The Saint James Historic District hosted a walking tour this morning, highlighting historic buildings, the work of the new local neighborhood association, and some great food at nearby Morocco’s Restaurant. Neighborhood advocate Frank Penrose (probably also an officer in the neighborhood association, but unfortunately I missed the introductions at the start of the tour) led the tour around Saint James Park.
The tour featured two churches, the first of which was the abandoned Church of Christ Scientist on the north side of the park. The church is under renovation by developer Barry Swenson, who is also planning new buildings for other areas of the church property. The tour group was let into the building, despite the lack of lighting, and the weakness of the floors — hopefully Swenson’s legal advisers won’t find out about this — and we got to see the state of the renovation work in the fantastic old building.
We also visited Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, the oldest continuously active church building in San Jose. Dean David Bird took the morning away from watching rugby to give a brief history of the church, which dates to 1863. A carillonist was also on hand to play the church bells, one of only three carillons in northern California. If you haven’t heard these played before, take a break in Saint James Park at 3 pm on Monday afternoon for a special 1 hour Memorial Day carillon concert.
Aside from historical architecture, another theme of the tour was efforts to revive the local neighborhood association, catering to residents in the high-rise condo complexes of the area. The organization is has only restarted recently after an earlier neighborhood association disbanded in 2009. The high density housing in this neighborhood means the local concerns are slightly different from those of other nearby historic neighborhoods like Horace Mann and Hensley. The main focus of the revived group seems to be ensuring local residents have a voice in upcoming development decisions for their neighborhood (such as an expansion of the Superior Court complex to the west of the park) and in maintaining the historic and walkable, resident-friendly aspects of their neighborhood.
The tour ended at the nearby Morocco’s restaurant, where we were met with beet salad, lentil salad, and cous-cous, not to mention wine and sangria. Morocco’s will be taking part in the Dine Downtown restaurant festival next week, as well as the associated City Bites street dining fair this Wednesday at lunchtime, so there’s a great opportunity coming up to sample their authentic Moroccan cuisine.
Frank Penrose told me the neighborhood group plans to host more tours, and they hope to visit other sights, like abandoned jail cells in the basement of a certain local pub, on future tours. Have a lookout at their website for future tour dates.