Shirlie Alice Montgomery • June 9, 1918 – Nov 5, 2012

Shirlie always had her camera handy.
Shirlie Alice Montgomery was born on Chapman Street in San Jose on June 9, 1918. She was an only child. To her friends and neighbors she was a treasure trove of history. Shirlie remembered it all. She remembered the Great Depression as a child, the Second World War as a young woman, and eventually the transformation of the Santa Clara Valley from a moderately sized agricultural town to the hustle and bustle of modern Silicon Valley. The majority of her memories were supported by the thousands of photographs in her collection.
Young Shirlie Montgomery

Shirlie a few years ago from an article in the Rose Garden Resident.

She was the grandniece of San Jose’s forefather T.S. Montgomery. Shirlie lived a colorful life but professionally she photographed it with a 4X5 Speed Graphic in B&W. She was a celebrated photographer that shot Hollywood stars, U.S. Presidents and pro wrestlers. Although Shirlie did work for the S. F. Examiner and the San Jose Mercury her works remain some of the best representations of pro wrestling from the 40’s thru the 60’s. When asked about her penchant for shooting professional wrestlers she would answer “I always liked the big boys”. Such stories Shirlie had! She passed away quietly on November 5, 2012. She will never be forgotten. God rest her soul.

Obituary written by Shirlie's good friend and neighbor Joe Holt

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hotel Montgomery in San Jose

Montgomery Hotel to Re-open in San Jose ... June 18, 2004

Shirlie Montgomery, great niece of 19th Century California land developer and business magnate T.S. Montgomery, tossed the first bocce ball on the Hotel Montgomery's new outdoor bocce courts Friday during ceremonies to mark the re-opening of the boutique hotel.

The 86-room hotel, built originally in 1911 in a Greek Revival style by Mr. Montgomery (local architect William Binder did the design), was once considered San Jose's finest hotel, but it fell on hard times by the 1980s. In an effort to preserve it, and to accommodate expansion of the Fairmont Hotel, the San Jose Redevelopment Agency had the Montgomery moved 186 feet south of its original downtown San Jose location at First Street and Paseo de San Antonio in 2000 at a cost of $8.6 million.

This was the story when Shirlie headlined the grand re-opening of her grand uncle’s hotel. Shirlie was 86 years old and truly the “grand dame” of San Jose at that time. 

Shirlie was the Guest of Honor at the Grand Re-opening in 2004 ... and she was "grand"
Hotel Montgomery then ... 1925
Montgomery Hotel now ... 2014
Hotel Montgomery 1943

Her grand uncle, Thomas Seymour Montgomery, was not only the builder of the Hotel Montgomery, but many other major edifaces in downtown San Jose. His name lives on today in both the Hotel Montgomery and the Montgomery Theater in San Jose’s Civic Center, the land for which he donated to the city as part of his grand plan. He also built the Ste. Claire Hotel (1926) and Naglee Park (c1904) housing neighborhood.

A couple of Naglee Park houses from the early 1900s

The story of T. S. Montgomery and his hotel is concisely told in this web post about him:

T.S. Montgomery was a well-known businessman in San Jose at the beginning of the 20th century, the most powerful man in town in his days and influenced the towns’ appearance in many ways. One of his most popular projects is the Hotel Montgomery in downtown San Jose. But he also built many other buildings and influenced the town in many other ways.

Montgomery was not only the leading real estate developer, but he was also the director of both competing railroads: the Southern Pacific and the Western Pacific. Moreover he was Chairman of the Board of the powerful California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc. Because of all his activities he was not only a very rich, but also a very powerful man.

He practically owned San Carlos Street in San Jose and constantly tried to keep the heart of local business on his street. His competitors were located on the Santa Clara Street and were trying to build newer and bigger buildings than him all the time. This fight was a big help in developing the city. Montgomery convinced the City of San Jose, for example, to locate its convention center on San Carlos Street in 1930. The city was also won over by various donations of money, land and materials from Montgomery’s side.

Being aggressive and very territorial Montgomery was able to build his own empire in San Jose. A good example of his aggressive business manner is the Hotel Montgomery. It was built in 1911 and has since then been one of the finest hotels in town. A huge portrait of him hung in the lobby of the hotel until the 1980s. Afterwards it disappeared and has not shown up until today. The hotel was designed by the local architect William Binder. The original building had 142 rooms, a ballroom, a restaurant and two dinning rooms. The prices for one night at the hotel have always been higher than in any other hotel in town. Montgomery considered it to be the best hotel in town otherwise he would not have lent his name to it. 

"In the 1920s, a single room went for a pricey $1.50 per night. If you wanted a bathroom it would cost you another dollar. These rates were 50 cents higher than other San Jose hotels."
 (Paul Bernal)

Today the Montgomery Hotel (as it is now called) is part of the Sheraton Four Points chain. Room rates are a bit higher than in the 1920s!

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