When I consider a new scene, I'll start out with all the usual, upstanding inspirations. I'll check historical maps and photos, I'll look for city directories, and I'll check similar, nearby places. All correct, all historically accurate, all suitably earnest.
But then I'll grab inspiration from memory and my own past, and dump some of that carefully reconstructed history as I substitute some memory from a childhood road trip. That's a problem because I wasn't around in the 1930's, but I assume that the buildings around 1930's San Jose resembles the industrial areas of Oakland when I was growing up, or looks a bit like the wrong side of the tracks in Modesto or Merced. More likely, I'll think about dusty Central Valley towns with long, barn like buildings and empty space around them. Some of the Packing Houses of Central California photos give me inspiration.
At some point, I'll be in the midst of building, and I'll ask myself how much difference can a few years make? But I know from past experience that progress was racing ahead even way back when, and the new buildings I'm picturing based on my imagined idea of what 1930's San Jose looked like may just be a bad guess based on some childhood vacation.
Next time I'm doing that, I'll shout out "More dickensian!" and we'll see how it goes.
[First photo: Del Monte Plant #3, 2003, my photo. Second photo: Other side of Del Monte Plant #3, October 1965, East West Rail Scenes/my collection. Third photo: Google Street View. Fourth photo: Del Monte Plant #3, early 1930's, John C. Gordon collection, SJSU. Fifth photo, Hershel (Contadina) cannery, Lincoln Ave as seen peeking behind U.S. Products Cannery. John C. Gordon collection, SJSU.]