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Friday, January 16, 2015

Manresa & Robroy

Manresa on a 1914 United State Geological Survey map.
In 1894, the College of Santa Clara opened along a stretch of Monterey Bay coastline a Catholic retreat called Villa Manresa. The name was a reference to Manresa, Spain, where Saint Ignatius of Loyola recovered from wounds received at the Battle of Pampeluna. While recovering there, he first conceived of the ideas that formed the backbone of his Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order). For the next thirty years, Villa Manresa was an isolated location, accessible only via San Andreas Road and the Southern Pacific railroad.

The railroad, which passed directly through the property on its branch between Santa Cruz and Watsonville, first established a stop at Manresa around 1907. It was located above the beach and just south of the Manresa Beach railroad bridge. The station had no services, no station structure or platform; it only had a sign. The stop was 90.4 miles from San Francisco via the Mayfield Cut-off, 11.5 miles from Santa Cruz, and 8.6 miles to Pajaro Junction. It never had regularly-scheduled passenger service but was retained only as a flag-stop.

Manresa did, however, have a 129-foot-long spur which was installed around 1907. What it was used for the first thirteen years of its existence is unknown, but beginning in 1920 it was used by the Ferro Products Company to ship out its products. The company mined iron oxide from the sands nearby and built a refinery beside Villa Manresa. The spur beside the factory was extended to 279 feet in 1912 and was extended again to an unknown length in 1920. A platform was also installed in 1912. How long Ferro Products operated at Manresa is unknown; the company was reorganized in 1921 and may have abandoned the site soon afterwards. The last mention of the facility at Manresa is in March 1923.

The Manresa property was divided in two in 1925 and the bulk of it was sold to David W. Batchelor who turned it into his Rob Roy resort and residential subdivision. Batchelor was Scottish and wanted to name the community after the famous Highland outlaw Rob Roy; the street names also were all Scottish in nature. The 270-acre property was extensive and included a private beach, a bath house, a deer park, a dance pavilion, bridle paths, hiking trails, and seasonal cottages, in addition to permanent residential homes. The local Hill School relocated to Rob Roy in 1932, marking the community's transition from a resort into residential area. The nearby railroad stop was renamed Robroy—all one word—in 1926 to reflect the change in ownership. Passenger service to the subdivision seems to have never have taken off and it ended by the early 1930s. The station was removed from Southern Pacific Railroad agency books only in 1940.

The Rob Roy subdivision did not thrive in the Great Depression and was eventually bought out in 1935 by Edward G. Burghard who renamed the community La Selva Beach, a reference to the forests that speckle the hills above the beach. The school became the La Selva Beach School in 1936, merging into the Aptos School District in 1942, and a post office was established for the community many years later in 1952. Railroad service only existed at La Selva Beach until 1938 when passenger service along the entire branch line ceased. The tracks, however, continue to pass through the community even today, rarely used since 2011. The adjacent 21-acre beach became Manresa State Beach in 1948 and is no longer the exclusive purview of the La Selva locals. The site of the station is at the bottom of Margarita Road while the spur stretched from that point to the bottom of Playa Boulevard.

Citations:

  • Clark, Donald. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2007.

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