- May 26 & 27 - All libraries CLOSED for Memorial Day
Villa Montalvo is the former residence of California businessman and politician James Duval Phelan. Taken between 1915-1902, this photo illustrates the estate's grandeur, but also how little it has changed since its construction. Construction of this Mediterranean style mansion began in 1912, before James Phelan became the first popularly elected Senator from California. A prominant member of the fraternal organization, The Native Sons of the Golden West, Phelan's rise in politics came in part from his successful leadership as a progressive Mayor of San Francisco (in office Jan 4, 1897 - Jan, 7 1902). His reputation as a polititian assured his participation in the Committee of Fifty, an extra-legal organization assembled by then Mayor of San Francisco, Eugene Schmitz, to help manage the extreme crisis after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire that destroyed much of the city.
A decade after leaving the Mayoral office in San Francisco, Phelan purchased 160 acres in the foothills of Saratoga to build his sprawling estate. In the photo you can see the front and side terraces with dramatic colonnades as well as the beginnings of extensive gardens that would cover large areas of the property. After fulfilling his term as California's first popularly elected Senator, Phelan returned to banking and collecting art at his country estate. James D. Phelan passed away at Villa Montalvo in 1930. He is now buried in the family mausoleum in Holy Cross Cemetery in the city of Colma, San Mateo County.
Today, Villa Montalvo has been transformed into the Montalvo Arts Center, a private non-profit arts center maintained in partnership with Santa Clara County. In fact, the Montalvo Arts Center's mission can be seen as inline with the dying Phelan's wishes, as he then bequeathed the property for public use. Phelan was explicit in his bequest, stating:
"I would like the property of Saratoga, California, known as Villa Montalvo, to be maintained as a public park open under reasonable restrictions, the buildings and grounds immediately surrounding the same to be used as far as possible for the development of art, literature, music, and architecture by promising students."
It seems that his wishes have been fulfilled.
Further Reading from the San Jose Public Library:
Join the American Civil War Association in commemorations of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War 2011-2015 and watch the historic Fort Point come to life with infantry and artillery drill, music, marching, and colorful Civil War soldier uniforms. Talks and demonstrations are held throughout the day.
Saturday, January 26, 2013 (10:00 AM - 5:00 PM)
Fort Point, San Francisco
The national historic fort is located at the south anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of Marine Drive on the Presidio of San Francisco.
San Jose Public Library Collections
Child abductions appear in the headlines from time to time and capture the attention of the public. The media outlets interview distraught family members and flash pictures of the missing child on our TV screens or in the papers. The public imagines the living hell of the parents and family members as they search in anguish.
The Year of Fog takes the reader into the lives of adults left searching and wondering in the aftermath of a sudden child abduction. The story opens on a foggy morning in early summer, on a San Francisco beach, when photographer Abby Mason turns her attention for a few seconds away from her fiancee Jake's daughter, Emma. Was the six year old swept out to sea? Was she snatched by strangers? As the months pass, and even Emma's father has given up the search for his child, Abby's quest for answers and atonement for her failure to keep Emma safe continues, as she walks the streets of the city by day or night, reliving the fateful moment and calling up emotional memories of her own past. The novel reads like a mystery as Abby tries to piece together the events of that morning with the help of her spotty recollection, hypnotists, the local surfing community and the photographs she snapped as Emma ran ahead of her on the sand. Silicon Valley Reads selection, 2011.
Tales of the City the Musical, based on Armistead Maupin’s famous eight-novel series of the same name, opens on May 18, 2011 at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco. The story follows Mary Ann Singleton, a naïve young woman who visits San Francisco in the 1970s and decides to stay and soak up its openness and eccentricities.
Tales of the City was first published in 1976 as a serial in the San Francisco Chronicle, and audiences were immediately smitten with Maupin’s humorous and poignant storytelling. Maupin seemed to be channeling Charles Dickens, not only through the serial format (famously used by Dickens), but also through his interweaving of current events and saga and his clever use of stock characters. Also like Dickens’ novels, Tales of the City has managed to straddle the realms of pop melodrama and critically-acclaimed literature.
If you want to experience these quintessential San Francisco stories for the first time, or if you simply want to read them again before seeing the musical, you can reserve your book today!
SJPL has copies of each of the eight Tales of City novels, including electronic copies of Maupin’s 2010 release, Mary Ann in Autumn. The library also has non-reservable copies of the TV mini-series Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City, starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney, first released in 1993.
Finally, you can listen to an interview between local radio personality, Michael Krasny and Maupin in KQED’s Forum archives. Maupin, Carey Perloff (the director of ACT), and Jeff Whitty (playwright) discuss the upcoming opening of the Tales musical.
Right now I’m reading Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin in preparation for the upcoming musical at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco. If you’re not familiar with it, the Tales of the City series is comprised of eight books set in San Francisco and centered on Anna Madrigal’s apartment house at the fictional 28 Barbary Lane. The first book opens with 25-year-old Mary Ann Singleton phoning her mother to say she won’t be returning to Cleveland, as she has fallen in love with San Francisco. The reader understands why she loves the city – Maupin shows us the eclectic quirkiness that endears the city to so many. Mary Ann has contact with a diverse cast of characters, including Anna, her pot-smoking landlady; Mona, a bohemian neighbor; and Michael, Mona’s roommate who’s dating Jon, a gynecologist.
The first five books in the series were originally serialized in San Francisco newspapers, and this style makes the books quick reads as the chapters are short and the plot lines are lively. The first book in the series came out in 1978 and while three decades have passed since then, the characters and stories are still fun and engrossing. Since these first novels came out before HIV/AIDS, the characters still frequent bath houses and have lots of indiscriminate sex. However, later books in the series were some of the first to deal with the AIDS epidemic.
I’m eager to get on to the next book, More Tales of the City and I can’t wait to see what the ACT does with these stories and characters.
In the middle of winter it’s fun to dream about travel destinations for a spring or summer vacation. Bhutan, Shanghai, Prague, Madrid—SJPL has just received new travel guides for these places and many others. If you scroll through the list of new non-fiction books on our web site, you’ll come across them. You can also locate travel guides in our catalog by doing a keyword search using the name of your destination followed by the word “guidebooks.”
Although dreaming is fun, I won’t be traveling to any far away locations this year. “Staycations” and California travel are better suited to my budget. Some new books that I’ll be looking at include:
Stairway Walks in San Francisco by Adah Bakalinsky with Marian Gregoire
Napa and Sonoma (Fodor's)
Fodor's 2011 Northern California edited by Carolyn Roth, et al.
Some of my favorite California travel destinations are the Gold Country, Cambria, and Point Reyes. What are yours?