California, Silicon Valley

Don Burnett Pedestrian Bridge

Don Burnett Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge


I’d driven under this bridge many times and its form would often catch my eye.  The bridge crosses over Interstate 280 between Sunnyvale and Cupertino.   The design is striking which is unexpected for a modern piece of public infrastructure.  I don’t expect California with its near constant budget crises to be building anything but ugly utilitarian designs.   In this case, some creative thinking in using steel saved millions of dollars in construction costs.  My original suspicion was correct though in that Caltrans only permits concrete construction to reduce maintenance costs.  The city of Cupertino had to agree to maintain the bridge to get Caltrans to approve it.     The result is a beautiful piece of architecture.

California, Silicon Valley

Hendy Iron Works

Growing up in Silicon Valley, I never gave much thought to the region’s past beyond that it was agricultural area prior to becoming the center of the tech sector.   The Joshua Hendy Iron Works is a window the industrial portion of the region’s history.   The Iron Works built heavy mining equipment and steam engines for ships in addition to almost anything that could be crafted out of iron.    It was originally located in San Francisco but was heavy damaged by the fire following the 1906 earthquake.  The City of Sunnyvale offered free land and the Iron Works relocated to Sunnyvale.

I got interested in the Iron Works because of another image I wanted to create and still haven’t gotten right yet.   That image is of a large exhaust fan at the top of a warehouse.  The warehouse is visible from South Sunnyvale Avenue which I drive on fairly frequently.  On one afternoon, I tried to get a picture through the fence which resulted in a security guard racing over a golf cart and yelling at me.  Since I was standing on a public sidewalk, I knew I was in the clear legally.  Unfortunately, that vantage point didn’t work for the image I wanted to create.  The whole experience made me wonder why there’s such high security for an old warehouse.

Today,  Northrop Grumman Marine Systems owns the site and uses it make turbine generator sets and propulsion units for nuclear attack submarines.    Work on nuclear submarines no doubt includes classified information which explains the overzealous security.

For modern Silicon Valley, even the current Northrop Grumman facility feels like a throw back.  The property is 32 acres of prime real estate that would be worth a fortune as town houses.  Even more than the property value, building large industrial items out of metal feels at odds with the miniaturized computer and networking hardware and the etherial software Silicon Valley produces today.  The building pictured above feels historic and is part of the original IronWorks.  The rest of the facility was built post-WWII and feels industrial.  The historic building is now a museum that’s hardly ever open.  Visiting the museum is on my to-do list as I want to get a better feel for the Iron Works back in its heyday when Sunnyvale was mostly agricultural.

A couple of resources to learn more about Iron Works.


Bank of the West Building in Sunnyvale, CA

I drive past this Bank of the West branch everyday on my way to and from work.  It’s mid-century design frequently catches my eye as I drive past.   According to this San Jose Mercury article on the 50th anniversary of the building, the postcard introducing this branch of First National Bank of San Jose in 1963 said “A space-age bank for a space-age community”.  Funny how a design  intended to be futuristic  in 1963 is nostalgic in 2014.

A bit more history on the building at

California, Silicon Valley

Sunnyvale’s Space Age Bank

California, Silicon Valley

Hearst’s Final Resting Place

Between Hearst Castle and Citizen Kane, William Randolph Hearst has loomed large for me as a historical figure.  I’ve visited Hearst Castle several times and always marveled both at its sheer opulence and outright garishness.  Hearst Castle is famous for its splendid pools but those were more famous architect Julia Morgan’s creation rather than that of Hearst.  For all his money, he didn’t have good taste.  His yellow journalism was both distasteful and a had a major impact on country.

I wondered, where does a man like this end up buried?   Hearst is buried at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in the city of Colma.  Colma, just south of San Francisco, is a city with many more dead people than living ones.  The Hearst Family Crypt is an impressive structure but doesn’t live up to the grandeur of Hearst’s Castle though it’s certainly more tasteful.   For a man who was larger than life, his final resting place is only just typical for a wealthy family’s crypt.