Friday, August 16, 2019

Curiosities: Boulder Creek-Area Resorts

From its earliest years as a community, Boulder Creek and its predecessors—Boulder and Lorenzo—was more of an industrial town than a resort destination. Throughout the five decades that the railroad operated in the community, the driving purpose of the settlement was the lumber industry, and it should come as no surprise that much of the timber in the surrounding hills were logged out, leaving little space or scenery for resorts. Nonetheless, resorts did develop from early on and the town was known to host several hotels throughout these years. Below are just some of the hotels and resorts that operated in the vicinity of Boulder Creek during the period 1884-1934.

Boulder Creek House (1872 – 1933)
The first commercial hotel to open in the vicinity of Boulder Creek was the Boulder Creek House, erected along modern-day Park Avenue near where the public library sits today. The hotel was built by John Alcorn, a native of Indiana who moved to the area in 1865. His wife and a Mrs. Eygler ran the day-to-day operations and the hotel was open year-round, which testifies to its industrial clientele. The Weekly Sentinel stated that the building was "two stories high, with a porch the entire length, from which a flight of stairs leads to the dancing hall above. The lower part is divided into dining room and sleeping apartments, and arrangements for the necessaries and comforts of dwellers and travelers."

Boulder Creek House, c. 1877. Photo by R. E. Wood. [California State University, Chico]
Alcorn soon sold the property to Demicrius Crediford, who turned around and sold it to J. S. Carter in 1874. When the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company was founded the next year, Carter sold the hotel to serve as a boarding house for local lumbermen. It passed to the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1879 and probably remained under their—as well as Southern Pacific Railroad—ownership for nearly thirty years. Several managers were brought on during this time to handle daily operations, including George Denison (1883), Joseph Ball (1886), Samuel D. Morgan, (1894, who briefly renamed the hotel the Morgan House), and George and Albert Denison (1905). During this time, most of the excess property of the hotel was sold to Winfield Scott Rodgers.

J. M. Fuller's Cash Grocery with the Boulder Creek House in the background, c. 1910.
Photo by Cheney Photo Advertising Company. [WorthPoint]
In 1905, Patrick and Fannie Welch purchased the property and it remained in their family for twenty-eight years. In most years, the Welches personally supervised the hotel, but Helen Jeter was brought on to assist in 1913. After Fannie's death, the hotel passed to her son-in-law, Frank Murphy, who leased it to William D. Alexander. Alexander tried to rebrand the hotel the White House in 1924, but the name never took off. Soon afterwards, he tried again by naming it the Alexander House and he opened an Italian restaurant under the name Alec's Boulder Creek House.  Unfortunately, an explosion in the kitchen in the twilight hours of August 14, 1933, quickly turned into an inferno and consumed the entire building except for a few pieces of furniture.

Lorenzo Hotel (1875 – 1897)
Joseph Peery was an entrepreneur and visionary and wanted to create a small city high up the San Lorenzo Valley. He founded the town of Lorenzo in 1875 and built the San Lorenzo Hotel along the main county road as a part of his plan. The two-story hotel was a rather no-nonsense structure composed of roughly twenty guest rooms and a stable. Management was initially given to the Elliott family, but it later passed to James T. Taylor, owner of the Big Tree Hotel in Felton, in 1880. George M. Day took over in 1882 and began selling wine, liquor, and cigars downstairs, profiting from the alcohol ban in nearby Boulder. Management of the hotel proved unstable over the following years, though. In quick succession, the hotel was run by Taylor (1884), the Hartman Brothers (1885), W. G. Randall (1886), and Samuel Hubbs (1887). Some time over the next decade, H. E. Gardner purchased the property and hired H. H. Morrell to manage it. Little else is known from this decade, though, except that the hotel appeared as a casualty of the April 14, 1897 fire that destroyed most of the commercial block of Lorenzo. The town was soon absorbed into Boulder Creek and the hotel was never rebuilt. The hotel was located on State Route 9 near Mountain Street.

Hartman Hotel (1883 – 1897)
Another early hotel and possibly a spin-off of or companion to the Lorenzo Hotel, the Hartman Hotel was located where the Boulder Creek laundromat now sits. Dan Hartman founded the hotel in 1883 and it was run by himself and his brothers. During its years in existence, it hosted several VIPs including Grover Cleveland, Ulysses S. Grant, and an entire circus troupe. Like its neighbor, the Lorenzo Hotel, the Hartman Hotel burned to the ground on April 14, 1897. Dan Hartman sustained minor injuries escaping the inferno.

Rex Hotel (1884 – 1932)
For being one of the oldest standing buildings in Boulder Creek, surprisingly little is known about the Rex Hotel, largely because it has a confused and conflated history with another hotel that was located two buildings over: the Basham House. The current building called the Basham House has historically always been the Rex Hotel. Established as early as 1884 as a bordello, the hotel did not gain any respectability until the early 1920s after Newton Ernest Raymer took over the building. He ran a barber shop and general store on the first floor while renting rooms upstairs and in the back. But Raymer was no angel. The hotel barely survived Prohibition and Raymer was arrested for illegal possession of liquor on at least two occasions. On February 2, 1932, Raymer shot himself in a drunken rage while attempting to murder his wife. It was not the first violent attack by Raymer, but it was his last. The hotel shut down for several years but was eventually purchased by P. Giacosa in March 1937, who undertook a remodeling of the hotel. But then it disappeared from records once again. It was taken over by the Boulder Club, run by Jack and Frances Gaultier, in 1973 and after several years servicing local workers, it became a popular gathering place for Hell's Angels and other biker gangs. Drunken fights became an almost daily occurrence and the business ran afoul of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) several times. In 1990, the club shut down permanently. Three years later, the building was purchased by Wes Felts, who renovated it into a restaurant and opened in October 1993 as the Basham House, mistaking the building with the earlier structure that had stood two buildings to the north. After only a year in business, Felts put the restaurant up for sale where it languished for over a year. At some point since then, it was purchased and renovated and now serves as the home of the Psychic Temple at 13133 Central Avenue.

The Rex Hotel as it appeared in 1990 while hosting the Boulder Club. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
South Pacific Hotel (1886)
As soon as the Felton & Pescadero Railroad came to town in 1885, property speculators came in. And one such speculator was J. W. Billings, who in 1886 erected the South Pacific House on Central Avenue, a clear reference to the new railroad's parent, the South Pacific Coast Railroad. Within months of opening, Billings was adding new rooms and upgrading facilities. However, tragedy struck early in the life of this hotel. On July 30, 1886, just months after opening, a fire ravaged the town and severely damaged the hotel, injuring both J. and his wife in the process. Nothing more is mentioned of this hotel after the fire.

Wildwood Home (1886 – 1932)
The Wildwood Home was another hotel that sprang up in the wake of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad's arrival to Boulder Creek in 1885. Situated at the corner of Lomond and Pine Streets, Wildwood Home was built, owned, and managed by Mrs. L. E. Paschall when it first opened in May 1886. The twenty-room hotel was notable for its creeping vines and ivy that flowed off the second story balcony toward the ground. Management passed through several hands over the years, including to Mrs. Jerome Goerecke (1890) and Mrs. Kenneth Ferguson (1891). Paschall sold the hotel in 1896 to Mrs. M. C. Cumming (née Roundtree) of Fresno, who continued to operate the hotel for several more years. Little is reported on the hotel for the next decade. In 1905, after years of neglect, the hotel was taken over by Julia A. Glenn, who refurbished it completely and added new rooms. She hired Mae Chambers as the manager, who took over in early 1906.

