A self-guided tour of what once stood on Ellsworth Street. This project was done as part of the September 2022 Better Block event in Mission San Jose.
Bert and Maria McIvor came to Mission San Jose in 1927. They bought the Erhman Home on the corner of Mission Blvd. and Anza St. (then named Vine St.), where they raised their children – Hugh, Martha, Bob and Mary Ann.
Bert bought Frank Martin’s blacksmith shop (that building is now home to Firestone Photography Studio) and started his own business in the building. He later added the hardware sales area in the front of his shop and phased out the blacksmithing business.
His son, Bob, joined the hardware business in 1952. The next year, Bob and his father erected the building next door for their hardware business (that building is now home to Mission Coffee Roasting Co.). Bob moved to the new building on Ellsworth St. in 1990.
McIvor’s Hardware closed its business on Ellsworth St. in 2018, after 96 years in business. Bob and his wife Pauline were honored residents and business owners for many years in Mission San Jose. They and their family, as well as the family business, are fondly remembered.
Empty lot at the corner of Washington Blvd. and Ellsworth St. (not pictured)
The Medical Offices of Dr. Robert B. Fisher and Dr. Kemp (DDS) – built in the 1950s. Later, the building operated as an office for local realtor Bob Tavares.
43347 Ellsworth St. (pictured top left, house on the right)
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43353 Ellsworth St. (pictured top left, house on the left)
The Evelyn and Albert Harvey Home in the 1950s. The Harveys had a daughter – Linda. Evelyn was the youngest daughter of Joe and Helen Santos (of the Santos Farm – see #3 for more information).
43365 Ellsworth St. (pictured top right)
Mrs. Rose had a beautiful garden in front of her home in the 1950s.
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43385 Ellsworth St. (pictured bottom left)
The Sousa House, built in 1895, was originally located on Palm Ave. When the land was sold to the City of Fremont for a park, the building was scheduled for demolition. The home was saved and moved to its current location. It was then converted into office space by owners, Bob and Jim Tavares. To facilitate commercial use, the building was raised and a basement floor was added.
43373 Ellsworth St. (pictured bottom right)
The Bartlett House, built in 1900, was originally located on Pickering Ave. The land was developed and this Victorian style home was scheduled for demolition. The building was moved to its current location and converted into office space in 2001 by owners, Bob and Jim Tavares. Like the neighboring house, it was also raised to allow a basement floor under the original house.
(Alternate view of Santos Farm House)
In the 1920s, Joe and Helen Santos bought the farm on Ellsworth St. that included half of this entire block. The farm area comprised the property of Tisdale Veterinary Office, as well as the homes of Bartlett and Souza on Ellsworth St. and through to Bryant St. In all, the farm took up about half of the entire block.
At the time, this was standard land-use, as there were many small farms in the Mission San Jose area. Here Joe Santos farmed corn, hay, fruit trees, and vegetables. They also had chickens and pigs.
Joe and Helen raised their six children here – Veronica, Elva, William, Mildred, Evelyn, and Mervyn. They also raised a boy as their own – Leroy Costa.
Before the Santos family bought this property, it was owned by John Haussler.
The Santos’ fourth child, Mildred, married Arthur E. Steel and in 1953 they bought a piece of the property next to Joe and Helen’s home. There they built the house at 245 Grove St. Mildred and Arthur, and their son Doug, lived there until 1959 when they moved to Idaho.
Doug and his family visited the area often when he was a child. After he married, Doug and his wife, Donna, lived in the house on Grove St. until they moved nearby to Escobar St.
The ¨home place¨ (the original Santos farmhouse) on the corner burned down in 1972. The land was later purchased by Dr. Tisdale, who still operates his business at this location.
Doug and Donna still own and visit their home on Grove St.
The Santos Farm was directly across Grove Street from the I.D.E.S. Lodge. Doug Steel remembers that all year long the family looked forward to the Holy Ghost Festival and the dancing and games that lasted three days. (See #4 & #5 for more information about I.D.E.S. and the Holy Ghost Festival).
The I.D.E.S. Hall was the center for the Portuguese Holy Ghost Festivals that were celebrated in Mission San Jose. The two-story lodge building was erected and dedicated in 1899. It was demolished in 1964.
In 1889, the local Mission San Jose I.D.E.S. (Irmandades do Divino Espirito Santo or Brotherhood of the Holy Ghost) organization was formed.
This social, religious society (club) organized the Holy Ghost celebrations and also contributed money to a fund that helped widows of deceased members. This idea became the basis for the society’s family protection programs.
The I.D.E.S. celebrations and protection programs were very popular, so much so that other communities wanted to organize their own festivals and programs. Therefore, the Grand Council was born and other areas then formed their own affiliated groups. At one time, there were festivals and charter groups in Niles, Alvarado, Centerville, and Newark, as well as many other groups throughout California.
