I have been in Sunnyvale, CA for a little more than 2 years now, and I should say that I am thoroughly happy with the amenities it provides and the range of lifestyles it enables. You could buy the locally grown lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, almonds etc. and make your own salad or you could walk down to Murphy Street for a lavish dinner amidst a happy crowd enjoying the summer series live music. When I turn on that heater on a winter evening, thanks to the excellent collaboration between Pacific Gas and Electricity company and SVCE, I could rest assured that the electricity I consume is sourced from 100% renewable, carbon free resources like wind, hydro and solar. Similarly, I am grateful to the incredibly hard Hetch Hetchy project that takes the clean snow-melt water from Yosemite National Park, carries it for a mind-boggling 167 miles, gets cleaned by water treatment plants run by SF-PUC or in my case, the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD), and flawlessly flows from any faucet anytime, anyday and anywhere in Sunnyvale. In my opinion, Sunnyvale does live up to the description of “City of Destiny” as Walter Crossman once said.

Sunnyvale is a very walkable city, and given its ~20 sq. mile area, anyone who has lived here for 2+ years would have walked a good number of the streets in Sunnyvale. Having seen the street names on road signs numerous times in the past couple of years, my curiosity has peaked to understand what those different names meant. So I did some research on this, and I give you a few little stories below, condensing the 250+ year history of Sunnyvale to a blog post. I have underlined the historical names that make the Streets of Sunnyvale today.

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Courtesy: Google Maps

The year is 1842, and Sunnyvale was governed by Mexican government back then and they were granting large tracts of lands to people of Spanish or Mexican heritage who resided in California. One such grant was the 8,800 acre Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas which constitutes the majority of current day Sunnyvale. The name Pastoria de las Borregas meant lamb pastures. Humble beginnings!

Then, in ~1850 the Irish hero of Sunnyvale, Martin Murphy Jr., arrived here after making enormous amounts of money helping the Gold Rush aspirers with his wheat and cattle farms in Sacramento. He bought the land of current Sunnyvale from the then ranch owners, named it Bay View, and raised his 7 children there — Patrick, Martin Joseph, Bernard Daniel (whose daughter was Evelyn), Elizabeth Yuba, Mary Ann, Helen and James Thomas. Expanding the family tree further: Elizabeth married the New Yorker William Post Taaffe (yes, there is a post office on Taaffe St.) and had four children William Francis, Martin Joseph, Matilda Julia and Mary Elizabeth. Mary Ann married Richard Carroll. Helen married Joaquin Arques and they had two child named Maud(e) and Clemente.

There was a local realtor Walter E. Crossman who was at his prime when the children of Murphy Jr. were owning the lands, but did not really care much about them. He saw the trend where Sunnyvale was transitioning from large tracts of land owned by big names to little orchards owned by several fresh immigrants. He was one of the key players in making Sunnyvale the industrial place it is today. For instance, after Hendy Iron Works lost all its three buildings in San Francisco to the 1906 earthquake, Crossman lured it to Sunnyvale which in turn created a huge job market in Sunnyvale during WW1 and WW2. Crossman was succeeded as the manager of Sunnyvale Land company by an Iowa native named Charles Stowell. Stowell, and his fellow Iowa native Spalding built a lot of commercial buildings in today’s Sunnyvale downtown — one of them is the first bank in Sunnyvale called the Bank of Sunnyvale which was built in 1905, which eventually has become the Bank of America building we see on Iowa Street today.

And the last story is about the Sunnyvale to the north of 101. This story dates back to the warring periods of 1920’s when Navy Rear Admiral William Moffett, was recommending the placement of two airships — the Macon and the Akron — on the West and East coasts of USA. New Jersey was decided as the designated place on the East Coast, and there were almost 100 competitors for the airship base on the West Coast. Laura Whipple, a real-estate agent then, single-handedly raised $450,000 for purchasing 1000 acres of land convincing its eight landowners. This 1000 acre land is the Moffett field many of us see in our office commute everyday.

Hopefully, after reading this article, whenever we hear or see a street name of Sunnyvale we could appreciate the inspiring stories and generations of hard work that has enabled the comfortable lives which Sunnyvale offers us today.

References:

  • Sunnyvale: From the City of Destiny to the Heart of the Silicon Valley by Mary Jo Ignoffo. Highly recommend this book for anyone further interested in the history of Sunnyvale.

  • Sunnyvale Collage IIĀ by Kay Peterson.
  • The Story of Bank of America: Biography of a Bank by Marquis James, Bessie R. James

  • findagrave.com — very useful for tracing family tree of the Murphy family (especially when there are too many Mary’s and Martin’s in the family).
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