For the first time in many years, the public can now drive to the top of Mount Umunhum. This weekend, the Mid-Peninsula Open Space Agency held private ceremonies for local officials at the summit. Public access opens on September 18th. Midpen purchased the property after its closure in 1980, and has spent several millions of dollars to ready it for public access.
From 1958 to 1980, Mount Umunhum was the location of the Almaden Air Force Station, part of a Cold War radar warning system to watch over the nation’s airspace. During the station’s closing ceremonies on March 29, 1980, the flag was lowered for the last time and presented to the Commander of the site, Lt. Colonel Charles Skinner. Skinner subsequently donated the flag and other station artifacts, including the entrance sign, to Constance Perham of the New Almaden Museum. These artifacts are now part of History San Jose’s Perham Collection of Early Electronics (the legacy of Perham’s husband Douglas).
On Friday, September 15, the Umunhum Conservancy hosted a reunion of former Almaden Air Force Station servicemen, and HSJ Curator Ken Middlebrook attended, accompanied by the Almaden Air Force Station artifacts from our collection. Guest of honor Commander Skinner had not returned to the summit in the 37 years since the station’s closure. As the group posed for photos with the entrance sign and flag, Skinner remarked. “I never would have guessed how important these items would become.”
The future of the base of the radar system — a large cement cube visible from most of Santa Clara Valley — remains uncertain. Efforts to preserve the cube are being led by a newly-formed organization called Umunhum Conservancy, but engineering studies required to determine next steps to save the structure have not yet been funded. Reflecting their continuing struggle for the cube, the Umunhum Conservancy’s new slogan is “Spared for now…but not preserved.”