San Jose After the Quake

San Jose Earthquake PostcardThe earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906 also impacted the towns of San Jose and Santa Rosa, this card showing the remains of St. Patrick’s Church in San Jose. This postcard was mailed from San Francisco to Shanghai, China in June of 1906, just two months after the quake, suggesting that postcards could be produced in relative haste when the situation called for it.

The Wonder House

Wonder House PostcardWhile built on a much more modest scale, there are certain parallels between Bartow, Florida’s “Wonder House” and the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, as both were long-term projects with decidedly unconventional architectural elements. Unencumbered by blueprints, the Wonder House was a free-form construction conceived and built by Conrad Schuck, and, with the help of his sons, the structure evolved for nearly 40 years. Among the homes curious attributes are a system of mirrors that provides a clear view of who’s at the front door… from any room in the house. Ventilation is available thorough the 81 doors, but an innovative cooling system, utilizing rainwater, offers further cooling as well. Another unique feature are the bathtubs, located outside yet concealed for privacy.

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House PostcardResidence of Sarah Winchester, widow of firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester, the “Winchester Mystery House” is a 160 room mansion in San Jose, California. Following her husband’s death, Sarah Winchester conferred with a spiritual medium, at which time she was said to have received a message from William instructing her to build the structure. Per his instructions, construction was to be ongoing, and 38 years of building resulted in a maze-like residence that includes such oddities as stairways that lead nowhere.* In recent years much talk has circulated about the home being haunted, and a number of paranormal groups have conducted investigations. It has been said that the “Mystery House” name originated from Harry Houdini, who toured the facility in 1924. The linen postcard was produced by E. C. Kropp.

*In recent years another explanation for the construction has predominated, the story having morphed into the medium telling Sarah that the continuous building would appease the angry spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles. But the practice of blaming weapons for the acts of bad men is a fairly recent phenomenon, and it’s doubtful that anyone, living or dead, would have been of that mindset 100 years ago.

State Normal School

State Normal School PostcardBack of CardPostmarked in 1921, this card shows the State Normal School in San Jose, California. The divided-back postcard was published by the Van Noy Interstate Co., a company founded by four entrepreneurial brothers from Kansas City. The Van Noy Brothers made their fortunes by catering to the needs of railroad passengers, selling snacks and novelties on board the trains and operating restaurants at railroad junctions.