Author Statement

This website is a constant work-in-progress, with articles updated regularly throughout the site. Much of the information comes from local railroad fans such as yourselves. If you have information regarding local railroads, photographs or railroad documents, or you feel a mistake has been made or information omitted from an article, leave a comment on the appropriate page or email me at This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cannery Row: Custom House Packing Corporation

Fire at the Custom House Packing Corporation cannery,
October 1953. Photograph by Lee Blaisdell.
[Monterey Public Library]
Timing was poor for the Custom House Packing Corporation when it opened its doors in April 1929, only months ahead of Black Tuesday and the start of the Great Depression. Nonetheless, this packing house endured the trials and tribulations of the 1930s and remained in business well after the end of World War II. Investors Brayton Wilbur, Thomas Frank, and Carmel Martin established Custom House was experimental in its outlook. They adopted a new steam processing system that removed excess oil and produced "firm, wholesome, well-shrunk sardines, with a perfect vacuum and positively no after taste." Their premium products included Cal-Rey, Custom, and Feature brands, and most goods were packaged in the normal oval tins with the fish preserved in tomato or mustard sauce. Custom House also utilised new reduction techniques to maximize profits from its fish products.

From the very beginning, the cannery owned a warehouse across Ocean View Avenue which was connected to the packing house via an elevated conveyor. The two-story structure had access to a private northward-exiting Southern Pacific Railroad spur that ran along a platform behind the warehouse. From this spur, goods could be shipped out directly from the cannery. Nothing remains of this loading area since the current structure mostly dates to 1971 and afterwards, although there is a new patio deck on the rear of the building that closely matches the original arrangement and may sit atop its foundation.

The corporation lasted until November 1952 when the depletion of the sardine stocks forced the company to close its doors. Machinery was dismantled and sold to canneries in Africa and Peru. Then, on October  24, 1953, a fire swept through the abandoned complex and destroyed it. This was the first major fire on Cannery Row since the 1930s, but it would not be the last. The warehouse across Ocean View Avenue survived with only some minor damage. For almost two decades, it sat abandoned until the architectural firm of Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons purchased and renovated the structure in 1971. The original two-story structure was modified to three stories and converted to commercial use. A walkway was installed at the same time to the structure across Hoffman Avenue. Although the current structure is built on the foundation of the original warehouse and may incorporate some remaining artifacts, the majority of the building is newer in design.

Street Address, Geo-Coordinates & Current Status:
625 Cannery Row
36.615˚N, 121.900˚ W

Today, the renovated cannery is the site of the northern half of Shake Plaza, a commercial complex that includes shops such as Ambrosia India Café and Om Rhythms. The upstairs levels are the former site of the Culinary Institute of Monterey but are currently vacant.

Google Streetview image of the current Shake Plaza complex atop the Custom House warehouse site. [Google]
Citations & Credits:
  • Architectural Resources Group and Architects, Planners & Conservators, Inc. "San Carlos Park". Primary Record. State of California – The Resources Agency. Department of Parks and Recreation. In Final Cannery Row Cultural Resources Survey Report Document, Monterey, CA, 2001.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Curiosities: Roller Coasters at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

There have been many narrow-gauge, broad-gauge, and miniature railroads, as well as numerous horsecars, streetcars, and cable-hoisted car systems around the Monterey Bay, but only in one place can be gravity trains be found: the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Gravity trains, or more commonly roller coasters, have been a constant at the Boardwalk since 1908, a year after the current amusement park opened its doors. 

L.A. Thompson Scenic
Railway, 1908.
[SC Beach Boardwalk]
L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway: 1908 – 1923
The first roller coaster at the seaside amusement park was an L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway. Opening in July 1, 1908, for $35,000 on the current site of the Giant Dipper, this simple wooden roller coaster featured a series of rises and troughs that headed out toward the San Lorenzo River before taking a wide loop and returning to the top of the launch platform via a steam hoist. The coaster track ran 1,050 feet (the longest in the United States in 1908), took four minutes to ride, and included dual tracks so two trains could run simultaneously side-by-side. The coaster cars could hold up to 30 people and ran at a break-neck speed of 25 mph (the street speed limit was 10 mpg). Since there were no guide rails, an engineer/brakeman stood on the back of the car in case of emergency. When it first opened, a single ride cost 5¢ for children and 10¢ for adults.

L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway at the Boardwalk, c. 1908. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
The Boardwalk as viewed from the Pleasure Pier, with the Scenic Railway at right, c. 1920. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Ticket (possibly from the Boardwalk) for the L.A. Thompson
Scenic Railway, showcasing the cars, c. 1910.
LaMarcus Adna Thompson was one of the world's first roller coaster salesmen, claiming to have invented the concept in 1884 after visiting a coal mine that charged for gravity-powered rides on coal cars. His first roller coaster, "The Switchback", was built at Coney Island, and he soon built two more, a second at Coney Island and one at Playland in San Francisco. The Santa Cruz coaster was his fourth and it was built at a time before the Boardwalk extended beyond the skating rink (later the Fun House). Although the Looff Carousel would be built between the rink and the coaster in 1911, it was still a number of years before deck construction stretched beyond the site of the coaster, and nothing notable moved in beside it during most of these years. Ageing poorly compared to other roller coasters in the Bay Area, the Scenic Railway shut down after the summer season of 1923 and demolished in January 1924 to make room for a much more famous ride.

Giant Dipper while under construction, 1924.
[Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk]
Giant Dipper: 1924 – Present
Replacing the Scenic Railway on May 17, 1924, was the bold and beautiful Giant Dipper. Constructed over 47 days using a kit designed by architect Frederick Church, the Giant Dipper quickly became the most popular attraction at the Boardwalk and along the Central Coast. To fund the project, manufacturer and financier Arthur Looff founded the Santa Cruz Coaster Company, which owned the coaster (and leased the space) for the next thirty years. The coaster cost $50,000, and used 327,000 board feet of lumber, 743,000 nails, 24,000 bolts, and 63,000 pounds of steel track to build. A ride takes 1:52 minutes and features a short dark tunnel before climbing 70 feet up, promptly dropping that distance at a numbing 46 mph, and then circling twice over rises and troughs before returning to the entry kiosk. The full length of the track is 2,640 feet. The only mechanised part of the route is the first climb, after which gravity and momentum control the ride. In 1924, a ticket for this coaster cost 15¢ per ride. Tickets today cost $7.00.