Wildwood Home, sans its iconic vines, c. 1900. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Ownership passed to Mrs. Emma E. Hutchings in the early 1920s and, during this time, several films crews and celebrities stayed at the hotel while filming movies in the vicinity of Big Basin. In 1930, she handed day-to-day management to A. H. Lindsey, his wife, and their three sons, all of Kettleman, California. But the hotel declined while under their care. Hutchings returned in 1932 with plans to either sell or improve the building when a fire struck early in the morning of May 14, 1932. The hotel did not have any guests at the time, owing to the renovation, and there were no injuries, but the building was destroyed outright and never rebuilt.

Alpine House (1890 – c. 1915)
What began life as the Morgan House first opened its doors around 1890 under the ownership of Dr. Sam D. Morgan. The Sentinel describes the hotel in 1894 as "conducted in first-class style, the dining-room and cuisine department being under the able supervision of Mrs. Morgan, whose reputation as a hostess is already well established. The table is supplied with the best the market affords, and everything about the hotel has an air of cleanliness, every detail tending to the comfort of the guests being attended to. Mr. Morgan is considering the enlargement of his hotel, in order to accommodate increasing business." In 1893, L. E. Paschall of Wildwood Home was bought on to manage daily operations at the hotel. When the Alpine House first opened in 1895, it was founded as a separate hotel from the Morgan House, but the two were intricately entwined from the beginning with Sam Morgan in charge of both. As he oversaw the new Alpine House, he hired William Branch to run the Morgan House. Whether the two merged together after 1896 or the Morgan House was demolished is unclear and Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps of the time do not provide clarity, but the Morgan House is never mentioned again by the Sentinel after 1896.

The Alpine House sat prominently at the corner of Central Avenue and Big Basin Way (State Route 236), c. 1900.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
In 1899, Otto Ausman became a partner in the business, but sold his share to a relative, Emma L. Ausman, in 1904. That same year, W. S. G. Todd became the manager, but he was replaced in 1905 by Frederick G. Troy, a nephew of the McAbee Brothers who owned a mill on Two Bar Creek. However, scandal hit Troy in 1907 when he was found allowing a minor to gamble in the hotel. The hotel shut down for the remainder of the year. In 1908, the hotel was purchased by the Koepkes, who installed the final stretch of cement sidewalks in town. All record of the hotel disappears around 1910. It was located across State Route 236 from Johnnie's Supermarket where the Boulder Creek American Gas is today.

Basham House and Baldwin Lodging House (1891 – c. 1920s)
The real Basham House, not to be confused with the former Rex Hotel now called the Basham House, was built around 1891 by William Basham. For the first several years of its existence, it served as a boarding house for seasonal lumbermen. As such, it was rather small, with only eight upstairs rooms for guests, while the downstairs was used as a restaurant and store. Basham soon sold the boarding house to Andrew J. Baldwin and the latter renamed it the Baldwin Boarding House. Baldwin, in turn, sold it or transferred it to his relative, Rachel F. Baldwin, in 1896. She only kept the hotel for a few years, selling it to Lizzie Brickmore in 1902. Brickmore followed suit and the hotel passed to William F. Pierce in 1905. He was responsible for adding the second-story covered veranda and remodeling the boarding house into a proper hotel with twenty guest rooms in 1911. A few years later, Jacob Hartman purchased the hotel and ran it until 1920, when it was sold to Annie Dexter. After this date, the hotel is never mentioned again in newspapers. It sat midway between the Rex Hotel and the Alpine House, roughly where the alleyway between Boulder Creek Liquors and the Brandy Station is located today.

A trio of hotels on Central Avenue, c. 1912. In the foreground is the Rex Hotel, next to it sits the original Basham House, and in the distance is the palatial Alpine House. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Commercial Hotel and Alpine Inn (1897 – 1956)
The structure that would later be known as the Big Basin Hotel was appropriately founded by the original owner of Big Basin, Henry L. Middleton. Middleton built the Commercial Hotel at the corner of Central Avenue and the future State Route 236 in 1897. He hired as manager George Denison, who once ran the Boulder Creek House and whose brother, Albert, ran it for several years. The structure was a long boarding house with a mid-sized restaurant on the first floor and fifteen rooms for guests.


Commercial Hotel on Central Avenue in Boulder Creek, 1901. Photo by Andrew Hill. [History San José]
A dozen years after the opening of California Redwood Park—now Big Basin Redwoods State Park—the hotel was run by Middleton's California Timber Company, the successor to many of the local lumber firms that ran out of usable timber at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1914, the company was looking for new sources of revenue since their operations on Waterman and Newell Creeks were running out of usable timber. Their hotel in downtown Boulder Creek held some potential, at least for the short term, so they tried to capitalize on the Big Basin name by renaming the hostelry the Big Basin Hotel. The gambit failed. After a few seasons, the hotel shut down. It was reopened in February 1919 as the George Hotel under the management of George Honold, but the new name didn't stick and the Honold only ran the hotel for a single season.

A big change occurred in 1920, when Adelaide T. Gibbs purchased the hotel and rebranded it the New Alpine Hotel, undoubtedly in reference to the Alpine House. Her death later that year passed ownership to her son, A. W. J. Gibbs. For several years, little was said of the hotel in newspapers and it may have served more as a private home for Gibbs and his family, who also owned Gibbs Ranch Resort above Zayante. The hotel did not become a popular destination until Doris Martin purchased the property in 1925 and tweaked the name into the Alpine Inn. The Martins were popular with the citizens of Boulder Creek and hosted several sold-out dances during the first year that they ran the hotel. They famously installed the first neon lighting on the side of their building in April 1925, signalling a technological change for the rural town. Within a few months, the hotel was completely electrified and well-lighted. However, the Martins did not remain patrons of the hotel for long. In early 1926, Howard W. West took over, but by June, M. S. Griffin was in charge. The next year, West's brother-in-law, Charles Jones, was brought on as manager and remained in that capacity for three seasons. The Martins finallysold the hotel in December 1929 to Ida Lietzow-Chamberlain, who saw its potential as a tourist hub with the impending completion of Skyline Boulevard.

The Alpine Inn situated prominently on Central Avenue, late 1930s. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Lietzow immediately began remodeling the hotel and hired her daughter, J. W. Pfeifer, as manager.  In 1931, she brought in a new manager, Lewis Williams, who continued the renovations and improved the restaurant. Like most hotels in the area, the Alpine Inn suffered from prohibition raids, but its next manager, Louis Wenger, was arrested when a large quantity of alcohol was discovered at the hotel in 1932. Lietzow returned in 1934 to manage the hotel and continue renovations. By this point, Lietzow was living in Los Angeles most of the time and the hotel was becoming a hassle. She hired Lynn Upton and Emma West to run the hotel in 1935, giving them the option to buy. They converted the entire hotel into what would today be termed a bed-and-breakfast. Still, Upton and West were not interested in buying so Lietzow brought on J. A. White in 1936. Finally, in November 1936, Lietzow was able to sell the hotel to C. E. Cadigan, a San Francisco hosteller and property investor. Cadigan immediately installed a cocktail lounge downstairs and convinced Greyhound to establish him as the local agent and the Alpine Inn the bus station. And yet Cadigan's ownership lasted less than two years.

