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Leonard McKay

Leonard McKay

Welcome to www.leonardmckay.com, the site dedicated to the life and learnings of Leonard McKay, historian, San Jose, California. My grandfather was an amazing man and a wealth of knowledge. As such, I have decided that it is a crime to let his knowledge go to waste, and will be developing this site in his honor.

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Excerpts from Leonard's Blog

  • Anatomy of a Street (Part 1): What San Jose street is actually in two cites, has had a murder by hired assassins, has three churches and narrows at both ends? What street had a property with a live lion patrolling the grounds in the 1930s and has a house that was once a brothel before it was moved to its present location? What private eye living on this street was stabbed when answering his door late one night in 1974?
  • Dirt (Part 4): I learned some valuable lessons working on the land in the local orchards. When I was about 13, I worked for Dr. Seikman, a woman chiropractor who owned ten acres of fruit trees near the San Jose Los Gatos Road. First we picked apricots and then, after a lull, prunes.
  • Christmas in San Jose: Did you ever wonder how Christmas was celebrated in the past in San Jose? When our first foreign settlers, the Spaniards, were here, the birth of Christ was celebrated by going to mass at the Mission Santa Clara, the closest church. The male citizens rode their horses for the three-mile trip. The women and young children went on the rough ride to the mission on a wooden-wheeled, no-springs caretta. After the Americans arrived, most of the celebrations moved to the family home or local churches.
  • Artist Andrew P. Hill: Over the years some great artists have lived and painted here. Of particular interest to me are A.D.M. Cooper (1856-1924), Charles Harmon (1859-1936) and Andrew P. Hill (1853-1922). Cooper was certainly the most prolific and he commanded the highest prices for his paintings. When he was still alive, one of his paintings sold for $60,000, the equivalent of more than $1 million today. In my opinion Charles Harmon was perhaps the most gifted, but my favorite is Andrew P. Hill and, while not well known today, he painted some wonderful local pieces. Of course his real fame is that of the “man who saved the redwoods.” His painting “California Redwood Park” was exhibited during the second year of the San Francisco Panama Pacific Exposition in 1916.
  • San Jose’s Music Man: Does the sound of “76 Trombones” make your feet stir and, perhaps, you want to do a little tapping or a little marching? If so, you might be interested to know that we had the predecessor of the famous Henry Hill, the “Music Man,” right here in “River City,” San Jose. He lived here about 40 years before Meredith Wilson wrote the wonderful hit Broadway musical, “The Music Man.”