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San Jose Electric Light Tower

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San Jose Electric Light Tower


Structure in General

telecommunications tower
demolished [destroyed]


  • The tower cost $4,000 to build.
  • In 1891, the carbon-arc lamps were replaced with incandescent light bulbs.
  • The tower's lights were powered by a steam-powered electric generator, which during the day was used to power a nearby wood mill.
  • The tower weighed 15 tons.
  • The tower first used six carbon arc lamps covered by a reflecting shield, with each lamp producing 4,000 candlepower of light for a total of 24,000 candlepower.
  • In 1881, San Jose became the first city west of the Rockies to be electrified.
  • The Electric Light Tower was designed and promoted by J. J. Owen, editor and publisher of the San Jose Daily Mercury, whose ambition was to replace gas as the source of San Jose's city lighting.
  • It was built in the hope that a light-emitting tower would help do away with the need for gas street lamps.
  • The tower's structure rusted over the years, leading to its collapse on December 3, 1915 under gale-force winds.
  • It has been suggested that Gustave Eiffel stole the idea and design of the tower in developing the "Eiffel" Tower in Paris.
  • In 1989, 100 years after the construction of the Eiffel Tower, the City of San Jose went so far as to file a formal complaint of copyright infringement, demanding all profits France had generated from the Eiffel Tower; but after a formal trial the City eventually lost the case.
  • A half-sized replica of the tower (115 feet tall) was built in 1977 and is installed at San Jose's History Park.

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Santa Clara and Market Streets
San Jose

Technical Data

237.00 ft

Involved Companies

James Jerome Owen
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