One of the last photographs of the Alpine Inn, taken in February 1956 just months before the building was demolished to make way for Johnnie's Supermarket. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
In July 1938, the Locatelli family—Poldina, Gery, Peter, and Emilia—took over the hotel. They split the downstairs into a restaurant and liquor store while retaining the upstairs as a hotel. Around 1943, they sold the hotel to Robert and Bessie Burns, who in turn sold it to John R. and Lena Montanari and Marceau and Marie Louise Paulian in 1948. The next year, the Paulians left the partnership and were replaced by William H. and Carmen Sohr. The Sohrs oversaw the conversion of the restaurant into a Chinese Village Dining Room, specializing in Chinese food. The final owner of the hotel was Gene Engle, who purchased the hotel around 1953. After running the business for three years, Engle sold the hotel back to John Montanari in April 1956, who demolished it and built Johnnie's Supermarket in its place. Johnnie's opened on June 7.

Locatelli's Inn and Scopazzi's (1906 – Present)
The early history of the Locatelli Inn—today's Scopazzi's Restaurant—on State Route 236 is not entirely clear. As early as 1906, an Italia Hotel run by Alessandro Musitelli was operating in Boulder Creek, as reported by the Sentinel when Musitelli was caught selling liquor without a license. But whether this Italia Hotel was the same as the latter Locatelli Inn is unknown, although a Sentinel article published in 1955 certainly connects the two. Giuseppe M. "Joseph" Locatelli did not enter the industry until 1915, when he applied for and was granted a liquor license, signalling the start of his business. Interesting, the license he received only allowed liquor to be sold with meals, so this also marks the start of his restaurant. Unfortunately, he was arrested in 1917 for selling liquor without a license (the laws had changed in the meantime) and was forced to simply sell food without liquor, which became a national law when Prohibition arrived in 1920.

Locatelli's Inn, with the hotel barely visible at the far left, c. 1950.
Locatelli made an important addition to his hotel in 1924 when he added the well-known dining room beside the hotel. Soon afterwards, he renamed the hotel and restaurant Locatelli's Inn. Indeed, the 1920s transformed the workmen's hostelry into a prime locale for the Hollywood glitterati, who used the location on Big Basin Way as a base station for several movies that were filmed in and around Big Basin, especially at Poverty Flat. Unlike so many other businesses in the area, Locatelli's Inn survived the Great Depression and World War II, and the whole time remained under the ownership and management of the Locatelli family, even after Joseph's death in 1951. Catherine L. Locatelli took over and ran the restaurant throughout the first half of the 1950s, although the hotel seem to have shut down by this time. She finally sold the hotel and restaurant to John, Albino, and Guido Scopazzi on May 4, 1956. Within a few years, the Scopazzis built a connecting hall between the restaurant and hotel, using the old hotel for extra seating, an expanded kitchen, and office space. Scopazzi's remains in business as one of the oldest and most popular restaurants in Santa Cruz County.

Piedmont Hotel (1913 – 1920)
As the lumber industry north of Boulder Creek collapsed, the town became more of a tourist destination. As a result, several hotels appeared in the 1910s that catered to outdoors adventures and picnickers, such as the Piedmont Hotel at the corner of Mountain Street and Central Avenue. Built by Peter Ricca in 1913, the hotel fell into disrepute only a year later when Ricca was charged with the sale of liquor in the temperance-friendly town. Although he dodged the charges, Ricca's business lost its liquor license in 1918 due to a failure to renew it. Ricca threw up his arms and abandoned the business the next year, selling to Ugo Giomi and W. D. Alexander, who renamed it the Big Basin Inn. Giomi and Alexander renovated the hotel in early 1920 and opened it in April. The hotel featured a dining hall with am expansive dance floor and a grand fireplace. The outdoors were re-arranged into gardens with scenic pathways meandering through them. After only three months, Alexander left the partnership leaving it entirely to Giomi. Perhaps to avoid confusion with the small hotel at Big Basin, Giomi renamed his venue Ugo's Tavern in 1921, at which time the hostelry functions of the business began winding down. The restaurant closed in the early 1930s due to the Great Depression but reopened under the management of Faith Garibaldi in December 1940 as the Boulder Creek Lodge. The main structure of the Piedmont Hotel still sits at its original location, now branded as White House, across from the Boulder Creek Veterinary Clinic.

Citations & Credits:
  • McCarthy, Nancy F. Where Grizzlies Roamed the Canyons. Palo Alto, CA: Garden Court Press, 1994.
  • Robinson, Lisa A. Images of America: The San Lorenzo Valley. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Evening Sentinel, Weekly Sentinel, and Evening News, 1870-1940.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, August 9, 2019

People: James F. Cunningham

James F. Cunningham as portrayed in a
woodcut published in E. S. Harrison's History
of Santa Cruz County, California
, 1892.
Among the less notable but inarguably most important people in Santa Cruz County's history, James "Jim" Farnham Cunningham sits near the top. A French-Canadian by birth, having been born in Petersville, New Brunswick on October 23, 1844, Cunningham began life as a farmer. This clearly did not appeal to him as a long-term career, so he became a merchant's apprentice at the age of thirteen and remained in that roll for three years. These early years in agriculture and training in the mercantile business gave him most of the experience he would later need to become such a prominent county resident.

As a Canadian, Cunningham had no mandate to join in the United States Civil War, but he did all the same and relocated to Maine at the age of seventeen, where he enlisted in the 15th Maine Infantry. The next year, his regiment helped capture New Orleans, securing navigation of the Mississippi River for the Union forces. After spending four years in the army, Cunningham was mustered out at the end of the war having achieved the rank of First Lieutenant. Suffering from a minor wound that would act up the rest of his life, he soon moved to New York City, where he resumed his previous career as a dry goods salesman in Brooklyn. He tired of the city, though, and relocated to Mobile, Alabama, where he finally established his own business. It would not be his last.

On October 10, 1869, James Cunningham arrived in San Francisco. Within months, he lost all of his money when his investment bank went bust, his illness returned with a vengeance, and his dreams of opening his own store in the city evaporated. Out of luck and running out of options, Cunningham moved to Santa Cruz and squatted in a hut along Fall Creek in the San Lorenzo Valley. He regressed to his rural roots and stripped tan bark and cut split stuff for a living. He used the earnings to co-found a new store in downtown Felton alongside H. W. McCoy in October 1870. When Kent retired in early 1872, Cunningham brought on David L. Kent as a partner and they ran the store together for six years, selling it to Kent in 1878.

Newspaper sketch of Cunningham, probably dated to
his time as a state assemblyman, c. 1881.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
For a brief period, Cunningham entered local politics. For two one-year terms, he sat as a member of the County Board of Supervisors for the San Lorenzo Valley. This gave him the appropriate leverage to be elected as the 5th District representative to the California State Assembly in 1880. But his political aspirations concluded in 1883, when his term ended, and he never lost his entrepreneur spirit even while in elected office. In fact, while an assemblymember, Cunningham opened a new store across from his old store in Felton in 1881, inspired undoubtedly by the arrival of the South Pacific Coast Railroad and the likelihood that a railroad line would likely run through Felton on its way up to Boulder Creek in the near future. For this same reason, he also purchased and ran the Big Tree House next door to his new store, and added a livery stable. The hotel was renamed the Cunningham House in 1882. But Cunningham was ever the strategist.

When the town of Felton made it nearly impossible for the railroad to run its tracks through town to Boulder Creek, Cunningham saw the signs and closed shop. He sold his store and hotel to Captain Trask and, within a few months, relocated to Boulder Creek. His first order of business was to help the railroad clear and remove the stumps for the trees growing on the proposed site of the Boulder Creek freight yard and depot. He had first engaged in the lumber industry when he arrived in the San Lorenzo Valley in early 1870, but his efforts were renewed in 1881 when he purchased a small shingle mill located just to the east of downtown Felton alongside the river. South of Boulder Creek and across the river there, Cunningham took over the abandoned Grover & Company mill and ran another shingle mill to process the wood removed from the Boulder Creek depot grounds. After the Southern Pacific Railroad took over in 1887, it named the stop "Cunningham's" for the mill.

Cunningham's chief interest in Boulder Creek remained mercantile. As soon as the grounds were cleared and the railroad was able to reach the freight yard, Cunningham erected a large general store directly to the west of Boulder Creek Station along the main county road. His business was run with the help of Henry L. Middleton, a prominent Boulder Creek-area entrepreneur and lumberman, and it was soon joined by James Dougherty, whose firm, the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, was anticipating a relocation to a site four miles north of Boulder Creek in the near future. Together, the three partners, as well as Cunningham's brother, Jeremiah "Jere" W. Cunningham, formed Cunningham & Company.

Within a year, the general store was providing supplies to nearly all of the local businesses and it was making Cunningham rich. He decided to once more venture into the lumber industry in late 1886, undoubtedly tipped off by the Doughertys that they planned to extend the railroad to their mill above town. Cunningham and his associates had access to 2,000 acres of old growth redwood timber on various parcels roughly two miles north of town. To maximize access to these resources, they situated the 40,000 board feet capacity sawmill near the confluence of Kings Creek and the San Lorenzo River. This placed the mill on the path of the future railroad, on the ever-creeping county road, and at a good location to harvest timber in the surrounding region, including up Kings Creek, where he moved the Felton shingle mill's machinery. While the large mill processed most of the timber, the two shingle mills were capable of cutting 12 million items of split stuff (shingles, shakes, grape stakes, railroad ties) per year, which was itself significant.

Woodcut image of the Cunningham & Company planing mill in Santa Cruz, 1892.
[From E. S. Harrison, History of Santa Cruz County, California]
At the beginning of 1891, Cunningham & Company was at its absolute height. The firm had purchased a property on the north side of Mission Hill in Santa Cruz on which they intended to build a planing mill and lumber yard on the modern-day site of the San Lorenzo Home & Garden Center. The completed mill could manufacture doors, sashes, blinds, and other items used in constructing homes and businesses. But this project was a gamble too far. The Loma Prieta Lumber Company, Grover & Company, and the Santa Cruz Lumber Company, owned by Frederick A. Hihn, dominated the Santa Cruz coastal lumber trade and did not appreciate interlopers and fought against Cunningham in marketing campaigns and price fixing schemes. By February 1891, Middleton and Dougherty were out and Cunningham sold them the general store in Boulder Creek. But this was only the beginning of the end and Cunningham knew it.

In October 1891, Cunningham shut down his mill north of Boulder Creek and sold it to the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, which needed new machinery since its own mill two miles to the north had burned down (again). With no need for him to oversee operations at the mill, Cunningham retired to his Indigo Ranch in San José in December. Jeremiah continued running Cunningham & Company, opening up a new, albeit smaller, mill in Boulder Creek in 1892. But this provided a fleeting affair and the entire firm was merged with Grover & Company in 1894, creating the awkward Grover, Cunningham Mill & Lumber Company. The Grovers moved the machinery from Mission Hill to the new Santa Cruz Union Depot, where they had an expansive lumber yard, and the former planing mill property was sold to the city, which used it as a public utilities lot for several decades. Cunningham finally sold his stake in the company to Robert Dollar in August 1897.

Throughout all of these highs and lows, James Cunningham had his family beside him. He had married Sarah L. Glynn on September 9, 1873 in Santa Cruz, and, although they were childless, he had his brother Jeremiah by his side, who named his own son James Farnham in 1886. He also had a brother who was a priest at Santa Clara College and a sister who had married David Kent's son, I. B. About a decade after Cunningham moved to San José, Jeremiah followed and James parcelled off some of his land to him. Their original property was a sprawling farm in East San José that ran from the Lanai-Cunningham to Evergreen subdivisions, lending his name to a large pond there. He also owned land in Mountain View, which would later become Moffett Field. Cunningham & Company also continued to operate a general store near Market Street downtown, the last vestige of a once-great empire. Cunningham died on his farm in San José on November 23, 1907. A lifelong Catholic owing to his Canadian origins, he was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Santa Cruz with full military honors.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, August 2, 2019

Railroads: Eccles & Eastern Railroad

Over the years, there have been several attempts to rebuild the original South Pacific Coast route through the Santa Cruz Mountains between Felton and Vasona Junction. Yet only one attempt, begun in 1988 by local author and historian Rick Hamman, almost succeeded. Hamman brought on board two financial backers, Mike Hart and Walt Hofler,  who owned land in the summit area and saw the potential of a railroad to run utilities such as fiber optics and other utilities within the railroad right-of-way. Incorporating as the Eccles & Eastern Railroad Company, Hofler made a bold move by purchasing the inaccessible eastern portal of the Summit Tunnel near Laurel, while Hamman negotiated the purchase of the Mountain Charley Tunnel between Zayante and Glenwood. While these talks were ongoing, Eccles & Eastern hired a small crew and began restoring the railroad right-of-way between Felton and Eccles, ostensibly on behalf of Roaring Camp Railroads, which had purchased this stretch in 1985, but with the long-term plan of purchasing the section from the heritage park.

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific locomotive 2600 at the end-of-track at Olympia, c. 1887.
Jack Hanson is the conductor in the white shirt. [Jack Hanson]
End of track at Eccles, where the Eccles & Eastern RR planned
to begin its rebuilding of the Mountain Division in 1988.
[Derek R. Whaley]
Almost immediately after work began on restoring the line, local residents began to complain. To many Zayante-area residents, the noise of construction foreshadowed the noise daily freight traffic would make if trains were allowed to return to the serene, wooded Zayante Creek valley. As they began to organize a resistance against Eccles & Eastern, Hamman fought back with a plan to build a spur to Scotts Valley, promoting it as a way to avoid commute traffic over State Route 17. It also would give direct access to the sand quarries in the area, one of which was still operating in 1990. Eccles & Eastern, not yet daunted by the resistance, continued to improve the tracks and also assisted with upgrading and maintaining the rails between Felton and Santa Cruz, a line that would see increased usage if the railroad scheme succeeded.

Fearing that their inexperience would doom their dreams, Eccles & Eastern management approached Southern Pacific and offered to take over freight operations in the county on their behalf. In addition to proposing resuming sand quarry operations in Olympia near Felton, the company suggested that they could haul cement from Davenport and canned goods from Seabright, the two remaining freight operations beyond the four mile marker outside Watsonville. Unfortunately for them, Southern Pacific got skittish and retreated behind the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, which showed no interest in changing common freight carriers at the time. In reality, they would have considered an offer had it been made to them, but Eccles & Eastern never approached nor did the RTC reach out. Without common carrier duties, Eccles & Eastern was doomed, so the company spread out its scope and began exploring potential businesses further afield. They looked at imperilled lines in Colma, Warm Springs, places in the Sacramento Valley, and the Lodi to San Andreas line, but none of them panned out.

Southern Pacific 2706 being lowered from its display track at Ramsey Park, October 1989. [Colusa Steam]
Meanwhile, their hopes for Santa Cruz County were still not dashed. In 1989, they acquired a 1904 Southern Pacific Baldwin 2-8-0 locomotive, numbered 2706, which had been installed at Ramsey Park in Watsonville as a playground centerpiece. They removed the locomotive on the same day that the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck, and the train was stuck in Watsonville for several weeks while the situation in the county calmed down. Eventually, it and its tender were moved to the little-used siding off Swift Street in West Side Santa Cruz. The intention was to restore the steam locomotive for use in excursions along various local lines while the mountain route was rebuilt. The short-term goal was to run dinner trains between Felton (or Santa Cruz) and Glenwood, but this was contingent on the trackage between those points being restored or upgraded. Tracks were acquired from an abandoned rail line in San Francisco, some of which were later used on the track to Santa Cruz. Further negotiations for tracks from an abandoned ferry yard were in progress in 1992 when things began to unravel, at least for Rick Hamman and his dreams of reopening the route to San Jose through the mountains.

Rick Hamman inspecting the Western Pacific Railroad
right-of-way near San José, c. 1990s.
[Jack Hanson]
Two separate feasibility studies to reopen the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains were in progress in the early 1990s. The Eccles & Eastern study, although done less formally, released first and prompted Santa Cruz County to seriously consider the idea of a new railroad line through the mountains. The report, released in early 1995, agreed with Hamman's assessment that it was both feasible and a good option, but corporate and public support for the scheme were both flagging by then. A vicious and vocal minority of the public, especially by those who lived adjacent to the proposed railroad line in Zayante and Glenwood, meant that the project had little outspoken support, although a good portion of the populace likely tacitly supported the prospect of a commuter line through the mountains. Internally, Mike Hart led a coup against Hamman in the Eccles & Eastern management in 1992 and became the new president. Hamman lost almost all power within the company and his health started to decline. He quit the company shortly afterwards, remarried, and moved to Texas, where he sold railroad photos on his website, Yesteryear Depot, until his death in 2014.

Original Sierra Railroad #3, restored for use by the Sierra Railroad Historical Society, 2016.
[Sierra Railroad Historical Society]
Prior to Hamman's departure, the company did have one unexpected victory. In early 1992, management discovered that the Sierra Railroad was for sale. It was a poorly-aging line with one functional locomotive that had a weekly freight run in the Sierra foothills hauling wood chips. During the rest of the week, the locomotive moonlighted as a switch engine at the Oakdale rail yard east of Modesto. Eccles & Eastern purchased the Sierra Railroad Company and rebranded it the Sierra Pacific Coast Railway, with the intention of establishing a dinner train in the Oakdale area like they had planned in Santa Cruz. But it was Mike Hart's desire to focus on these potentially successful operations at the expense of the company's other plans in Santa Cruz County that caused the rift with Rick Hamman. On October 30, 1995, Hart founded Coast Enterprise, Inc., to act as a holding company for the Sierra Railroad, and at the same time Eccles & Eastern and the Sierra Pacific Coast Railway were effectively dissolved as corporate entities.

A Sierra Northern freight train at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk hauling cement hoppers. [Wikipedia]
By 1997, several of the high-ranking staff of the former Eccles & Eastern-Sierra Pacific Coast management had resigned but Hart succeeded in making the Sierra Railroad profitable again, even obtaining federal and state funds to restore railroad service to several areas that had been briefly abandoned. In 2003, Hart purchased the Yolo Shortline Railroad and reincorporated the three railroads as the Sierra Railroad Company, essentially erasing the memory of Eccles & Eastern in the process. Within a few years, the company spun off a subsidiary, the Sierra Northern Railroad, which operated freight lines with the main company ran tourist trains in the Sierra foothills. For two years, from 2010 to 2012, Sierra Northern became the common carrier in Santa Cruz County on behalf of Union Pacific, finally achieving one of the goals Eccles & Eastern had aspired toward twenty years earlier. Sierra Northern gave up their contract when the RTC took control of the Santa Cruz Branch in 2012, at which time common carrier duties were granted to Iowa Pacific Holdings (running as the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway). The company still exists, however, and runs several trains in the Sacramento Valley, as well as Sierra Energy, all of which can be found on their website.

Southern Pacific 2706 in a state of disrepair in its original engine house in Colusa, 2015. [Colusa Steam]
The 2706 locomotive, after sitting abandoned on Swift Street for nearly a decade, was eventually sold to John Manley, who is slowly restoring it to operation at his personal engine shed in Colusa, California. He hopes to run it on a local tourist line once it is operational again. You can follow his progress on his Facebook page (or check his former website here).

Citations & Credits:

Friday, July 26, 2019

Curiosities: Brookdale-Area Resorts

Unlike Felton, Ben Lomond, and Boulder Creek, the village that became Brookdale was designed first and foremost as a vacation destination. During its hay-day—from about 1910 to 1965—no matter where you went within a one mile radius of Pacific Avenue, there was a resort or destination or high-end residential subdivision. While locations such as Siesta, Huckleberry Island, Camp Joy, the Fish Hatchery, and the Brookdale Club have all been covered elsewhere, there were and still are other vacation spots in the Brookdale vicinity. These are the better known.

Reed's Hotel (c. mid-1880s)
Before Brookdale even existed, it was known as Reed's Spur for the Felton & Pescadero Railroad's nearby spur built upon the land of Robert C. Reed. The settlement was not a tourist destination but rather a waypoint for travellers and visitors to the nearby Grover & Company lumber mill, run by partners McKoy & Duffey. Nothing about Reed's Hotel is known except that it existed in the future village of Brookdale, probably a short distance from the spur. The hotel was likely just a converted home and probably supported only a few guest rooms.

Hotel Minnehaha (1903-1908), Brookdale Hotel (1908-1915), and Brookdale Lodge (1915-Present)
After years of informally renting out former workers' shanties as vacation cottages, Stephen Frealon Grover and John Harvey Logan decided to open up a resort hotel in the area. They christened the settlement Clear Creek, after the meandering brook that ran down the middle of the settlement. Grover left the venture in 1903 due to financial difficulties and Grover bought out his interest, opening up Hotel Minnehaha later that year in the former mill headquarters. The post office rejected his application to call the town Clear Creek, so he renamed the place Brookdale and the name stuck.

The name Minnehaha derives from a fictional Native American character depicted in The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Her name was also leant to a local "tribe" (lodge) of the Improved Order of Red Men, although it is unclear if there is a connection between the hotel and the lodge. By 1905, the hotel was in full operation and Brookdale as a tourist destination was official. Logan estimated around 200 visitors to the locale for the summer of 1903. The destructive San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 disabled the railroad route through the Santa Cruz Mountains for three years, although the tracks to Brookdale remained in operation throughout most of this time (the gauge was upgraded in 1908). The decreased traffic may have prompted Logan to rename the resort Brookdale Hotel in 1908. Three years later, he sold a portion of the village to John DuBois, who built several vacation cottages between the hotel and the Southern Pacific railroad tracks, thereby expanding the size of the village. A subdivision named Brookdale Terrace opened up in 1911, further expanding the village around the Hotel.

The Brookdale Lodge log cabin and the former Hotel Minnehaha main entrance, c. 1920s. [Santa Cruz Waves]
The Brook Room at Brookdale Lodge, c. 1930.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
In 1915, Logan renamed the resort again to Brookdale Lodge and this name stuck. But old age was catching up to Logan and decided to sell the hotel in 1922 to F. K. Camp. Camp was personally a teetotaller, but he seemed to have no qualms selling liquor to his patrons. It was under his ownership that the hotel more than doubled in size with the addition of the Brook Room and the famous mermaid pool. The Brook Room was a revolutionary dining room that featured Clear Creek flowing through it, as well as live trees and foliage, all designed by Horace Cotton. Granted, the room had a tendency to flood every few years, but it has remained one of the most appealing legacies of the hotel. The pool, meanwhile, featured a tall glass window on one side which was visible from a lounge downstairs. Rumors of how the window and lounge were used abound, but it is known that women dressed as mermaids swam in the pool to entertain onlookers. During the 1920s and 1930s, the hotel attracted A-list celebrities and musical talent. There is also a persistent rumor that the hotel supported bootlegging and gangsters and hosts several underground tunnels.

World War II took its toll on the local tourist industry as it did everywhere in the United States. By 1945, Camp had moved on and the Lodge passed through a few hands, first A. T. Cook and W. G. Smith, who subsequently sold the property to Barney Marrow, in February 1951. The next year, Morrow also bought the rival Brookdale Inn across the County Road from the Lodge, merging the two into one resort. Nonetheless, the respectability of the hotel declined precipitously throughout the late 1940s and 1950s as Marrow neglected its maintenance and allowed gangs and hippies to use the hotel as they would. It's unsavory reputation dates to this time and has never entirely recovered. The suggestion that the hotel is haunted also may date to this time. A fire in 1956 destroyed the Brook Room, although it was rebuilt. A 13-year-old girl later drowned in the pool in 1972, leading to its closure for several years. The floods of 1982 destroyed the Brook Room again and damaged much of the surrounding structure.

Marrow eventually sold the hotel and it passed through several hands until it was bought by Sanjiv Kakkar in 2007. Two years later, a fire severely damaged parts of the main structure and one of its out buildings. Another death in 2010 followed by an investigation indefinitely closed the hotel in 2011 and Kakkar was arrested and found guilty of fraud. After years sitting abandoned, the Patel family of Santa Cruz purchased the decaying hotel, refurbished the entire complex, and rebranded it the Brookdale Inn & Spa. It reopened officially on October 24, 2018, albeit under the name Brookdale Lodge. Presumably, the management firm that the Patals hired to run the hotel, Broughton Hotels, thought that the historic name was better and more appropriate. Rooms can be booked at the Brookdale Lodge's website: https://brookdalelodge.com.

Clear Creek Villa (1918-1928) and Brookdale Inn (1929-1952)
Until 1918, the Brookdale Lodge was often simply called "The Hotel" and the village of Brookdale was pseudonymous with the resort. But then William H. Shier and his wife, Mary E., arrived and founded Clear Creek Villa as a small seasonal resort and campground just across the County Road from the resort. For the first seven years of its existence, it was not a threat to The Hotel and it wasn't even mentioned in the Santa Cruz Sentinel until 1925. From that time, however, it became notable for its musical performances and dances, which were held at a large pavilion on the resort's grounds. By 1928, the newspaper reported that the hotel included a glassed-in lobby and had become a popular rendezvous site for vacationers. Suddenly, The Hotel had a rival.

The marketing of the resort was notched up to militancy in 1929 when the Shiers renamed it the Brookdale Inn, bringing it directly into competition with the Brookdale Lodge. Within a year, F. K. Camp, owner of the Lodge, sued the Shiers over name usage, citing an incident in 1929 where a potential vacationer was confused as to which hotel hosted the Brook Room and chose the wrong establishment. The case made it all the way to the state supreme court in 1932, which dismissed the dispute, in effect ruling in favor of the Inn.

Hollen's Corner in Brookdale, with the Brookdale Inn store at right, c. 1930s.
[Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Advertisement for the Baldpate Inn, 1935.
[Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Like the Lodge, the Brookdale Inn did relatively well throughout the Depression years and attracted its share of celebrities and seasonal vacationers. In 1935, Shier leased the dance pavilion and restaurant to Frank C. Bauer, who renamed the venue the Baldpate Inn, after a popular film released in 1935 called Seven Keys to Baldpate (Baldpate refers to a hotel in Colorado). The business only survived one season, though, as Bauer was arrested the following March for bouncing a check. Shier brought on W. H. Sawtell in May, and he brought the Baldpate back to the Brookdale Inn and combined them back together, adding an English tea room as his contribution. Sawtell left in 1938, however, and management of the resort passed to Harvey Wilson of San Francisco in June 1938. In classic Brookdale Inn style, he initiated his management by hiring an eight-piece orchestra for the opening of season gala. Shier, meanwhile, made several improvements to the resort in preparation for the 1939 season. However, the loss of her husband several years earlier and her own advanced age led her to sell the resort to Edward R. and Antonette Corrigan in December 1939.

Brookdale Inn and legal problems seem to go hand-in-hand. The hotel shut down in December 1942, probably due to the war, and in February 1944, Shier and an investor-friend Katherine A. O'Neil sued Corrigan for non-payment of amounts owed from the original 1939 purchase agreement. Within a few months, advertisements for Dick Hartman's Brookdale Inn appear in newspapers, suggesting Shier and O'Neil won the case, reacquired the resort, and hired a new manager. William J. Rowley and Bob Nardelli took over in 1946, with Hartman resuming his role in 1949, at which time he may have purchased the property outright. In 1951, management of the Inn passed to Homer Wylie and Ken Stone. The restaurant and bar were sold off as their own business to Charles Backman of Oakland in October 1951, but Hartman retained control of the hotel and cabins. However, events were moving behind the scenes. Barney Morrow, who had purchased the Brookdale Lodge in February 1951, bought Hartman's hotel and cabins in February 1952, effectively merging the two businesses into one. By that time, the Brookdale Inn consisted of an eight-room hotel with two private homes and eighteen guest cabins.

The Inn lingered on for several more decades in an increasing state of neglect, living in the shadow of the Lodge which was equally declining in quality. For several years, an underground tunnel connected the two hotels, allowing Morrow and his team to quickly bring supplies between them without having to cross traffic. In 1969, local residents tried to save the Inn by converting it into an art gallery, but little else is know of the hotel during this period. Most of the structures were finally demolished at some point after 1977. Today, there is renewed promise of a new business being erected on the former Inn grounds across from the Lodge, but progress has been slow. The property primary serves as a parking lot for locals.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, July 19, 2019

People: The Dougherty Family

William P. Dougherty and his first wife,
Jane O'Connor, several months after their
wedding in 1861.  [Katherine E. Mudd]
William Patrick Dougherty may have been the "Lumber King of the Santa Clara Valley," but he was more importantly a major investor, entrepreneur, and lumberman in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Dougherty was born in 1832 in Ireland and migrated with his family during the potato famine alongside so many of his compatriots. He was raised in Edina, Missouri, but moved to Santa Clara, California as soon as he was old enough. From 1858, he was involved in the local lumber industry and he was quite successful, too, since he was able to buy his own farm—the Naglee Estate—in 1859. But his was not the life of a farmer and he returned to lumbering in 1864, but as an entrepreneur rather than a laborer.

William's first mill was established around 1864 and was a small operation on the west bank of Los Gatos Creek near the modern-day junction of State Route 17 and Bear Creek Road at Lexington. Within a few years, several other small shingle and lumber mills were erected along the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and William used his profits to purchase more valuable timber tracts further afield. His biggest early operation was harvesting the redwoods to the west of Los Gatos Creek toward the summit, which eventually led him to build the oxen skid-way that evolved into Bear Creek Road. The success of this operation led him to incorporate the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company on January 13, 1873. This company quickly became one of the largest lumber firms on the West Coast, dominating the Santa Clara Valley lumber industry for nearly twenty years. Its impressive yard in Santa Clara supplied lumber to the entire Bay Area, which was rapidly growing and urbanizing at the time. A large portion of split stuff also went to the quicksilver mines at New Almaden, where it was used as firewood in the cinnabar kilns. The company made tremendously William Doughertys wealthy and influential.

An unused stock certificate for the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company. [OldStocks.com]
William's brother, James, was a substantially different person. Not imbued with the entrepreneurial obsessions of his brother, James instead proved to be a reliable manager. Like his brother, James migrated to America in the late 1840s and came of age just as the American Civil War began. He enlisted in the 21st Missouri Regiment of the Union Army and served until the end of the war. He remained in Missouri for another five years but finally decided to join his brother in California in 1870. The arrival of James may have finally prompted William to found the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company. In any case, James was entrusted with the management of all three active mills in the Los Gatos basin and he took command with a passion. He maximized efficiency while working directly with the crews to improve working conditions. Management loved his cost-cutting measures while crews appreciated his congeniality. Eventually, James was placed in charge of the company while William focused on other investments.

Staff of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, 1876. [History San José]
The company was immensely successful throughout the 1870s, but the brothers struggled to extract timber from the summit area of the Santa Cruz Mountains due to the steep terrain. Efforts to harvest timber at the headwaters of Newell and Zayante Creek both failed and there were some fears in the mid-1870s that the Doughertys' timber claims were unreachable and the company was approaching collapse. Fortunately, the arrival of the South Pacific Coast Railroad to the area in 1877 signalled a change in focus. Negotiations with the company, with help from Frederick A. Hihn, among other local parties, led to the alignment of the railroad passing down to Zayante Creek. James Dougherty was quickly able to capitalize on this development and had a narrow-gauge track installed along the valley floor and installed a switchback to the South Pacific Coast grade above. A small mill may have opened as early as 1878, although the railroad would not finish its connection to the site until 1880.

Once linked to the rail network, thousands of board feet of lumber rolled out of the Zayante Creek basin every day. Zayante became the company's only substantial mill but it was more than capable of fulfilling all lumber orders. For seven years, it was one of the most productive lumber mills in the county and it made a name for the Doughertys in Santa Cruz County. Yet disaster struck the Doughertys right when they could ill-afford it. In the depths of summer, 1886, a fire broke out at the Zayante mill that destroyed almost everything. The brothers spent much of the rest of the season rebuilding even though the timber tracts were almost logged out. Nonetheless, they reopened at a more limited capacity in early 1887 and finished logging the area by the end of the year.

The San Jose Brick & Tile Company (formerly the San Jose Brick Works), 1965. Photo by Michael Luther.
[California Bricks]
The Dougherty brothers did not limit themselves to operations directly under their control. In 1882, they joined Timothy Hopkins and several Watsonville-area investors to form the Loma Prieta Lumber Company. The company planned to harvest seven thousand acres of timber along Aptos Creek – a massive undertaking that required a large mill and a railroad. But the project succeeded spectacularly and the Doughertys profited from the investment. They, their wives, and their children remained investors in the firm until it finally shut down in the mid-1920s. William also owned the San Jose Brick Company and served as director of the Hotel Vendome in San José.

Meanwhile, James Dougherty was already looking ahead to the company's next project. He and his brother had begun purchasing land north of Boulder Creek in the late 1870s, and the arrival of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad in 1885 marked these timber tracts as their next target for extraction. James joined forces with local property investor and miller Henry L. Middleton, whose name still graces a street in Boulder Creek today, and together they partnered with James F. Cunningham as investors in Cunningham & Company, a logging firm and mercantile business that intended to log a large tract two miles north of Boulder Creek. Cunningham was a well known entrepreneur in the San Lorenzo Valley and helped the Doughertys get a foothold in the area. In 1887, James Dougherty and Middleton purchased Cunningham's share of the general store in Boulder Creek and used it as a local base of operations. It is no coincidence that the railroad station was installed just behind and below the store, and the business housed both the town post office and the Wells Fargo & Company Express agency for several years. It also was the first building in town to have electrical lighting.

The Doughertys finally shuttered operations at Zayante after the end of the 1887 season and immediately began dismantling machinery for shipment to Boulder Creek. Meanwhile, their crews began building the initially four-mile-long Dougherty Extension Railroad line to the site of the new mill north of Boulder Creek in early 1888. Lumber used in building the line was provided by Cunningham, whose mill was reached by the railroad first. The Doughertys' mill opened in June of that year, but in September, the entire complex burned down, with only the logs in the pond surviving. Fortunately, the sawing had just begun so the pond held the majority of that year's harvest. The brothers rebuilt over the following months, with Cunningham & Company fulfilling all of the contracts in the meantime.

The Dinky locomotive near the end-of-track of the Dougherty Extension Railroad, 1892. [Roy Graves]
For the next next twelve years, the mill north of Boulder Creek acted as the heart of a community known as Doughertys. At various times, it included a school, general store, post office, informal railroad service, and other amenities. It was also popular with tourists and campers. At its height in the mid-1890s, the mill town boasted nearly 300 people. James Dougherty managed the property while Patrick J. McGaffigan acted as superintendent. A second disastrous fire in October 1891 stalled operations but James proactively purchased the Cunningham & Company mill outright and relocated it to the north, allowing operations to continue without delay. The mill and the company operated in some form or another until 1902, although by the end it acted more as a waypoint than a fully-operational mill.

William Dougherty, the elder of the brothers, died on March 18, 1894, at his home in San José. His widow, Anna Fenton, continued to sit on the board of directors of the company over the next two decades. James Dougherty took over all operations from this point, although age and overwork began to impact him heavily. In 1898, he finally sold his interest in the Boulder Creek general store to Middleton, and he also began divesting himself of other interests. James died of throat cancer on July 27, 1900, and his widow, Catherine Harris, as well as Anna, were temporarily pushed out of the company, with Timothy Hopkins taking over as president and Middleton acting as mill general manager. It was he who oversaw the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company's last lumber operation on Bear Creek, which ended in 1902.