The original Giant Dipper train cars, c. 1940. [Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk]
Wilt Chamberlain riding the Giant Dipper, 1968.
[Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk]
Over the nearly 100 years since the ride first opened, there have been only three fatalities, all caused by recklessness on the part of the rider. In September 1924, a rider stood up and fell over the front of the train, prompting the addition of safety belts. Additional fatalities occurred in 1940 and 1970, the former prompting the replacement of the old, open-style cars. The coaster is now on its third car design, initially using open cars (a replica of which can be seen at Coasters Bar outside Boardwalk Bowl), more space-aged, bubble cars were installed in the mid-1940s. These were replaced in 1984 with Victorian-style cars that have been repainted numerous times but remain in place today.

In June 1933, Arthur Looff sold the coaster to the Santa Cruz Seaside Company, parent company of the Boardwalk. The Seaside Company, in turn, created the Santa Cruz Giant Dipper Company to operate the roller coaster, and this subsidiary remained in place into the early 1980s. The Giant Dipper is undoubtedly one of the most popular roller coasters in the world, hosting well over 60 million riders since it first opened. It is also the fifth oldest roller coaster in the United States and the only Frederick Church-designed coaster to remain in continuous use, its siblings at Belmont Park in San Diego and Playland Park in New York having been shut down for periods of time since they first opened. The Giant Dipper is a registered as a National Historic Landmark as well as a California State Historic Landmark, and it has won numerous awards over the decades and featured in several films and television shows. An HD video of a ride can be found here.

The Giant Dipper today in profile, showing the large drop at right. [Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk]
Wild Mouse: 1958 – 1976
The Wild Mouse at the Boardwalk, c. 1960s. [Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk]
Perhaps the most forgotten and least known roller coaster at the Boardwalk is the Wild Mouse. Built in 1958 by Norris House to cater to the young teenagers emerging out of the early baby boom after World War II, this ambitious roller coaster featured sharp, unbanked turns that make one's neck kink. The Wild Mouse was based on a German design perfected by J. W. "Patty" Conklin and was certainly not unique to the Boardwalk—dozens popped up at amusement parks worldwide—but it was one of the first such rides built in the United States. The largely wooden coaster featured three large, jerky switchbacks followed by a number of sudden drops before it returned back to the loading area. Unlike with other coasters, the cars, built by Buchwald Gebrüder, only seated two people, one sitting in the lap of the other, and the cars resembled popular sports cars of the period.

The Wild Mouse overlooking the San Lorenzo River mouth and main beach, c. 1950s. [Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk]
The Wild Mouse loading area at the end of the Boardwalk, 1964. [Schrempp Family Photos]
Deteriorating prematurely at only eighteen, the Wild Mouse was finally dismantled in 1976 during upgrading of the river side of the park. It its place was built, among smaller rides, Loggers' Revenge water-based log flume ride.

Jet Star: 1972 – 1991
The Jet Star in 1972, before the cars had been repainted and renamed.
[Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk]
Joining the Giant Dipper and Wild Mouse was the Jet Star, a West German Schwarzkopf-constructed, kit-built steel behemoth that was the first truly modern-style roller coaster at the Boardwalk. Originally sold to the Boardwalk as "Ripper" (many cars in early promotional photographs still have this name), this roller coaster occupied the upper deck of a new structure that replaced the old Fun House in 1972. Operated by computer, the roller coaster rode used small, four person cars running on 1,765 feet of steel rails that criss-crossed a number of times before descending back to the loading station. Gravity was exploited to the extreme for this coaster, with the cars streamlined for maximum speed and the initial 44-foot drop delayed to build up momentum. Unlike the Dipper, up to six cars could run on this track simultaneously, adding to the sense of eminent doom. A total of eight cars were made for the ride, although they never all operated at the same time. In the nineteen years this coaster operated, two different car designs were used. The original, space-age designs were retired by the late 1970s and were replaced with more aerodynamic fiberglass molds.

Jet Star coaster crew posing for a team photo, 1984. [Dante's Page]
Before the invention of crazy inverted roller coasters that quickly came to populate other Bay Area amusement parks, the Jet Star was one of the most thrilling experiences on the West Coast. The ride began to rust in key places and the Seaside Company decided to upgrade rather than renovate. They sold the ride to Thrill-Vill USA in Salem, Oregon, which closed in 2007. The ride was dismantled permanently in 2010.

Hurricane banking down
a curve, c. 2000.
The Hurricane: 1992 – 2012
The Italian-made, kit-based Hurricane roller coaster replaced the Jet Star in the spring of 1992. In many ways, it was the same sort of roller coaster as its predecessor, only bolder with more turns, giving credit to its windstorm-type name. There was much more space in the Hurricane than its predecessor, with trains of three cars able to hold a total of 12 passengers. The ride began immediately with a climb to the top and then the train picked up momentum as it mostly circled downward in a funnel, although there were occasional drops of up to 30 feet. Overall, the coaster ran at roughly the same speed as the Jet Star and used less track, only 1,430 feet, but it remained a popular ride throughout its time at the Boardwalk. The Hurricane last operated on September 3, 2012, and was sold to Western Playland in New Mexico for around $500,000. An HD video of a ride on the coaster can be found here.

The Hurricane at twilight, c. 2010. [California Coaster Kings]
The Undertow: 2013 – Present
In many ways, the current Undertow roller coaster is a spiritual successor of the Wild Mouse, adopting some of its strange, jerky ways while using other newer techniques. More literally, it is the successor of the Hurricane and Jet Star since it occupies the same space above the bumper cars ride that has been in place since 1972.  Built by Maurer Söhne for $5.5 million as another kit-based German roller coaster, the Undertow remains the only spinning coaster in California. The ride features seven four-passenger cars that rotate on a central axel while the coaster moves, and different weight ratios between passengers accentuates the rotation differently. The coaster itself involves a climb 50 feet up and then gravity takes the ride the remainder of the way, although there are numerous rotation platforms that add an unexpected twist to the normal steel-pipe coaster style. Mimicking the Wild Mouse, there are also a number of hard, unbanked turns along the ride, although many of the other turns are adequately banked. Overall, there are 1,410 feet of track, which makes Undertow the shortest adult coaster at the Boardwalk in history, but the ride does achieve faster speeds than both of its predecessors. An HD video of a ride on the coaster can be found here.

The Undertow in action with a car riding at a 45˚ angle, 2014. [California Coaster Kings]
Orient Express: 1998 – 1999
The original Boardwalk kitty coaster, the Orient Express was purchased in 1998 as a part of an overall redevelopment of the lower riverside section of the park. It was built by Wisdom Rides and was originally a travelling fairground coaster. Its single train could host up to 14 passengers and the track ran for 280 feet. The track's deepest drop was 8 feet and the ride reached speeds of 10 mph. In 2000, the ride was sold to Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, possibly due to complaints over its name and theme. It featured a Chinese dragon-style front and an Oriental themed loading kiosk.

