (known for many years as the Tech Awards). This year, however, the big “event” is online and the four winning organizations will be presented in a virtual excursion created in collaboration with Discovery Education.
All award winners use data in creative ways to help people. They are run by San Jose’s own destination: Home and include Chipsafer, Opportunity Insights, and UNICEF. The virtual excursion, launched on Thursday, will be accompanied by materials that teachers can use in their classrooms. Check it out at techfortomorrow.com/virtual-field-trip/tech-for-global-good.
“Our goal is to share their stories with young people around the world so they can be inspired to use technology to solve problems in their own communities,” he said Katrina Stevens, The new President and CEO of The Tech.
GAME POLICY: Former Mayor of San Jose Tom McEnery via a photo of the Bill Clinton statue in Ballybunion, Ireland, temporarily adorned with a poster congratulating President-elect Joe Biden.
The statue is the centerpiece of McEnery’s play “A Statue for Ballybunion”, which was due to premier in March before the pandemic in the 3Below Theaters. “Joe Biden is part of history now as he leads a rebirth in America,” noted McEnery. “We will plan it – the postponed game, not the rebirth – as soon as possible after the start of the Biden era, if security allows it.”