Statue of Yore

By Guest Blogger Eric Carlsen

The recent blog-a-rama concerning statues and statue-worthy subjects failed to take note of Dr. Henry D. Cogswell. A man featured prominently in Plaza Park for many years, he stood near where the current fountain spouts geyser-lets.

To shamelessly quote from my own San Jose site, “San Francisco dentist/prohibitionist Henry D. Cogswell provided statues of himself to cities based on their number of saloons. California’s cities qualified for many, one of which was placed in the Plaza. The statue was constructed of cast iron, and mounted on a base that provided drinking facilities for both man and horse. In 1944, the statue was ignominiously melted down during a scrap metal drive. When the Mountain Charley chapter of E. Clampus Vitus tried to replace the statue, it was discovered that all copies had been destroyed.”

That San Jose erected the Cogswell statue prominently in the park simply because it was free, is precedent for putting up any damn nonsense, and for no good reason. Leonard McKay provided me an illustration of the statue and it is (was) very silly indeed. The doctor stands nobly, holding a bible in one hand and a glass of water in the other—to deter the “Whisky Interests” and imbibers. El Dorado St. (now Post St.) was two blocks away, so I doubt there was much of an exodus.

Quetzalcoatl, in the historical context of the dentist/prohibitionist statue, seems sane and logical. The Cogswell statue stood across from the old Germanic “gingerbread” City Hall, which was smack dab in the park. Quetzalcoatl is simply the latest flowering of foolishness. A quirky San Jose tradition.

Fallon, on the other hand, did not qualify, being actually germane to San Jose’s history, and low on the goofy factor. Though San Jose had the smarts to lock Fallon up in an Oakland warehouse for ten years—providing ten years worth of high humor—imprisonment ultimately failed, the city sadly caving in to those espousing common sense. Some grace of goofiness was salvaged by putting up Fallon in a totally inappropriate location so out of whack with the design that it too might as well be melted down for scrap, like Henry D.

Mildly amusing at best.

Eric Carlson is CEO and architect of the city-site Soft Underbelly of San Jose, a trenchant look at San Jose and environs.


  1. The lack of original ideas or issues on this site is getting ridiculous. On Friday Salvation Army announced the 8 sites that were picked for the 100 million dollar endowment from the KROC foundation. At a time that the city is trying to keep community centers opened, the Salvation Army decided that San Jose’s purposal wasn’t good enough to go to the next phase. The question should be “why didn’t our city council put forth a site that was exceptable to Salvation Army?” How did San Jose lose out on this great opportunity? This seemed like an excellent topic for this mornings blog. Instead were still discussing which statues we should put downtown. BORRING. No wonder the comments on this site seem to be getting less and less each day.

  2. I remembered to register for Semicon West this morning only to find out that the show has completely moved out of San Jose.  Half of it used to be in SJ and the other half in SF.  Now, everything is going to be at the Moscone Center.  So much for the downtown business this show brings.  It used to be at least two days of partying.  What happened?

    Another reason why SJ is not so the capital of Silicon Valley.

  3. Eric,
    Glad to see your writing again—I had lost track of where to read your stuff.  Hope you’re a regular here and not just a guest.  I love your take on this town.  I’d be fine with you replacing Mr. Bayley’s weekly promos for SVCN.

    As for post #1 above, I think everybody here would agree that there’s a serious morale problem at City Hall and on the Council.  Nobody puts their heart into their work and we lose out on things like the stem cell project and now this Salvation Army deal.  Nobody on the council seems motivated enough or apparently cares enough to see to it that when this town is competing against others, that we win once in a while.  Just a bunch of losers that all need to be replaced, starting at the top to be sure.

  4. Why do i constantly read about nothing of interest? Do you think a “normal” person would be interested in some topic like this? Boring!!!!

  5. Eric, don’t let these people get you down.  Definitely want to see more from you on this blog going forward!

  6. I agree the Salvation Army issue needs to be addressed.

    The Salvation Army was willing to invest somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 million dollars in a much needed community center. The first site was identified in east SJ on a site that is currently a driving range (on King Rd, just north of 280). Council members opposed the site, one even commenting that there would be no place for golfers to hit balls. Oh, my!

    Cindy Chavez droned on and on about how it just had to be built in her district at Roosevelt Park, commenting that only a half a dozen or so homes would be displaced. ??can’t bear to displace a driving range, but homes are okay to brush aside?? (maybe the SA didn’t promise to use union labor)

    Back and forth they bickered… postponing and delaying. Then forcing the Salvation Army to wait to the last minute to get the councils response, so they had to rush to put together a plan to locate the center in evergreen.

    Our council lacks the forsight to run this city – and many will lack the hindsight to look back and realize the damage their actions and inactions have done. But rest assured, they will all have buildings named after them.


    Sorry Salvation Army – your money is no good here in San Jose.

  7. I agree with Mr. T. I hope SJI finds more space for Eric’s views on San Jose.
    I also welcome the lively discussion about art in public places that’s taken place here.
    San Joseans can bash their inept city leadership and also rant about statues. It’s not an either/or situation.

  8. The recurring topic of public art for Chavez Park ignores what our city fathers and mothers have in store for us near the new city hall. This new feast of taxpayer-paid public art is built around that well-known concept of the “float” represented in concrete with highly abstract statuary seated atop the “float.”

    We are all aware of the rich historical role that “floats” have played in San Jose’s history, but you may not be aware of the odd shapes and designs that will really make San Jose a laughing stock. Even San Francisco, feeble and tawdry and desperate as it is, has never visited 16 such structures on its long-suffering residents.

    Check it out before it is too late.

  9. Count me as another who is very happy to see Eric back in print on San Jose matters.

    Last Sunday I had occasion to drive into downtown from southbound Highway 87 via the Julian Street exit.  That path led me directly past Pellier Park where I had a momentary shiver when I saw the Fallon Statue.  In that split second of aesthetic satisfaction, appreciating the shadows of early morning light on the sculpted equestrian tableau, I suddenly realized that all of the reversals and controversies were worth while now that the statue is placed so replendently in a park too small for it.

    Job well done, Eric, as I know that without your agitating activism the statue would still be moldering in dark sequestration.