Bipolar Signs at a Former Mental Institution

Agnews Historic Park, Former Insane Asylum now a city park and Oracle Software campus in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley

Agnews Historic Park, Former Insane Asylum now a city park and Oracle Software campus in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley

It was neither a dark nor stormy night. In fact it was gorgeous early afternoon on Memorial Day 2015 in Santa Clara, California. The sun was shining, but not too hot. There was a pleasant breeze. I pulled up in front of the visitors’ center at Agnews.

The scene could have been out of an episode of the Twilight Zone. Amid the perfectly manicured grass, the picnic tables, below the lush trees there was nary a soul to be seen. At least until I turned around and saw a city of Santa Clara police cruiser.

Photographing in Silicon Valley as I regularly do I’m sooooo used to (and frustrated by) the omnipresent security/police so I wasn’t surprised. Though the officer never gave me any grief he remained and in fact waved to me he remained nearby for a while. Perhaps he was only filling out paperwork or waiting for the next radio call. Santa Clara is a very safe city, so I guess cops don’t have much to do anyway. In this case this officer or a security guard would have had cause, at least to give me a second look. I was trying to achieve an unusual perspective by attaching my camera to a 15’ pole.

Agnews Historic Park is now home to an Oracle Software campus. Before that the same spot was home to Sun Microsystems, the folks who developed JAVA. But any local knows Agnews as the former insane asylum. The term “insane asylum” is almost as politically incorrect as loony bin, nut house, rubber room and all the less-than-polite ways our society used to poke at mental illness. Yet “insane asylum” was indelibly etched in the plaques and titles that dot the historic grounds.

The city of Santa Clara is on an all-out offensive pimping their city. In fact one of my main reasons for trawling the city’s historic sites is a story I heard on KQED “Santa Clara Prepares for Super Bowl with Rebranding Effort”.  With the new Levi’s Stadium and arrival of the 49’ers there’s more than just the Mission and Great America. Or that’s the word they’re trying to get out. I figured that might lead to a few stock photo sales.

Why is it that such a fantastic spot is completely devoid of locals and potential tourists? This is where my rant starts……the first time I went to check out the former mental institution (maybe some would say I should “check in” instead) I was thrown off by the signs. The sign one sees from the Lafayette Street says: Agnews Historic Park – City of Santa Clara. As I turned into visit the “park” there’s yet another sign: no trespassing. You can’t have it both ways can you? When I looked at the park’s website it states clearly that the park is open to the public. Seems pretty obvious that a giant sign saying PRIVATE PROPERTY NO TRESPASSING at the entrance to a PUBLIC PARK might deter some people.

Agnews Historic Park, Former Insane Asylum now a city park and Oracle Software campus in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley

PRIVATE PROPERTY NO TRESPASSING at the entrance to Agnews Historic Park, Former Insane Asylum now a city park and Oracle Software campus in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley

Agnews Historic Park, Former Insane Asylum now a city park and Oracle Software campus in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley

CCTV at the entrance to Agnews Historic Park, Former Insane Asylum now a city park and Oracle Software campus in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley