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]|
|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.|
|The Casa del Rey Hotel soon after opening. Postcard dated July 29, 1911. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]|
"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]
|"Casa del Rey Apts, Santa Cruz Cal." – postcard, c. 1930. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]|
|"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]
|"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]
|La Bahia Apartments building, 2015. [Apostolis Giontzis]|
|Demolition of the Casa del Rey, 1989. [Pinterest]|
|The Casa del Rey Hotel after the Loma Prieta Earthquake collapsed a main wall, November 1989. [Vester Dick]|
Citations & Credits:
- "Administrative Draft". Santa Cruz: City Government Report, 2013.
- Architectural Resources Group (San Francisco). "Appendix C: Historic Resources Technical Report – La Bahia Apartments, Santa Cruz, California." Santa Cruz: City Government Report, 2013.
- Beal, Chandra Moira, and Richard A. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: The Early Years—Never a Dull Moment.
- Gates, Eleanor. "The House of the Double Garden," Sunset Magazine, 27:2 (August 1911), 181-183.