Please Come Help! February 18th!

Please come tell the Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission that the Tower is historic and should be preserved!  Getting the Tower even limited historic status would open the doors to new funding sources. It’s an important step. Please come to the meeting and help!

Date: Thursday, February 18, 2016

Time: 6:30pm to 8:30pm

Location: Board of Supervisors Chambers

County Government Center

First Floor

70 W. Hedding Street

San Jose 95110

If you can’t attend in person, send your comments for the Commission to this email address; they will be delivered to the Commissioners prior to the meeting.

Details: here


As the last remaining structure from the former Almaden Air Force Station, the Tower atop Mt. Umunhum is historically significant. However, it is not currently listed as a historic building on any official list, and enjoys no protection from demolition due to its historic value.

In 2011 the Tower’s owner, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, hired a consultant who wrote a report which concluded that the Tower was not eligible for historic recognition at the federal or state level. Their argument was that the Tower lacked sufficient “historic integrity”, since the radar antenna had been removed from the roof.

In 2014 the Umunhum Conservancy hired a local architectural historian to perform another evaluation. That evaluation concluded that the Tower atop Mt. Umunhum is eligible for historic recognition by Santa Clara County. We presented these findings to the County’s Historical Heritage Commission and to County planning staff.

Given this disagreement between two qualified experts, Santa Clara County independently hired a third qualified architectural historian to evaluate the two earlier studies and reach their own conclusion to “break the tie”. Neither Midpen nor the Conservancy had any input on who was hired to do this evaluation.

The results of that study are back, and they’re fantastic!  The study concludes:

Mt. Umunhum Radar Tower is historically significant, retains historic integrity to convey its significance, and is eligible for listing in the NRHP [National Register of Historic Places] and CRHR [California Register of Historic Resources].  It also qualifies as a landmark under the Santa Clara County Historic Preservation Ordinance and is recommended to be placed on the Santa Clara County Heritage Resource Inventory.


We couldn’t have asked for a better statement from them!


To be listed on the County Heritage Resource Inventory requires two more steps.

  1. The County’s Historical Heritage Commission has to recommend that the Board of Supervisors list the Tower on the Inventory. They will vote on that on February 18th. Please come and tell them to vote “yes”!
  2. If the first vote passes, the full Board of Supervisors will need to vote on the listing at a future meeting.  We don’t yet know when that meeting would be, but we will need a big turnout at that meeting as well!

Getting the Tower listed on the Santa Clara County Heritage Resource Inventory would be an important first step. It would not prevent the Tower from being demolished, but would give it some limited protection. It would also help with grant funding for preservation. To fully protect the Tower, it would need to be designated as a Historic Landmark, which unfortunately in Santa Clara County requires the agreement of the building owner…and sadly we have no reason to believe that the MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District would agree.

Until now Midpen has continued to promote their idea of a “compromise”, in which they would remove the top four floors of the five story Tower, leaving behind only a gazebo-like shade structure. We hope that this new analysis will help Midpen understand the Tower’s historic value and start to support rather than impede the Conservancy’s efforts to preserve the entire Tower, rather than continuing to spend tax dollars on consultants and lawyers to justify its demolition. The Conservancy looks forward to working with Midpen to secure landmark status for the Tower and to preserve all of it for future generations.

The historic Tower reduced to a shade structure.

Ultimately the Tower still needs repairs and restoration. Even if it is given historic protection, funds must still be found for that work. But getting the Tower even limited historic status would open the doors to new funding sources, and would hopefully eliminate Midpen’s totally arbitrary October 2017 fundraising deadline.  It’s an important step. Please come to the meeting and help!

The Tower today