The Last City by Joseph E Najera


I am back at the corner of Market Street and Santa Clara in downtown San Jose, my home town. My family moved here from Southern California in 1956.  We lived in Santa Clara a few miles away from this point.

I’ve seen the changes this corner has gone through the last century and into this new millennium.  This is the corner where the San Jose Light Tower was located.  I wrote a few words about this short while ago.

In the 1950s shopping patterns started to transform from shopping downtown to going to the neighborhood shopping centers.  Many of the stores that were here in the downtown do not exist anymore:    Hart’s, Hales, Roos. J.C. Penny’s was at the corner of Santa Clara and First, a short walk from here.  The Bank of America was at that corner also.  The building is still there though the bank has moved on.

This corner, in addition to the Light Tower, was the location of  Hart’s Department Store.  My mom would bring me there each August when it was time to shop for school clothes.  I suppose she bought other things there because we went there often.


I found this photo on the Internet.  It looks to have been taken about this time I was remembering.  You may have heard about the nearby tourist attraction we have here in San Jose called the Winchester Mystery House.  That is another story to tell, however, the owner, the original owner, Mrs. Winchester bought her supplies here to add new rooms and wings to her famous house.  That was way before my time.

Hart’s Department Store has a story of its own.  I have heard about this story in bits and piece pieces over the years.  I didn’t think about it much until I chanced upon this movie poster that we see below.

Film Noir was popular in the years following World War II. Touch of Evil by Orson Wells is a good example.  This movie is another.  It tells the story of an ugly event that happened in San Jose in the year of 1933.


Hart’s Department Store came into being in 1866 and over the years grew into a very successful business.  Alex J. Hart, Sr. was managing the business at the time.  His eldest son was Brooke. He was a young man at this time but already he was the chosen heir to take over the business.


He was kidnapped and held for ransom in that November day of 1933. The family received phone calls asking for $40,000. By this time he was already dead.  His body was dumped near the salt pools by the Dumbarton Bridge.

Thomas Harold Thurmond and John M. Holmes were soon arrested.  They confessed to the crime but justice was not served.

An angry mob gathered around the Court house. Some estimated up to 10,000 men, women, and children had gathered there.

The mob worked themselves into a frenzy and broke into the jail and dragged Thurmond and Holmes across the street and hung them from a tree in St James Park. A radio station was there and covered the event.


This story was reported across the nation. There are many photos of the event on the internet. Some are quite disturbing. No one went to trial for taking part in the event, neither Thurmond nor Holmes, nor the men who held the rope.


The City of San Jose thus  became the last city to hold a public lynching.



About jedwardnajera

I am an artist and a Poet. I live the life of a poet. I published several novels. Nena the Fairy and the Iron Rose, Dust of the Moon are among them, available through Amazon Books. I have spent over thirty five years in a classroom. I am now retired from that profession. My father kept a living record of his lifetime as he lived through the Twentieth Century. He was born in 1908 and almost lived long enough to see us enter the new millennium. He entrusted to me nearly 400 pages that he wrote through the years. Now I am continuing the tradition by posting my own stories and misadventures. I am trying to post a new entry or chapter each Friday. Check in on us at least once a week for the latest post.
This entry was posted in Family History, Hart's Department Store, Movie History, San Jose, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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