Heinlenville Park may be San Jose’s newest open urban space, but it comes with more than a century of history to its name, befitting its location in the city’s historic Japantown neighborhood. A few hundred people attended the grand opening ceremony Tuesday afternoon, which opened with a blessing and ended with a celebratory lion dance and a sake toast.
“It’s not every day we get to open a new public space, certainly not one so beautiful. This park is exceptional,” said Mayor Matt Mahan, who called Japantown a “community that is passionate about celebrating, commemorating and living the culture of our Japanese community while also welcoming change and newcomers.”
After a suspected arson fire in 1887 destroyed the Chinatown on Market Street downtown, John Heinlen — a German immigrant farmer and businessman who owned property just north of downtown — answered an act of bigotry with one of acceptance. He provided inexpensive leases to the local Chinese community and endured condemnation from the city’s white community.
The area became a hub of Chinese cultural activities in San Jose for the next five decades, centered around the ornate Ng Shing Gung temple (a replica of which is at History Park). The success of Heinlenville encouraged Japanese residents to settle in the area, and that gave birth to San Jose’s Japantown, which is now one of just three remaining in the United States.
Historian Connie Young Yu said Heinlenville ended after 44 years largely because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the area became the city’s corporation yard for many decades with Japantown next to it. She heard stories of Heinlen’s generosity from her grandfather, who fled the Market Street fire, and her father, who was born in Heinlenville.
“You will not read about the legacy of John Heinlen in history, but you will experience it here,” she said. “This park embodies a story San Jose should be proud of, one that should inspire us all and generations to come.”
Shea Properties built the park to complement its Sixth and Jackson apartments and plans to grant it to the city. Features within the park reflect its history, too.
“Sheltering Wing,” a 19-foot-tall metal sculpture created by Stoller Studios in San Jose, tells the story of the evolving and inclusive community through images of “Asian positivity” in the metal-lace artwork representing bamboo, peaches, koi, origami cranes, butterflies and chrysanthemums, among others. There’s an interpretive sign exploring the history of the area and a paved “history path” that recounts the Chinese American experience. Japantown sculptor Ken Matsumoto created the stonework in the north garden, part of the landscape designed by Jason Victor.
Notably, the park is mostly hardscape with raised gardens and trees, along with tables with built-in checkers/chessboards and a children’s play space. But there’s no grass, and that’s intentional because the community asked for space that could accommodate events like flea markets and public gatherings for the multicultural area, which includes the Filipino Community Center right across the street.
“This park is a testament to the collective efforts of so many people,” said Sean McEachern of Shea Properties. “Everyone on the team knew the importance of what we needed to deliver.”
SHORT TAKES: As more movies are hitting bladder-busting running times, it’s interesting to note that short films are also having a bit of a renaissance, with major filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Pedro Almodóvar exploring the form recently. That seems to make it the perfect moment for the 15th annual San Jose International Short Film Festival, which opens Thursday at the CineArts theater at Santana Row in San Jose.
This year’s fest features more than 100 short movies — that’s anything from two to 30 minutes — programmed into 15 screening blocks that will be screened through Sunday. It’s an eclectic bunch, with documentaries, dramas, world cinema, comedy, science fiction and animation. The opening-night block at 7:30 p.m. will showcase six shorts that sample different genres, with an opening-night celebration starting at 9 p.m. (when there’s also an encore screening of the films).
You can check out the schedule and get tickets at www.sjsff.com.
FABULOUS 40TH: What’s the best recycled use for a landfill in the Bay Area? If you answered Shoreline in Mountain View, you’re right. And it’s not just the famed Shoreline Amphitheater but also Shoreline at Mountain View regional park, a 750-acre wildlife refuge and recreation spot that opened to the public in 1983 and is marking its 40th anniversary with a free, family-friendly celebration Sunday.
The event, which is themed “Past, Present and Future” and runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., will include carnival games, antique vehicles, a community art project, self-guided tours and live music from Petty Theft, a Tom Petty tribute band. Shoreline Lake is also part of the festivities, with booths promoting water sports like wing foiling. Visitors also can enjoy a skippered sailboat ride and can pick up one of Shoreline Lake’s signature Burrowing Owl cookies.
More details, and a map, are available at www.mountainview.gov/celebrateshoreline.