Anatomy of a Street (Part 2)

Down on the corner of Morse and Fremont lived Fred Reynolds. Fred was a railroad engineer for the South Pacific Coast Railroad that ran from the ferry slip at Alameda to San Jose, and continued on to Los Gatos, Wrights Station and Santa Cruz. Originally a narrow gauge railroad, it was later absorbed by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Fred Reynolds was the engineer one day when the train approached the empty ferry slip in Alameda. The brakes failed and he drove the engine into San Francisco Bay. Fortunately, no lives were lost. Fred also had a problem at his home at 603 Morse. He was driving his auto into the garage, something again failed and he drove right through the back wall. Knowledgeable neighbors gave Fred great leeway on the road.

At 633 Morse is a home that has been remodeled several times. It was originally the Palace Saloon and Hotel, located at what is now the entrance to Diridon Station. The saloon was opened for business in 1900; the second floor was a brothel, when brothels were popular in old-time San Jose. The second floor was moved to the site at 633 Morse and remodeled and is now a million-dollar-plus family home.

Directly across the street from the Reynolds home is a palatial house on the corner of Morse and Fremont (the mailing address is 1181 Fremont), built by the McKenzie sisters and rented to Paul and Faith Davies while the Davies’ home was being built on Park Avenue. Faith Davies was the daughter of Frank Crummy, President of the Bean Spray and Pump Company. Faith’s husband, Paul, was a banker who put together the merger between Bean and another local company that created the Food Machinery Company, one of the fifty largest corporations in the United States at the time.

The McKenzie sisters were the daughters of Johnny McKenzie, the boss of bosses in San Jose at the turn of the 20th century. Johnny was a participant in a local story that seems relevant at the moment, so I am going to tell it to conclude this week’s column.

Ron Gonzales isn’t the first San Jose mayor to refuse to give up his office. It was a very close election in 1902, when the new mayor-elect, George D. Worswick, succeeded the incumbent, Charles J. Martin, who had been under the control of McKenzie and the other bosses. The election result was close: 2442 votes for Worswick— backed by the San Jose Mercury owners, the Hayes brothers—and 2176 votes for the defeated Adolph Greeninger—the candidate backed by Martin, McKenzie and the bosses. The bosses didn’t want to give up power, of course, and were presented with a dilemma when Worswick arrived at City Hall to be seated as the new mayor. What happened next was described by newspaper reporter Frank Hichborn:

“Mayor-elect Worswick… proceeded to the mayor’s desk, moved up a chair, and seated himself by the outgoing executive. The clerk-elect seated himself at the clerk’s desk next to the outgoing clerk… For a dozen minutes or so, San Jose had two mayors and two city clerks. Both mayors began talking. Above the din, Worswick could be heard calling on the chief of police to throw out the out-going city clerk [and mayor]. Clearly the police chief was in a spot… [but] eventually… threw out the former mayor.” 

(This three-part history of Morse Street concludes next week.)

3 Comments

  1. Leonard, neighbors of mine owned that home at 603 Morse for a period of time in the early 70’s as an income property.  At that time, the home was still fairly original.  I coveted the vintage AM radio aerial that rose above the house and was attached to the north peak. 

    When I was going to school at St. Leo’s a family by the name of Walsh lived at 1181 Fremont.  I was never inside that house but always wondered about its history as it’s one of the larger homes in the immediate area.

    Thanks for providing a little more history regarding this stretch of Morse.

    What can you tell us about the property on the northeast corner of Morse and Mc Kendrie?  There are three 70’s vintage homes there now but I was told by the family who lived at 837 Morse in the 60’s that their great grandmother’s house used to be there, and that she was a “cowgirl” but that’s all I know.  One California fan palm still stands from the original landscape there, but that’s all.

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