Even as the dreams of the San Lorenzo Railroad were dashed by years of litigation, the Santa Cruz Rail Road Hotel opened in January 1872 at the corner of Cooper and Front Streets in downtown Santa Cruz. Owned by Christopher Patten under lease from Dan Wente, the two-story Rail Road Hotel began advertising in local newspapers the merits and commutability of the railroad a full four years before any route to San José was available. Advertisements for the hotel focused more on meals than lodging, but both were relatively affordable for the time. Lodging and board for a week cost only $5.00 per person (25¢ more if you want a bed), while meals were a quarter each. Patten's gamble did not seem to pay off. Advertisements for the complex disappeared after April 1872. When the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad finally did pass through town in 1875, the company was forced to switch to horse-drawn rail cars to get the lumber to the Railroad Wharf, a tactic that proved unsustainable. A tunnel was bored under Mission Hill and the tracks were rerouted around downtown, five blocks away from Patten's hotel. Patten died in 1893, although his wife, Maria Natalia Dodero, lived until 1922.
|A lithograph sketch of the Germania Hotel as it appeared in the late 1870s. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]|
|Santa Cruz Railroad Exchange Hotel, 1917. [Sanborn]|
|Newspaper advertisement for the|
Depot Hotel, 1935. [SC Evening News]
|Do-Drop-In newspaper advertisement, 1953. [SC Sentinel]|
|Railroad Hotel on Beach Street across|
from the Watsonville Depot, 1902.
|Watsonville Railroad Exchange Hotel, c. 1900. [Adi Zehner]|
|Railroad Exchange Hotel on Walker|
Street, 1902. [Sanborn]
|George Strazicich, Sr., c. 1880.|
There were other "railroad" hotels that littered the Santa Cruz Mountains from Boulder Creek to San Juan Bautista. Very little is known about them and many were probably closer to bed and breakfasts in large private homes than anything resembling purpose-built hotels. At least one such structure was on Zayante Schoolhouse Road at Eccles Station and still exists today as a private home. Most of these were built between 1890 and 1910, the boom years of the mountain tourism industry, and most were closed or abandoned in the 1920s as automobiles made traveling a more personalised, shorter endeavor. Railroad hotels were once a major feature of any large-scale railroading enterprise, but, like the rest of the passenger railroading industry, they quickly collapsed as the Great Depression, World War II, and the rise of the automobile made them irrelevant.
Citations & Credits:
- Koch, Margaret. "The Santa Cruz Hotel: Newest Member of the 100 Year Club". SC Sentinel, 11 September 1977, 25:1-8.
- History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California. Chicago: San José Clarke Publishing, 1925.
- Ninkovich, Thomas (ed.). The Slav Community of Watsonville, California: As reported in old newspapers (1881-1920). Watsonville, CA: Reunion Research, 2014.
- Santa Cruz Evening News, 1927 – 1936.
- Santa Cruz Sentinel, Weekly Sentinel, and Evening Sentinel, 1872 – 1992.
- Siebenthal, Denise. "Local man buys Santa Cruz Hotel restaurants". SC Sentinel, 16 October 1983, 22:1-4.