May 31, 2005 > Irvington Monument
Traffic through Five Corners (now Irvington) became a problem as soon as cars were plentiful. Business owners and Chamber of Commerce members began to express their concerns about the obvious dangers. They apparently contacted the Board of Supervisors because by 1915, the "Irvington safety station" was reported almost finished. Larry Medeiros, local traffic officer, was very busy on Sundays because drivers were speeding through town. Medeiros promised to keep the Sunday speed officer after the safety station was completed.
The Township Register reported in July 1916, "Irvington is to have a new landmark." Funds were awarded by the county and Irvington was set to have "a beautiful landmark." The safety station was reported completed and ready to be turned over to the county a week later. Apparently, this is the monument erected by R.A. and Lee Griffin in 1917 at the intersection of Bay Street, Washington Boulevard, and the San Jose Road.
The monument served its purpose, separating cars going in opposite directions, but it also became a landmark that enlivened the life and legends of Irvington. Accidents continued to happen in spite of the traffic divide with its sign that read, "Keep to Right." Trucks or trailers flipped over by the bank. Crafty truckers turned off their headlights and drove around the wrong side of the monument. Local children climbed and played there on dark nights and decorated the monument with a variety of interesting items on Halloween night.
The monument was reported to be "well lighted at night by the fine big sign over the Central Bank building and it could be seen from a long distance in the day time." In spite of this, trucks sometimes took the sharp corner too fast and dumped their loads. One truck spilled 10,000 pounds of potatoes in August 1947 and treated the Irvington people to "some free potatoes for the picking". The local editor wrote, "It is evident that a new road is need that will detour this sharp curve."
At the request of the Irvington Chamber of Commerce, the monument did not cost the chamber much because as Ed Rose said, "Griffin just collected the materials together and went to work on the reinforced concrete structure."
Traffic increased after World War II and the monument became a source of concern. The Chamber of Commerce consulted traffic authorities about reducing the hazardous traffic condition there. Highway patrol officers reported that the monument was a source of trouble. It was doing more to congest traffic than channel it. The Improvement Club installed a flashing yellow light on the top about 1946.
Irvington became part of the City of Fremont in 1956 and the monument became one of Fremont's problems. Engineers decided the monument had to go. It was just a matter of how and when. Over 2000 cars per day were channeled by the divider by 1962.
The City of Fremont hired Abel Erector Co. to extract the monument from the intersection in 1963. The concrete tip was damaged in removal and it was dumped in the weeds behind the Centerville fire station; it rested there for two years. Gordon B. Lindsey asked the city council in if he could have the monument to place in his mortuary parking lot. He offered to pay $1.00 for it. Another citizen offered $2.00. One city official suggested that the bay would be a good place for it, hardly a complimentary remark for Irvington's most recognized historical marker. Irvington Businessmen's Association decided they wanted it back, and the city finally agreed.
The concrete monument that welcomed newcomers to Irvington for nearly 50 years was returned to Irvington in 1978. Labor costs to move the heavy structure were donated by Hill Trucking Co. and Able Erectors. A Kennedy High School work experience class built the light fixture to top the monument. Vern Erickson of Econo Sign Co. installed the lights with the help of contractor Norbert Knight, and Ed Shannon. Plants were donated by Naka Nursery.
The refurbished monument was dedicated November 21, 1978 in ceremonies led by Vice Major Tony Azevedo, Tom Blalock, and Ed Shannon. Participants were surprised that the lights turned off and on. They turned on when the lights on Fremont Boulevard were green and went off when the lights turned red. The lights drew their power from the traffic signal box until an electrician changed the hookup, correcting the situation.
The monument was moved to its present location in 1991 by the City of Fremont Redevelopment Agency and the Irvington Business Association. Fremont Mayor Bill Ball and association president Bill Pease led the dedication ceremonies.
The Irvington Monument is over 80 years old, but it stands today in Andy Anderson Memorial Plaza. The five globes illuminate the words, "Irvington welcomes you," and we are grateful that a bit of old Irvington lives on for us to enjoy.