The Orient Express coaster as it now resides at Palace Playland in Maine, 2010. [Coaster Gallery]
Sea Serpent: 2000 – Present
Perhaps the least-inspired and most obviously kit-built roller coaster at the Boardwalk is the family-oriented Sea Serpent, manufactured by Miler Coaster Company. This small coaster hosts a single 12-passenger train that rises to a height of 18 feet before dropping 13 feet along a 350-foot steel track. Usually, the ride is looped twice before detraining the passengers. It never breaks speeds of 10 mph, although the drop with the speed does give sufficient G-force for a brief thrill. The Sea Serpent was purchased in 2000 to replace the Orient Express and it has remained in place ever since.

The Sea Serpent train climbing the first ride after the initial drop, c. 2014. [CoasterFreak80 on Theme Park Review]
Citations & Credits:
  • Canfield, Victor. "Wild Mouse Rides: Early History in North America." Roller Coaster and Other Ride Patents, 2015.
  • Beal, Chandra Moira and Richad A. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: The Early Years—Never a Dull Moment
  • Staab, Donaven. Boardwalk Fun Facts Memories. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
  • "Remembering the Jet Star". Dante's Page, 2009.
  • Various articles.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Cannery Row: Monterey Fish Products

Promotional brochure cover, c. 1930.
[Monterey Historical Association]
The history of the Monterey Fish Products Company is two-tiered. Begun as a standard sardine-fishing operation in 1915 by Frank Lucido, little is know about the early history of the company at its site on Cannery Row. However, everything changed in 1938 when Lucido partnered with experimental fisherman Max Schaefer and investor Houghton M. Roberts. They had the rather presumptuous notion that a reduction plant could be successful on its own, without the need for an attached packing plant or refinery. Schaefer had been experimenting with reduction techniques since 1927 out of a small facility in Seaside, turning out increasingly high-quality fertilizer and animal food. In early 1938, Schaefer's Seaside plant burned down and he proposed a merger with Lucido which would involve a total conversion of the former Monterey Fish Products cannery into a reduction plant. The property was located between the Sea Pride Packing Company and Ed "Doc" Rocket's original lab (later the Del Vista Packing Company). Monterey Fish Products became the first reduction-only plant on the Row, and Schaefer proved the viability of such an operation, prompting many other local companies to expand to reflect the prospective profits in reduction.

For the first five years of its operation, the Monterey Fish Products reduction plant shipped all of its goods out via truck and had no warehouse facilities. But increased demand prompted by World War II encouraged them to expand, and they did so buy leveling Flora Woods' infamous bordello across the street. Operated from 1923 to 1941 as the Lone Star Cafe, the house of ill repute became famous in John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday novels. War demands finally forced Woods out of business in 1941, and she died penniless in 1948. Monterey Fish Products likely purchased the property soon after Woods abandoned it, and by 1945 at latest a full modern cannery warehouse was built atop the former structure.

A man standing near the Monterey Fish Products warehouse (back right), c. 1950. [OnCell Tour]
The new warehouse was a square, blocky structure that lacked any of the art deco details of its 1930s neighbors. Industrial in design, the two-story building had high ceilings and was made largely of concrete rather than wood or corrugated steel. Unlike most other local warehouses, this one did not feature an elevated conveyor because it was built at an angle from the reduction plant. Instead, it had a long pipe that may have been used to transfer certain types of fish meal or fertilizer. The building did feature a large loading window on the front and back of the building to assist in loading and unloading material from the second floor. Access to the Southern Pacific Railroad's Monterey Branch was provided from the rear of the building via a southward-exiting spur that ran parallel to the branch line tracks and terminated just beside the warehouse. The spur's primary patron was the adjacent Del Mar Canning Company. The spur was extant as late as 1962 and was likely removed in the early 1970s.

Monterey Fish Products outlasted many of its rivals, but its small size likely contributed to its quick decline in the early 1950s. By 1953, the company closed and the warehouse was abandoned. Later in the decade, an auto body repair and spray painting show opened within the warehouse, making it one of the first former cannery structures to be repurposed for retail use. The reduction plant itself was sold to a rug cleaner after sitting vacant for a number of years. It may have burned down along with the Sea Pride Packing cannery in November 1980. If not, it was likely demolished in the mid-1990s during the Monterey Bay Aquarium's massive upgrade project of its south wing.

Street Address, Geo-Coordinates & Current Status:
799, 802 Cannery Row
36.614˚N, 121.899˚ W

Today, the former warehouse survives and is now home to Mackerel Jack's Trading Company, with office space reserved upstairs. The reduction plant itself, however, has been demolished and its site is now occupied by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Outer Bay exhibit.

Citations & Credits:
  • Architectural Resources Group and Architects, Planners & Conservators, Inc. "San Carlos Park". Primary Record. State of California – The Resources Agency. Department of Parks and Recreation. In Final Cannery Row Cultural Resources Survey Report Document, Monterey, CA, 2001.
  • Thomas, Tim. The Abalone King of Monterey: "Pop" Ernest Doelter, Pioneering Japanese Fisherman and the Culinary Classic that Saved an Industry. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2014.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Cannery Row: Carmel Canning Company

Carmel Canning Company in the middle of Cannery Row, 1940s.
The Carmel Canning Company was somewhat unusual among the packing houses of Cannery Row in Monterey due to the fact that one of its warehouses was located south of the primary canning facility. Founded in January 1920 by Theodore H. Dean and his two sons, Ted E. and Marshall A., the cannery led a stereotypical existence throughout much of the mid-twentieth century, slowly being upgraded and expanded throughout the 1920s as revenue and demand increased. A gas explosion in 1946 followed by a disasterous fire on October 21, 1948, severely damaged the cannery complex, but it was rebuilt and outlasted most of its neighbors. In the 1940s, a reduction plant was partitioned off within the cannery, which was expanded to cover the entire jetty it occupied across from Hoffman Avenue.

Carmel Canning Company entrance after the 1946 gas explosion. [Historic Images]
The cannery boasted two warehouses along Cannery Row, the older of which sat at the corner of Ocean View and Hoffman Avenues. Built at the same time as the cannery, this structure was two-stories and was connected to the cannery via an elevated conveyor. Behind the warehouse, access was provided directly to the Southern Pacific Railroad's Monterey Branch tracks. A short siding was installed behind the warehouse to patronise the Carmel Canning Company and California Packing Corporation, which maintained an adjacent warehouse. In the 1940s, the siding was replaced with a northbound-exiting spur that ran directly behind the warehouse and along a covered platform. A second conveyor was also added around this time to connect to the primary cannery, with the older conveyor repurposed for use by a reduction plant This spur was still in place in 1962 and likely remained into the late 1970s when the railroad began to remove unused trackage in the area.

The Carmel Canning Company fire, Christmas Eve 1967. [Monterey Fire Department]
The cannery's second warehouse was constructed in the late 1920s. It was a straightforward, two-story rectangular structure covered entirely in corrugated steel. Like most of its neighbors, it boasted a decorated false-front at the roof-line, although the style was very simplistic. Since the warehouse could not use an elevated conveyor, it had two rather unusual features for local canneries: on one side of the structure the warehouse had a large loading dock to deliver and ship goods from, while on the street side a second-story hoist was installed allowing goods to be lifted directly into the warehouse from vehicles.

Carmel Canning Company fire, Christmas Eve 1967. [Monterey Fire Department]
View of Carmel Canning Company, Christmas Eve 1967.
[Monterey County Herald]
The Carmel Canning Company closed in 1962 when Ben Senderman retired and sold the complex to local investors. The packing house burned to the ground on Christmas Eve 1967, severely damaging the older warehouse at the same time. At some point in the late 1980s, the site of the cannery was cleared and El Torito Mexican Restaurant was built in its place. The older warehouse was rebuilt in 1971 as a three-story commercial complex under the architectural firm of Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons. In the conversion process, most of the original structure was demolished, although the foundations remain as the base for the current structure. The older warehouse avoided the fire and continued to be used as a storage facility until it was purchased by Nichols Plumbing in the mid-1970s. It remains the only relatively untampered warehouse left on Cannery Row.

Street Address, Geo-Coordinates & Current Status:
Cannery Row Antique Mall, the former Carmel Canning Co.
warehouse #2. [Linda Hartong]
Cannery and Old Warehouse: 584-585 Cannery Row
New Warehouse: 471 Wave Street
36.614˚N, 121.899˚ W

Today, the scattered remains of the Carmel Canning Company can be found in three locations along Cannery Row and Wave Street. The cannery site itself is occupied by El Torito. The older warehouse structure now hosts Bay Bikes and office space. Meanwhile, the surviving warehouse on Wave Street has been home of the Cannery Row Antique Mall since June 1995, and has been only slightly modified since it ceased use as a packing house warehouse in 1962.

Citations & Credits:
  • Architectural Resources Group and Architects, Planners & Conservators, Inc. "San Carlos Park". Primary Record. State of California – The Resources Agency. Department of Parks and Recreation. In Final Cannery Row Cultural Resources Survey Report Document, Monterey, CA, 2001.
  • Hemp, Michael Kenneth. Cannery Row: The History of John Steinbeck's Old Ocean View Avenue. History Company, 2002.
  • Stevens, Dorothy Dean. Dancing Through Life On the Monterey Peninsula and Beyond: The Memoirs of Dorothy Dean Stevens. New York: iUniverse, 2009.
  • Ventimiglia, Mark. Images of America: Monterey Fire Department. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2012.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Cannery Row: Sea Pride Packing Corporation

Tsunetaro Oda, co-owner
of Sea Pride Packing.
[Larry Oda family]
Of all the sardine-packing plants on Cannery Row, only the Sea Pride Packing Corporation was entirely owned and operated by Japanese-Americans, although a front company was eventually created to mask its ownership. For the first eight years of its existence, the Great Western Sardine Company operated just south of the Hovden cannery. It operated via a partnership between local Japanese fishermen K. Niino, Tsunetaro Oda. H.C. Suzukawa, and J.N Oda. On December 17, 1925, the company renamed itself Sea Pride under the presidency of Harry A. Irving to protect the identifies of the Japanese backers who were no longer legally allowed to own the company. Irving was also the president of the California Sardine Institute, which increased the visibility of Sea Pride. The company focused more on specialty products compared to its competition, with some of their top products being abalone and whale, as well as boneless filleted and kippered sardines, tuna, and mackerel. They were also one of the first local canneries to focus on reduction, turning discarded fish parts into powder for use as fertilizer and animal feed.

Like most of the businesses on Cannery Row, a fire severely damaged Sea Pride in July 1926 and a second fire leveled the facility in 1930, but it was rebuild and continued operating. During the rebuild, a two-story warehouse was erected across the street from the cannery for storage and access to the Southern Pacific Railroad's Monterey Branch tracks. Like many structures on cannery row, the warehouse was built with a tall street-front wood-panelled facade with a decorated rooftop, although the Sea Pride warehouse is fairly basic in comparison to its neighbors. An elevated conveyor ran between the cannery building and the warehouse to transport finished goods for storage and loading onto waiting trains. Behind the warehouse, a southbound-exiting spur ran parallel to the branch line tracks to cater to the cannery. This spur was in place before 1926 and the erection of the warehouse, which means crews originally had to shuttle goods across Ocean View Avenue to load them on the tracks. This spur was still in place in 1962, the date of the last Sanborn map of the area. This last map shows the presence of a short wooden platform behind the adjacent Hovden warehouse, but no similar platform appears behind the Sea Pride structure. The current structure does not have any evidence of a platform, suggesting that none existed and goods were directly loaded onto the trains from the ground using forklifts and other apparatus.

A view of the Sea Pride Packing Corp facility, 1939. Photograph by Ted McKay. [Pat Hathaway]
Sea Pride Packing Corporation, c. 1940. [Larry Oda]
Sea Pride was sold to the New York-based Atlantic Coast Fisheries on December 22, 1945 and they continued to operate the packing plant until at least 1951, although when it finally closed is uncertain. By 1962, the cannery and warehouse are simply listed as "Cannery Row Properties" and are vacant. In November 1980, the abandoned cannery burned to the ground like so many before it and its remains were removed. However, the warehouse between Ocean View Avenue and the tracks survived and remains on the site today as a commercial space.

Street Address, Geo-Coordinates & Current Status:
807-808 Cannery Row
36.617˚N, 121.902˚ W

The Sea Pride Canning Packing Corporation warehouse is now branded as the Cannery Row Trading Company, although its current tenants are unknown to this historian. The site of the cannery itself is now occupied by the south wing of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and is a completely new construction, the cannery having burned a few months prior to the aquarium's opening.

Citations & Credits:
  • Architectural Resources Group and Architects, Planners & Conservators, Inc. "San Carlos Park". Primary Record. State of California – The Resources Agency. Department of Parks and Recreation. In Final Cannery Row Cultural Resources Survey Report Document, Monterey, CA, 2001.
  • Hemp, Michael Kenneth. Cannery Row: The History of John Steinbeck's Old Ocean View Avenue. History Company, 2002.
  • Thomas, Tim. The Abalone King of Monterey: "Pop" Ernest Doelter, Pioneering Japanese Fisherman and the Culinary Classic that Saved an Industry. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2014.
  • Thomas, Tim. Images of America: The Japanese on the Monterey Peninsula. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2011.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Press Release: New Santa Cruz Trains Book Available Now!

