Saturday, February 13, 2016

When Canneries Attack!

Buildings on model railroads often tend towards the offbeat and eye-catching. I might complain that many models aren't... well, boring and utilitarian... enough, but that doesn't mean the wacky buildings don't exist, and that they should be avoided. I just don't want every building on the model railroad to be the work of a crazed architect or builder.

Here's one wacky building example I particularly like: canneries devouring houses. This first photo is from the Salsina cannery at Lincoln Ave and Auzerais in San Jose. The original building was built in 1917 or so for a new tomato paste producer, with thick concrete walls and a sawtoothed roof for better interior lighting. That cannery must have been hungry, for a later addition swallowed up a small two story house that had been on the property.

I went inside the cannery a couple years ago when it was still occupied by a discount furniture outlet. The main factory floor was packed with dinettes, end tables, and bar stools. Behind the furniture on the back wall, I could see the outline of a cute two story house peeking into the building. They'd repurposed it as the business's office, so it still looked like a separate building, swallowed up by its neighbor.

Now, canneries eating houses might seem odd, except that I've found other cases of it. Here's a photo of Del Monte Plant #3, just a couple blocks away, swallowing up what I suspect was the superintendent's house.

Now, canneries swallowing up houses probably isn't that common, but these photos hint that canneries, with enough growth in volume and too little land for expansion, are likely to use every bit of land they can. If an accessory building happens to get in the way, it's not going to be free-standing for long.

Photos of Salsina Canning taken by me earlier this year. Photo of Plant #3 from a John C. Gordon panoramic photo of the San Carlos St. bridge add Del Monte plant, taken around 1932. Original photo in the San Jose State University Special Collections.


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  2. Even though I worked Del Monte #3 in college (late '60s)... I'm a bit rusty on the history; When did it acquire the #3 moniker? p.s. I -still- won't eat canned fruit cocktail!!!!

  3. Del Monte's numbering system dates from its founding. I've seen a Del Monte employee newsletter from 1918 that referred to the goings-on at the different plants, and it used the numbers to refer to the different plants. I could imagine that number wasn't so important for most rank-and-file employees, just like I can't remember the store number for my first retail job. FWIW, many sites had multiple plants, with the former California Fruit Canners Association / San Jose Fruit Packing plant on Auzerais St. hosting plant #3 (cannery), plant #153 (by-products), and probably a separate number for the pit processing done there in the 1930's. The 7th and Jackson cannery hosted plant #4 (vinegar works), plant #34, and plant #39 (pickle factory).

  4. BTW, I've been collecting CalPak plant numbers here:

  5. Salsina/Virden: You really need to see this building now. We preserved the best elements. We were missing the history which, you had already discovered. My contact is through Barry Swenson's office. Thanks, Chris

  6. Thanks for the reminder, Chris - I'd seen that the building was being renovated, but hadn't been back to see how it looks now. Id love to get some photos of the windows in the sawtooth roof and see how the house is embedded in the building. Hopefully you found the articles on Salsina Packing (1918-1922), Virden Packing (1922-1928), and St. Clair Brewery (1935-). I'd seen that the building