Although the brothers were gone, their widows returned to help found the California Timber Company on April 4, 1903, which Middleton and Hopkins both invested heavily in. The purpose of this firm was to cut the last unharvested Dougherty properties in and around the San Lorenzo Valley. Their first target was Deer Creek, at tributary of Bear Creek. The moved all of the mill machinery up to the creek in 1903 and ran the operation until roughly the time of the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. Following this, the company relocated the machinery again to the headwaters of Pescadero Creek along Waterman Creek, where a new mill was erected and the forests harvested from approximately 1907 to 1913. On May 1, 1905, another mill was opened along Newell Creek near Ben Lomond, where tentative logging efforts had been made over the past decade but no concerted effort had been attempted. This mill proved to be very successful and harvested almost the entirety of the Newell Creek basin in less than a decade. With both of their major operations concluded, the company disincorporated soon afterwards, selling its property to various real estate firms interested in establishing residential and seasonal communities near the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River.

Citations & Credits:

  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2007.
  • Harris, Edward S. Santa Cruz County, California. San Francisco, CA: Pacific Press Publishing, 1892.
  • History of the State of California: Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California. San Francisco, CA: Guinn, 1904.
  • Robinson, Lisa A. Images of America: The San Lorenzo Valley. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Railroads: Felton & Pescadero Railroad

The idea of building a railroad between Santa Cruz and the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River was not new in 1883. As early as the mid-1860s, the San Lorenzo Valley Railroad had a similar idea, although legal disputes caused the project to fail before a single track was lain. The San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company inverted the idea by planning to build a fourteen-mile-long v-flume between the city and the headwaters in 1875, but the dearth of year-round water sources between Santa Cruz and Felton forced the company to build a railroad between those two points instead. The Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad and the flume company were subsequently purchased by the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1879 to constitute the final six miles of its route between Alameda Point and the Santa Cruz Main Beach. But with the opening of that line in May 1880, the railroad still had not solved the longstanding problem of a railroad line up the San Lorenzo Valley.

A South Pacific Coast Railroad engine parked at Boulder Creek, c. 1886. [Derek R. Whaley]
For three years, the South Pacific Coast Railroad worked to straighten curves, reinforce bridgework, build short branch lines and spurs, and otherwise cleanup the trackage it had built over the previous seven years. Meanwhile, the poorly aging flume that ran eight miles north of Felton was incapable of meeting the increased demand for lumber by the rapidly-growing Santa Clara Valley. A better solution was required. On June 13, 1883, the railroad incorporated a wholly-owned subsidiary, the Felton & Pescadero Railroad. The plan was to build the route in two stages: first the track would venture six miles to marshy clearing to the south of the junction of the San Lorenzo River and Boulder and Bear Creeks (the Turkey Foot). At a later point, the track would be extended an additional twenty miles to the top of the San Lorenzo Valley and down Pescadero Creek to the coastal settlement of Pescadero.

Map showing the Felton & Pescadero right-of-way running atop George Treat's land on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River with both South Pacific Coast depot grounds visible on either side of the river, c. 1883. [Felton Grove]
Surveying for the line probably began before June 1883, but a final survey prompted residents in both Felton and the town of Lorenzo, south of the Turkey Foot, to increase property prices in the hope of making some easy money. In both instances, the gamble failed spectacularly. The railroad decided to bypass downtown Felton by extending a line from the company's new station on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River. The railroad did not cross the river until after passing through Pacific Mills (Ben Lomond) three miles to the north. The old Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad terminus remained in downtown Felton, but it was increasingly neglected by the railroad and was eventually removed as a passenger stop by Southern Pacific in the early 1900s. At Lorenzo, the railroad likewise bypassed the town, sticking close to the river along its west bank rather than venturing closer to the town center. The stop for the town was only two blocks away, but it had few facilities and the line's terminus was a quarter mile to the north below what would soon become downtown Boulder Creek.

A South Pacific Coast Railway train turning the bend near Lorenzo to head into Boulder Creek, c. 1900.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Grading work for the narrow-gauge line began almost immediately and it is unclear precisely how the railroad interacted with the flume during construction. It took nearly two years for the line to be built and the flume continued to operate during this time, suggesting that the flume was only dismantled after the railroad was fully constructed. However, it is equally possible that the flume was cut back in sections at places where lumber could be adequately transferred to waiting rail cars. This could have occurred near Rubottom (Brackney), Pacific Mills, and Reed (Brookdale), among other places. Seven bridges over the San Lorenzo River were required, as well as bridges over Newell, Love, and Clear Creeks and other smaller tributaries. Boulder Creek was eventually chosen as the terminus because of the large area of land available for a freight yard and due to the fact that one of the company officials had purchased the property several years earlier in anticipation of such a railroad. The expansion of the town of Boulder to the south, across the eponymous creek, was also part of this arrangement and the town of Boulder Creek was essentially born with the arrival of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad there in 1885.

New Almaden Depot outside the quicksilver mines south of Campbell, c. 1887.
[Laurence E. Bulmore Collection at History San José]
Advertisement for the South Pacific Coast
Railroad showcasing a roundtrip to Boulder Creek
and many of the company's local slogans, c. 1890.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Construction of the railroad line halted at Boulder Creek as the company's investors gathered revenue to fund the long slog to Pescadero. The construction of the branch line to the New Almaden quicksilver mines south of Campbell also likely delayed further projects in the San Lorenzo Valley for a time. Lumber from the South Pacific Coast's customers in the valley was sent to fuel the fires in the mercury refineries at New Almaden, so the two projects were closely related. During this time, the flume was definitively cut back to Boulder Creek and its terminus was set directly across from the new Boulder Creek depot building, erected in 1886. It may have also been sold to a private firm since it disappears from company records after 1885.

With the completion of the New Almaden Branch in November 1886, attention should have returned to the Felton & Pescadero Railroad, but events were moving that would prematurely end any such plans. Throughout 1886, South Pacific Coast principal owner James G. Fair was in negotiations with Southern Pacific to lease his company to his competition. Despite proving the financial potential of a narrow-gauge railroad network, Fair apparently tired of his railroading scheme and wanted out. On May 23, 1887, he consolidated all of his railroad companies together to form the South Pacific Coast Railway Company, which he promptly leased to Southern Pacific on July 1 of the same year. May 23, therefore, marks the official end of the company.

The Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company's locomotive known as the Dinky (originally the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad's Felton), emblazoned with Boulder Creek & Pescadero Railroad livery, c. 1910. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
The legacy of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad lived on in several ways. The line itself became first the Felton Branch and eventually the Boulder Creek Branch and remained in use as a passenger and freight line until January 1934. Meanwhile, in 1888, the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company finally achieved one of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad's goals in extending the line further north, albeit as a privately-owned railroad. This line, at times fancifully called the Boulder Creek & Pescadero Railroad, eventually reached the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River in 1898 and remained in operation until 1915.

A section of the Santa Cruz Lumber Company's railroad right-of-way along Pescadero Creek south of its mill, 1936.
Photo by Emmanuel Fritz. [UC Berkeley]
Southern Pacific seriously considered purchasing the line and extending it to Pescadero in 1905. Indeed, the Coast Line Railroad was partially incorporated to achieve this goal. Multiple surveys were conducted and a route up Feeder Creek and across to a branch of Pescadero Creek was decided before the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake threw all such plans into disarray. The removal of the tracks north of Boulder Creek in 1917 permanently ended any attempts to reach Pescadero via Boulder Creek. In an interesting twist, however, the Santa Cruz Lumber Company did, a decade later, build an isolated railroad line along Pescadero Creek, although it never reached the town to the north nor connect to Boulder Creek to the south.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald T. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2007.
  • Robertson, Donald B. Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: California. Caldwell, ID: Caxton Press, 1986.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.