New Santa Cruz Trains Book Makes History Come Alive
Link to Book: 

December 1, 2016
Santa Cruz, CA

Cover: Santa Cruz Trains: Reflections on the Mountain Route
Permission by author to use image for journalistic purposes.
Nearly two years after publishing his first book Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains, local historian Derek R. Whaley has released a new, 64-page pictorial history entitled Santa Cruz Trains: Reflections on the Mountain Route which depicts the railroad route that once operated over the Santa Cruz Mountains. This soft-bound book collects 30 rare, historical photographs and pairs them with 31 quotations derived from local newspapers, letters, magazines, books, and pamphlets to tell stories of joy and wonderment at the engineering feat that was the route through the mountains.

Whaley explains that, "while writing my original book, I came across dozens of quotations noting the picturesque qualities of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It seemed only appropriate to gather these together and pair them with photographs that either went unused in my original book or that I have found since that book's publication."

From the back cover:
"Hills and mountains covered with redwood forests, valleys and ravines in which marvelous ferns grow and wild flowers abound, and through which gurgling brooks flow in crystal streams, give abundant scope for romping and climbing by young America." Oakland Daily Evening Tribune, April 20, 1888 
For three decades, the South Pacific Coast Railroad steamed across the Santa Cruz Mountains between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, California. It passed through what many deemed the most picturesque forests and meadows in the United States. Collected here for the first time are many of these reflections, gathered from newspapers, letters, magazines, books, and pamphlets, describing this wild, wondrous place. These quotations are paired with rare, never-published photographs of the narrow-gauge railroad and the beautiful lands through which it passed.

Derek Ryan Whaley is a local historian and long-time resident of Felton, California. He has been involved in the Santa Cruz historical community since 2010 and is currently researching for his PhD in History at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. His local railroad website is updated weekly with new content relating to local railroad history. 

Derek R. Whaley

Book cover image link:

Book information: Santa Cruz Trains: Reflections on the Mountain Route. By Derek R. Whaley. Santa Cruz, CA: Derek R. Whaley, 2016. ISBN 978-1539762362. 64 pp. $12.99.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Cannery Row: California Packing Corporation

Poorly-colorized postcard showing crews sorting
fish near the Pacific Fish Co. pier, c. 1910s. 
The California Packing Corporation, located just south of Hoffman Avenue on Cannery Row, is the second oldest sardine canning business in Monterey and the oldest on the Row. In 1902, Harry Malpas and Otosuburo Noda founded the Monterey Fishing & Canning Company in the area then known as "New Monterey". Despite generous funding by local Japanese fishing families, Malpas faltered early in his pursuits and was never able to compete with the more-successful F. E. Booth company located near the wharf. In August 1908, Malpas closed his cannery and the seaside refinery began its long transient life. James Madison and Joseph Nichols took over the operation and replaced virtually everything there, bringing it to then-modern standards and rebranding the operation as the Pacific Fish Company, Inc. Unlike its predecessor, the Pacific Fish Company was able to compete well with Booth and the operators convinced many of the local fishermen to deal with them on equal footing. They also used Japanese and Italian labour, as well as the new lampara net, on their fishing vessels, which greatly increased their output. To support the cannery, it even built a short pier to make deliveries to the facility easier. By the mid-1920s, Pacific Fish was one of the most successful canneries in Monterey.

Pacific Fish Company cannery, 1909. [Monterey's Waterfront]
Fish processing was hands-on in 1909, when this photograph
was taken in the Pac-Fish plant. [Monterey's Waterfront]
It was under their control that railroad access was extended to the cannery. Pac-Fish build a mid-sized, two-story warehouse across from their seaside cannery in the late 1910s. It was connected to the cannery by an elevated conveyor, like many of the canneries used to transport finished products over Ocean View Avenue. Southern Pacific Railroad first build a siding that accessed this plant and the adjacent Carmel Canning Company warehouse in the early 1920s. An angled, wooden platform was built behind the warehouse to access the tracks and make loading easier.

Canning label for Del Monte-brand California sardines, packed by Pacific Fish Co., c. 1920s.
Women working the line at CalPak, 1949.
[Pat Hathaway – Monterey's Waterfront]
In 1926, the California Packing Corporation (known today as Del Monte Foods, Inc.), headquartered in San Diego, purchased the entire operation and added it to its roster of dozens of packing plants located across California and beyond. By that point, Pac-Fish had already done extensive upgrades to the facility, merging structures seamlessly together into one massive complex. CalPak further upgraded the buildings and expanded the warehouse substantially in 1938. Two additional warehouses were added to the complex beside the old warehouse, and the railroad tracks were realigned. A dedicate northward-exiting spur ran behind all three warehouses, with a long wooden platform flanking the length of it. The southernmost warehouse had its own elevated conveyor that linked to a reduction plant located across the road. This reduction plant, as well as a second canning house and a chemical laboratory, were added to increase efficiency and keep production consistent with the newer, more modernised neighbours. John Steinbeck's friend, Edward "Doc" Ricketts, sometimes worked in this lab on commission.

Street scene outside the California Packing Corporation plant (at right), c. 1930s. [Pat Hathaway – Fine Art America]
The vacant California Packing Corporation cannery, 1966. [Pat Hathaway]
This cannery, the first opened on the Row, was also one of the last to close. Although the fishing industry had largely collapsed in the late 1940s, the reputation and innovations of CalPak allowed it to survive for almost 15 more years. A fire on October 21, 1948, scorched the northern half of the cannery, but the bulk of the facility survived and the damaged parts were repaired or rebuilt (meanwhile, the adjacent Carmel Canning Company was burned to the ground). The cannery only shut its doors in April 1962 and CalPak immediately sold everything it could to a Puerto Rican tuna company. Meanwhile, the old cannery buildings deteriorated. Although they survived the fires that destroyed the buildings to the south, the entire complex burned down on January 26, 1973, leaving nothing behind but foundations and a few buried tanks.

The California Packing Corporation fire of January 1973. [Pat Hathaway]

Street Address, Geo-Coordinates & Current Status:
507, 570 Cannery Row
36.614˚N, 121.899˚ W

Today, nothing is left of the California Packing Corporation warehouse or cannery. The warehouse site is now occupied by the northern end of the long parking lot on the west side of the Row south of El Torito. The ruins on the property just south of the Mexican Restaurant are those of the California Packing Corporation.