Many Portuguese immigrants came to Mission San Jose to begin a new life. As a group, the Portuguese were conscientious workers with strong family ties and a deep religious devotion. There was no government help for immigrants, so they formed benefit societies to assist the needy, to dignify the lives of members, to keep the old traditions alive, and to provide aid and sympathy to bereaved families. The I.D.E.S. was one of these groups.
The Festival of the Holy Ghost is a celebration that re-enacts the spirit of giving associated with several legends and miracles. This festival dates back to the 13th Century, when Queen Isabel tried to sneak bread under her cloak to feed the poor during a famine (an action that was forbidden by her husband). The bread miraculously turned to roses when her suspicious husband demanded to know what she was hiding. As a remembrance of this miracle, the Queen invited rich and poor alike to partake in a special meal of meat and bread. This is the origin of the Holy Ghost Festivals. This tradition was brought to California by immigrants from Portugal.
The typical Mission San Jose Holy Ghost Celebrations lasted two to three days and were the greatest events in town for many years. Typical festivals included a queen contest, a parade, a special mass, games, dancing, and huge quantities of food, including the traditional spiced meat dish called sopa de carne (soup with meat).
The parade route for the Holy Ghost Festival began at the I.D.E.S. Hall, and continued south down Ellsworth St. to Pine St., turned east toward Mission Blvd., then north on Mission Blvd. to the old wooden church. Mass was attended. After mass, the parade continued down Washington Blvd. to Ellsworth St., where it ended in a feast back at the I.D.E.S. Hall.
In 1868, the second Mission San Jose Grammar School was erected at the corner of Ellsworth St. and Vine St. (Vine St. is now Anza St., and the lot is now home to a shopping center).
During her lifetime, local Mission San Jose resident Rose Sunderer won a $5 prize for the best essay on the subject “School, Schoolhouse and Grounds.” In her essay, she wrote:
“The school is a one-story building of three departments and has a tower and a bell. The primary department has 60 scholars […] The desks are painted a bright yellow and the teacher’s desk and chair are painted to match. A clock and stove are also in the room. The walls of the room are papered and pictures adorn the walls. The intermediate department has about 39 scholars and the grammar department about 35.”
The students entered from Ellsworth Street through a gate in the picket fence that enclosed the yard. The small room in the front was called the “monitor room.” This is where the students put their coats and lunches. The wood was kept in the large basement to fire the wood stove. There was a shed in the back where the riders tied their horses. A library was added in the back of the schoolhouse in 1910.
Four Mission San Jose Elementary Schools (an aside):
- The Mission San Jose School District was formed in 1858, and the first school was erected where the 680 Freeway exchange is located today.
- The second school was on Ellsworth and Vine St. It was built in 1869.
- The third school was built at 43551 Mission Blvd. in 1913. It later served as Fremont’s first city hall, as well as an initial site for Ohlone College classes, before the campus was built. The building still stands today.
- The fourth school was built at 43545 Bryant St. in 1956. This is where Mission San Jose Elementary School is located today.
In 1954, a new fire station was opened on the corner of Vine St. (now Anza St.) and Ellsworth St. (the old Steinmetz property). The station opened as a volunteer firehouse, as all former fire departments had been. The telephone for the fire department was at the Fig Tree Gas Station (now a Chevron Gas Station – at the corner of Anza St. and Mission Blvd.). When a fire call came in, someone would run down to the station and press the button to start the electric sirens. Depending on the situation, the volunteers would stop whatever they were doing and head to the firehouse.
In 1956, Mission San Jose became part of the newly formed City of Fremont, and the volunteer fire department continued their service until the station officially became Fire Station #4 for the City of Fremont.
In 1989, a new fire station was built on the corner of Paseo Padre Pkwy. and Pine St., where it is still housed today.
In 1992, The City of Fremont leased the old fire station building to Mission Peak Heritage Foundation and The Washington Township Historical Society (two local non-profits). The lease provides for the preservation and protection of the city’s heritage, to encourage the interest of local citizens in Fremont’s history, and to provide a place for students and enthusiasts to visit and conduct research.
The old fire station building reopened as The Museum of Local History (Washington Township Museum of Local History) in 1992.
The mission of The Washington Township Museum of Local History is to preserve Southern Alameda County memories, documents, artifacts, and structures from the past and share them with present and future generations.
Come inside and pay us a visit!
Aerial of Mission San Jose, circa 1936.
Aerial of Mission San Jose, circa 1956.
Aerial of Mission San Jose, circa 1956.
Thank you to Patricia Schaffarczyk for her work writing and collecting this text. With help from Doug Steel and Kelsey Camello. Also contributing, the following sources:
Celebrate Fremont Heritage Team, Our City Fremont: A Photo Tour, pub. 2006.
Holmes, Philip, Two Centuries of Mission San Jose: 1797-1997, pub. 1997.
Holmes, Philip & Rose, Dolores, Reflections: The Educational Heritage of Fremont, pub. 1983.