P71209Newer developments are often named after what was destroyed to procure space for them. Writers and historians have been making that observation for decades.

There are obviously no remnants of a ranch in the McCarthy Ranch Marketplace in Milpitas. Heck, there are no little cornfields left in Milpitas, which is what ‘Milpitas’ means. Cherry Orchard Shopping Center in Sunnyvale? Give me a break! The Pruneyard Shopping Center in Campbell is no better.

I just happen to find the Pruneyard to be less objectionable than the others because it was built about the time I was born. It has been there as long as I can remember. My parents can remember when it was a drying yard for the prunes harvested in the surrounding orchards. I remember the last remnants of prune orchards, but by my time, there were not enough of them to justify the less lucrative use of real estate for drying, which could be done elsewhere.

The Pruneyard Towers are an office complex just to the west of the shopping center. The original Pruneyard Tower might still be the tallest building between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I know it was only a few decades ago. (Downtown San Jose has a ceiling on the heights of their skyscrapers because of the flightpath of the Mineta San Jose Airport.) I can remember as a kid, seeing the big black tower standing proudly off in the distance, beyond the blooming apricot orchards. When our parents were shopping there, and we got close to the Pruneyard Tower, we felt a bit more cosmopolitan, as if we lived in a big world class city. Back then, we had no idea that nearby San Jose was well on the way to becoming exactly that!

The shorter tower was added about 1976. The third and lowest of the three bigger towers was added in the 1990s. The late 1960s architecture of the shopping center is still prominent, but several original buildings have been rebuilt with modern architecture, and a few new buildings were added.

As much as I miss the orchards and the horticultural past of the Santa Clara Valley, I can not totally dislike the Pruneyard Shopping Center and the associated big towers. To my generation, they are also part of our history. They have been here as long as we have.

The one thing that I dislike about the Pruneyard Shopping Center is the name. It is a constant reminder that something that was such an important part of our local culture and history was destroyed so that it could be built. Nothing about the site is associated with the orchards, or drying yards or prunes, or anything of the sort.

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12 thoughts on “What’s In A Name? Sometimes, Not Much.

  1. Sometimes the naming of areas is almost cynical or ironical, even if that wasn’t the intention! Dimond Gorge on the Fitzroy River on the Gibb River Road in Western Australia was named after Mr CM Dimond, the Engineer for the North-West, who selected the area for a dam site in 1955, which would have destroyed this beautiful and precious area. Similarly, Ben Boyd National Park just to the south of us on the Far South Coast of NSW is named after Ben Boyd, a ratbag entrepreneur, who had big dreams in the early days of European settlement of Australia, but went bankrupt and disappeared, leaving many unpaid debts. Scarcely worthy of the honour of having such a beautiful National Park named after him!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicely written post. Very true about the names that pop up with suburban sprawl. One of our suburbs is called Elk Grove Village. It has neither elk nor groves. Then there is Rolling Meadows. No meadows, plus it’s really flat. One could go on.

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    1. There are a few Spanish names that seem really weird now, although they might have made sense at one time. Putah Creek (and there are a few of them scattered about) were originally named Puta Creek because they were the designated washing places for putas, which are prostitutes. The ‘h’ as likely added to make the name less offensive. Atascadero means ‘mud hole’. Chorro Street in San Luis Obispo seems to mean ‘diarrhea’.

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