Citations & Credits:
  • Architectural Resources Group and Architects, Planners & Conservators, Inc. "San Carlos Park". Primary Record. State of California – The Resources Agency. Department of Parks and Recreation. In Final Cannery Row Cultural Resources Survey Report Document, Monterey, CA, 2001.
  • Thomas, Tim, and Dennis Copeland. Images of America: Monterey's Waterfront. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
  • Ventimiglia, Mike. Images of America: Monterey Fire Department. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cannery Row: Del Mar Canning Company

The large site to the south of Edward "Doc" Rickett's lab on Cannery Row has a long and perilous history. Originally a simple Chinese housing area associated with the better-known adjacent McAbee Beach, in 1916 the Bayside Fish & Flour Company built a small reduction plant at the site. This Japanese-run company operated throughout World War I and well into the 1920s before it was purchased in 1927 by the Cypress Canning Company. Within a year, however, it was transferred to Edward David, who founded the Del Mar Canning Company. David made a few additions to his cannery over the next decade, but disaster haunted the site and first struck on November 24, 1936, when the entire complex burned to the ground. Other casualties included the Sardine Products Company cannery, two warehouses, the Cypress Fisheries reduction plant, and Doc Rickett's lab. Damage was estimated at $750,000 and firefighters were called from all over the Monterey Peninsula to help suppress it. It was the biggest fire since the Associated Oil Pier fire in 1924.

Del Mar Canning Company fire of 1936. [Monterey Fire Department]
Left with cinders, ruins, and a large vacant property, David rebuilt and expanded his operation to both sides of the street. He built a modern cannery along the waterfront that rivaled Hovden in size. Composed of a primary cannery building, an adjacent warehouse, and a second warehouse across the street connected by an elevated conveyor, this facility was cutting edge. A late addition was a two-story, largely-detached reduction plant appended to the southern warehouse. The cannery, primary warehouse, and reduction plant all featured Spanish-style roofs and faux-stucco walls, which were plastered atop corrugated steel and simple wood frames. It created an impressive street-front, even if it largely resembled the other nearby buildings in style.

Del Mar Canning Company, aerial view, 1937.
Across the street, a less-picturesque two-story warehouse was erected between Ocean View Avenue and the Southern Pacific Railroad's Monterey Branch right-of-way. A long, southward-exiting spur had been installed behind the warehouse site since at least 1926 when the Bayside Cannery still owned the site. By the 1930s, the Del Mar Cannery shared the spur with the adjacent Monterey Canning Company. It accessed the track via a long loading platform that ran the length of the structure. Since the entire complex was later destroyed, no remnant of this platform survives, and even the right-of-way for the spur has since been built over.

Del Mar Canning Company, 1945. [Monterey Public Library]
The depletion of the sardine breeding grounds after World War II led David to sell the Del Mar Cannery in 1947 to Westgate-Sun Harbor Canning Company, which continued the operation until December 8, 1951, when a second fire seriously damaged the complex again. The two warehouses were destroyed, with fire running down the elevated access-way that connected them, expediting the process. Firefighters managed to successfully defend the three tanks of fish oil stored nearby, saving the primary cannery and the reduction plant, as well as protecting other nearby buildings. $1.8 million in damages was accrued from this fire, and another fire in 1952 further damaged the remaining structures of the complex, leading to the demolition of the cannery itself. By 1962, the cannery site was entirely vacant except for the reduction plant, which sat idle.

Westgate-Sun Harbor Canning Company warehouses burning down, 1951. [Monterey Fire Department]
The small, detached plant was eventually purchased and repaired by new owners. Over the years, the building was upgraded and its façade was restored to its original stucco design, with significant alterations. The interior was gutted to make room for a restaurant. In the late-1990s, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. took over operations of the location and continues to operate a restaurant in the former cannery structure today. No other trace of this cannery survives and recent developments have erased any archaeological remains that had sat at the vacant sites for so many decades.

Street Address, Geo-Coordinates & Current Status:
720, 750, 756 Cannery Row
36.617˚N, 901˚ W

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company with the InterContinental Hotel beside it.
The only structure that survives of the Del Mar Canning Company is the reduction plant that is now the site of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. The adjacent InterContinental The Clement Hotel was built in the early 2000s and is situated atop the site of the cannery itself, which was demolished after the 1952 fire. Across the street atop the site of the two warehouses destroyed in the 1951 fire is an extension of the InterContinental Hotel, accessible from the main hotel via a newly-constructed second-floor overwalk. The hotel hosts a number of businesses on its ground floor including Nestle Toll House Café, the Monterey Mirror Maze, the Scheid Vineyards Wine Lounge, the Carmel Yacht Club, Z Folio Gallery, Sunglass Hut, California Classics, and the Shen Design Studio.

Citations & Credits:
  • Adkins, Jan Batiste. Images of America: African Americans of Monterey County. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2015.
  • Architectural Resources Group and Architects, Planners & Conservators, Inc. "San Carlos Park". Primary Record. State of California – The Resources Agency. Department of Parks and Recreation. In Final Cannery Row Cultural Resources Survey Report Document, Monterey, CA, 2001.
  • Ventimiglia, Mike. Images of America: Monterey Fire Department. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Curiosities: The Casa del Rey Hotel & Apartments

When the Southern Pacific Railroad purchased the Santa Cruz Railroad in 1881, activity on the Santa Cruz main beach was still pretty slim. But the coming of the railroad brought in thousands of passengers, especially once the more direct route over the mountains was leased in 1887. Suddenly, the potential for Santa Cruz to become a tourist destination was assured. Fred W. Swanton, an early investor in the city, jumped at the opportunity by building a huge casino and tent city complete on the beach in 1904. When tragedy struck and destroyed it, he rebuilt like crazy, employing William Henry Weeks to build a new Casino, Plunge Natatorium, and Cottage City to replace what was lost. By 1907, all three were thriving, but things were quickly changing in the tourist market.

The multi-colored Cottage City built across from the Casino, 1907. [Vaughn's Summaries]
By 1910, the large, sprawling Cottage City was falling behind modern trends. Because of the advent of the automobile, it was becoming more fashionable to visit summer locales for shorter periods of time than before. People had things to do—they could no longer waste away the summer months relaxing in Santa Cruz. And the Cottage City was built to cater to just such an audience. Something had to change and Swanton knew the solution.

Construction on the Casa del Rey Hotel, early 1911. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The remnant Cottage City tucked behind the shadow of the Casa del Rey.
As his last major action as company financier, Swanton decided in 1910 to build a massive hotel complex he christened CASA DEL REY (House of the King). It was built via the architectural prowess of George Applegarth directly across from the Casino and was one of the most state-of-the-art structures in Santa Cruz County. Roughly half of the cottage city was relocated or dismantled to make room for the three-story colossal, fire-proof structure. The building was done in the most spectacular Spanish-revival style, with Pueblo-style vigas and a brilliant triple-arched bridge that crossed over street and railroad track to the Casino. Ornamental columns decorated the main entrance and a terra cotta trim along the roofline completed the look of the bastion. The final building was 335 feet by 135 feet (100,000 square feet total) that fronted Cliff Street. it included 300 rooms, 200 baths, two Italian gardens, private telephones in each room, guest elevators, rich furniture and tapestries, and a grand lobby. Outside beside the remnant Cottage City was a high-class restaurant, a tennis court, gardens, and a bandstand. The hotel also had direct railroad and streetcar service and operated a private golf course on the modern-day site of Pogonip park. It was a palace for a royal court and it made the Sea Beach Hotel two blocks away on Main Street look like a thing of the past. The fire that destroyed it the next year confirmed the dominance of the Casa del Rey on the beachfront.

The Casa del Rey Hotel soon after opening. Postcard dated July 29, 1911. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The Casa del Rey opened for business on May 1, 1911, although the grand opening celebrations were reserved for June 3. The final bill for the hotel was $500,000 (approx. $12.25 million in today's money) and the hotel was completely book that summer. Fireworks and music accompanied the grand opening. Swanton was an excellent promotions manager, if nothing else, and only months after the new hotel opened, the Southern Pacific Railroad's Sunset Magazine published the following advertising the new hostelry's merits:
Advertisement, 1911.
"You turn a sudden corner, and see it looming ahead like a long battleship painted for times of peace, and berthed in the drydock of this sheltered swale—a battleship with ports from stem to stern for the black out thrust snouts of her gunnage; at second glance, it is a high rampart with a single merlon of three loopholes—an armed and double-arched wall for defense; descending, it proves to be what it looks—a fortification, the last in a chain of such that reaches from San Diego to the Golden Gate. For here, in the mountain-and-sea-town of Santa Cruz, and built so as to block the narrow way between roadstead and forest-slope, is another of those citadels equipped against the lack of everything necessary, desirable, convenient and entertaining. This is the Casa del Rey—and the ink is scarcely dry on the first pages of its muster-roll. 
"It is new—so new that the ivy is only just getting a first grasp on rough bright walls where, by the simple alchemy of paint, the sun (even on the grayest of sea-days) seems constantly to be striking. But for all its newness you have an instinctive feeling of romance toward this red-tiled building of Spanish design. No matter from which part of the state you hail, it will suggest some bell-walled mission, or some story of early days. And you think it would be the most natural thing in the world to see come out through its wide entrance a brown-cowled Brother of the White Cord 
"Casa del Rey Lobby, Santa Cruz, Cal." – postcard, 1930s. 
"You enter "the garden-room"—long and wide and high; glass-walled on two sides; built up, across a third, with a massive deep-throated fireplace. This is the room of the double garden. For turning right or left one sees—by a purpose of the builders that is inspirational—a patio, full of yellow light, musical with the tinkle of a fountain, splashed with the purples and crimsons of luxuriant bloom. 
One of the double gardens and the "garden-room" of the Casa del Rey, 1911. [Sunset Magazine]
"There are rooms above—two rectangles of them. The outer ones look upon mountains, town and sea. In these one sleeps under the guns, with the roar of the breakers booming against the windows and mingling with the joyous piping of children and early bathers. There is a second rectangle that commands the patios, and to these (all garden-rooms in themselves) the beat of the surf comes only dully, and voices not at all. But the great "garden-room" will charm the guests from them all. Here, on sunny days, is grateful coolness, the restful play of water after the boom of the sea, and green growth. When the fog is in, or a storm sweeps down from Loma Prieta, here is warmth, and bloom and brightness in the patios. And in the huge grate is springing the scarlet flowers of a fire.
"Gardens and Putting Green, Casa del Rey Hotel, Santa Cruz, Calif. – 6 miles from The Big Trees" – postcard, c. 1930s
"But the Casa del Rey is a house of double-gardens in a larger sense. For Santa Cruz, with a temperature that varies little from season to season, opens her doors one way against the mountains, and the other way into the sea. Thus, in the same hour, she offers all the pleasures of beach and bay as well as those that can be found in torrent-filled gorge and forest-covered steeps. 
"What a recreation-place for those families that are divided in their tastes respecting the outdoors! As well as for those other families who like variety during a vacation however long or limited! Turn left, and you tread on the foam-ruffled skirts of the sea; turn right, and you step on the fern-embroidered edge of the forest. 
"Arch Connecting Casino and Casa Del Rey Hotel, Santa Cruz, Calif." – postcard, c. 1915
"Turn left! A triple-arched bridge leads away from the "garden-room" to the Casino, the ocean-breezes, the sand and the deep salt. The Casino is a mammoth playhouse, Arabic in its gay towers and coloring, and with an arcaded front to the water. In "winter" you breakfast in "the garden-room" of the Casa, before a crackling blaze; but in summer you cross by bridge to a grill that commands the bay. Here within sound of surf one may eat, drink and be merry. There is a glassed-in room for those diners who prefer indoors; an open balcony for those who like the wind fluttering in their sleeves. There is a "sun-room" to rest in, high over the gay beach; there is a polished floor and a tireless band for the hours after dinner. 
"Dining, dancing, music, tennis, wading, bathing, boating, fishing, riding, rambling paths that follow the cliffs, resting in the warm sand—these, and more, are the pleasures offered at the end of the high arched bridge.
"Face right! With the sea glimmering at your back; with the Casa del Rey and its flanking "cottage city" out of sight in the sheltered hollow; with scarce a gilded cupola of the Casino showing, there opens a fresh world of delight. For you pass from the riot of color, gay laughter and splashing—to the heart of a redwood forest! 
"Other sea-towns of the West have mountains behind them. Are they such mountains as these?—opal in the near distance; a crisp green close at hand, where a wilderness of Christmas trees, giants and pigmies, life themselves tremulous with life. 
A streetcar and early automobiles parked outside the Casa del Rey, late 1910s.
"You make your "next-day" plans at night, looking out from under the bannered wall of Casa del Rey. It is a moonlight night, or, better still, there are only the stars. Left, over the oriental silhouette of the Casino, you can see the lights of a far-off passing steamer; right, looking mountainward, the yellow lights among the redwoods that are the beacons of camps on distant cañon-sides. Beyond the seaboard the ship's-bell is striking; from the mountain sound the bells of a "freighter" that is coming down from the long divide.
"Which way, at sun-up, will you go? Will you answer to the call of the ocean—that one voice ceaselessly booming? Will you go where a pipe-organ, keyed by the wind and choired by the birds, forever plays in the lofty roof of the forest? 
"The House of the Double Garden—in a double sense! It is gardened within, to right and left by its patios: it is gardened to right and left without. On one hand is the garden of the mountains, cool, mysterious, fragrantly inviting; on the other is the doubly mysterious, mist-brushed, changeful garden of the sea."
Ford Model Ts of all shapes and sizes parked outside the Casa del Rey, 1920s. [Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk]
"Hotel Casa del Rey at the Beach, Santa Cruz, California; one of the well-known
resort hotels of the Pacific Coast." – postcard, late 1940s. [CardCow]
Over the subsequent decades, much changed at the Casa del Rey, but much stayed the same, as well. The Santa Cruz Beach Company went bankrupt because of the hotel project and the entire Boardwalk complex was taken over by the city briefly before the Santa Cruz Seaside Company was founded in December 1915 to manage day-to-day operations. They struggled to make a profit until the waning years of the Great Depression finally brought hesitant vacationers back to the Central Coast, but the hotel was always one of its more successful ventures.

"Casa del Rey Apts, Santa Cruz Cal." – postcard, c. 1930. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Over the decades, the Seaside Company continued to expand the facility. The paving of Glenwood Highway in 1921 and then Beach Street in 1928 meant that more people could directly access the Boardwalk at their leisure. In response, the Seaside Company built in 1926, only a block away from the hotel, the Casa del Rey Apartments under the direction of architect William C. Hays. This was another Spanish-revival-style structure with a more intimate theme. Unlike the main hotel, the forty multi-level apartments were intended for visitors who wished to remain on the seaside a bit longer. It also included ocean-view luxury suites that were impossible to include at the larger hotel. Much like the Casa del Rey, these apartments featured two interior courtyards with gardens accessible only to guests.

"The Casa Del Rey Hotel, 300 modern rooms of hospitality located in a Spanish garden at the beach in
Santa Cruz, California" – postcard, c. 1928. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Behind the main hotel, the Spanish Gardens opened up on March 31, 1928. Another half of the remnant Cottage City was demolished to make room for this expansion, but the cottages were quickly losing their appeal in the age of the automobile. Besides the plants and trees, a glass solarium and playground were added to the gardens, as well as a Spanish and French café and tea pavilion. In February 1932, management of the hotels, as well as the Palomar and St. George in downtown, were merged to make organizing local events easier to manage. The new proprietors, J. Vance, Gifford L Troyer, and W. C. Troyer, also leased the Bay Room ball room of the Casino and operated them as a year-round conference center and entertainment venue.

"Guests lounge in the quiet seclusion of Hotel Casa Del Rey's celebrated Spanish gardens. Adjoining the gardens are the Hotel's croquet and championship tennis courts, which are maintained for the added pleasure of guests." – Postcard, c. 1950.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
When the United States entered World War II, the Casa del Rey was leased to the military for use as a naval hospital, while the adjacent plunge was turned into a physical therapy center during certain times of the day. Even the apartments were given over to the military, housing 250 men by the end of the war. At the same time, permanent residents began moving into the apartments, mostly local businessmen working in some capacity for the Seaside Company.

"Overlooking the blue Pacific in the sunny vacation land of Santa Cruz, California"
– Casa del Rey Hotel and Casino postcard, late 1940s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
"Located at the Beac, Santa Cruz, California" – postcard, late 1940s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The first Suntan Special returning after World War II had ended, 1947. The Casa del Rey Apartments are at left, and
in the distance one can see the bridge between the Casino and the Casa del Rey Hotel. [Fred Stoes]
In many ways, the war ruined both the hotel and apartments as popular tourist hostelries. The apartments went first, being purchased in 1944 by George Holland where it began to be run as an up-scale tenant-style apartment complex. A later owner, Dr. Allegrini, renamed them the La Bahia Apartments in 1964, who turned them into short-term lease apartments, although many of the previous tenants remained in select rooms. Under the management of Harry Stutz, La Bahia suffered and fell into a rapid decline, forcing the Santa Cruz Seaside Company to buy back the former hotel in 1983. Since then, it has primarily served as UCSC student housing and as a home to seasonal work-and-travel employees. Plans to upgrade, expand, or replace the building have been a constant but nothing has been done to revitalize this increasingly decaying representative of the Spanish-revival style.

La Bahia Apartments building, 2015. [Apostolis Giontzis]
Demolition of the Casa del Rey, 1989. [Pinterest]
The main hotel suffered greatly in the aftermath of World War II and it never entirely recovered. More of the cottage city was removed in 1942 to make room for parking. In 1952, the Seaside Company demolished the Spanish arch bridge over the road and tracks as the first in a series of improvements to the Casino structure. A restaurant workers strike in 1953 helped kill the conference trade briefly, and then the great Santa Cruz flood of 1955 damaged the local economy for many years as businesses fought to recover. The beautiful forest-speckled river-frontage of the Boardwalk was replaced with a dry flat area to the south surrounded by high river dike walls to protect from future floods. Property values plummeted in the beach area and the remaining cottages were shoved into a corner of the Casa del Rey property and their former locations and the gardens were replaced with five acres of parking lots. Although the Boardwalk itself remained seasonally popular, people no longer wished to stay in the increasingly violent area overnight. By the 1970s, the hotel had become a retirement home, but the Seaside Company was phasing out its last tenants in 1989 when the Loma Prieta Earthquake permanently crippled the structure. Although built to withstand all sorts of common building fires, the Casa del Rey had no defense against earthquakes and had been fortunate to survive 78 years without encountering one. But the damage was done and the Seaside Company was forced to demolish the ageing hotel soon afterwards.

The Casa del Rey Hotel after the Loma Prieta Earthquake collapsed a main wall, November 1989. [Vester Dick]
The history of the Casa del Rey Hotel is one fraught with unforeseen disaster. Its building in 1911 bankrupted Swanton and led to the transfer of his company to the Seaside Company in 1915. The hotel survived and even thrived through the 1920s and 1930s, but the war effort stretched its capacities and the flood of 1955 ruined many of its merits. Both it and its apartments passed through various owners and proprietors over the decades but neither ever thrived again. The hotel, succumbing to structural misfortune, disappeared from history in 1989, its only remnants being two large palm trees that once flanked the triple-arches over Beach Street. La Bahia survives, for now, but its future remains uncertain as it slowly rots away, lost to the politiking of the city and state.

Citations & Credits: