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Rooms With a View

Inconveniently situated in the middle of downtown's high-rise blocks, the Metropole holds historic ground

By Michael Learmonth

THE CORNER OF SOUTH MARKET and Post, where the Hotel Metropole stands, is arguably San Jose's most significant historical spot. Almost two centuries ago San Jose's first government building or juzgado was built on the site in 1798. The juzgado, which housed a jail and courthouse, was the centerpiece of a dusty Mexican pueblo situated along the banks of the Guadalupe River. It was over this building on July 14, 1846, that one of Capt. Thomas Fallon's men first raised the American flag in San Jose. And though the juzgado was torn down in 1850, turn-of-the-century assessors' maps still note the existence of adobe walls that may be incorporated in the foundation of the Metropole. In his history of San Jose, Clyde Arbuckle notes that some of the juzgado's bricks were used in the construction of San Jose's first federal building--the old post office built across South Market in 1892.

A year after the historic flag-raising, a young Parisian, Pedro de Alcantara de Brazilero de Saisset arrived in San Jose and became a milk man. Sent by his father, a lieutenant of Napoleon Bonaparte, to escape the French Revolution, de Saisset soon became successful in real estate and was a partner in the concern that built the electric light tower in the intersection of Market and Santa Clara streets--at the time, the country's largest. He served as San Jose's French consul, and in 1873 he purchased the famous plot of land on which the Hotel Metropole now sits.

De Saisset contracted with a young architect from San Francisco, William Binder, to build the Alcantara Building that would later house the Metropole. Binder began his practice in San Jose in 1897. That year Binder also designed the Saint James Hotel on N. First Street and later designed such San Jose landmarks as the Jose Theater, The Montgomery Hotel, the Twohy Building and the Civic Auditorium. The Hotel Metropole opened its doors under the management of a J. Nashmann in 1902. The exact date of the construction of the Alcantara remains a mystery.

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From the February 27-March 5, 1997 issue of Metro

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