San José City Landmarks
Bayside Canning Company
City Landmark #
1290 Hope St.
After the 1906 earthquake destroyed his San Francisco tomato cannery, Sai Yin Chew founded the Bayside Canning Company in 1908 in the former (and short-lived) Alviso Watch Company factory at Hope and Elizabeth Streets. What began as a small operation soon grew into one of the largest canneries in America and the largest Chinese-American owned business in Santa Clara County. Under the direction of Sai’s son Thomas Foon Chew, the company expanded into this Spanish Colonial Revival factory building in 1929. Asparagus, cherries, apricots, plums, peaches, pears, tomatoes, catsup, tomato sauce, hot sauce, tomato puree, fish sauce, fruit salad, vegetable salad and fruit cocktail were processed here by an ethnically diverse crew of hundreds. Most were Chinese immigrants who lived in company-owned barracks, though Bayside also employed Italians, Portuguese, Japanese, Filipinos, and Irish. Hailed as the “King of Asparagus,” Thomas Foon Chew died of pneumonia in 1931 at the age of 42; his funeral procession through San Francisco’s Chinatown drew 25,000 mourners.
The former cannery now stands vacant and derelict. Now-faded murals added in 1982 depict scenes from the history of Alviso, including a Native American fishing village, boat building, sailing ships, a cannery scene. The building and its noteworthy Howe Truss roof structure were documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1997.