Author Statement

If you have information on local railroads, photographs or railroad documents, or you feel a mistake has been made or information omitted from an article, email me at This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Friday, February 15, 2019

Stations: Fish Hatchery

Historically, the San Lorenzo River has always been known for its fish. Although the industry has drastically declined in recent decades due to pollution from septic runoff that has almost entirely destroyed the viability of fish along the river, trout fishing once was a significant industry along the river, practiced by Zayante tribespeople, Spanish and Mexican settlers, and American pioneers.

Colorized postcard of the Brookdale Fish Hatchery, c. 1910, showing the railroad tracks in the foreground and three people sitting out front, possibly awaiting a train. [Derek R. Whaley]
Survey map of the area around Steen's Spur and the fish pond,
with depth readings, 1905. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
As the Felton & Pescadero Railroad first passed through the area that would become Brookdale, it cut down hundreds of redwood trees that sat within the right-of-way. While the trees could be harvested and cut by the nearby Boulder Mill, the stumps remained a problem. Jacob Steen, a local Jewish storeowner, ran a side-business as a stumper. For years he had worked with Frederick A. Hihn and George Treat to remove old stumps from around downtown Felton. He was likely hired around 1884 to remove stumps along the right-of-way as well. During this time, he likely purchased the small property along Larkspur Street that would later host an entirely different enterprise. When the general store that he ran in Felton burned down in 1896, Steen relocated to this property to the north, upon which he built a fish pond with the intention of breeding trout. A short 150-foot-long narrow-gauge spur was installed on the east side of the branch line directly beside the pond, from which Stein could presumably dump fish into the pond from boxcars. Little information is actually known for certain about operations at Steen's Spur. The station first appeared in railroad station books in 1899 with no facilities other than the spur, and it subsequently disappeared from the same in 1907, presumably because it was removed during the standard-gauging of the Boulder Creek Branch. Steen moved out of the San Lorenzo Valley but later was instrumental in founding the Santa Cruz Lumber Company with George Ley in 1923. The fish pond at Steen's Spur continued to exist until at least 1905, after which a much larger and more organized effort was begun to breed steelhead trout in Brookdale.

Interior of the Fish Hatchery showing the incubating troughs, 1911. [Derek R. Whaley]
Map of the are around the Fish Hatchery and the fish pond, c. 1908.
The fish pond was likely falling into disuse by the point and all evidence
of the spur has disappeared. Cattle guards along the right-of-way mark
either side of the fish pond. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Judge John H. Logan, who purchased the Grover Mill (previous Boulder Mill) properties at the turn of the century in order to create a resort, turned to the fish pond south of town in 1905 with an interesting idea: what if the settlement ran the fishing grounds? In 1905, the local community allies with the Southern Pacific Railroad and the California Fish & Games Commission to purchase a large property along the Boulder Creek Branch just north of the old fish pond. A staff cottage and breeding house was soon erected, although it took a year for the breeding ponds outside the be completed. During this time, the fish pond was used for breeding and over a million trout were raised, although they had to be released into the river early due to insufficient space. Due to the size of the facility, the Brookdale Fish Hatchery served more as an experimental facility than a fully-fledged hatchery. Fish & Games staff tested various foods on the fish in an attempt to make them grow faster and larger. Nonetheless, an average of two million fish were grown annually at the hatchery using eggs collected at the Scott Creek nursery north of Davenport. Fish & Games took over operations completely in 1912.

The fish hatchery with the warden's house above it, 1909. [Derek R. Whaley]
Like Steen's Spur before it, Fish Hatchery served as a railroad station from 1909, with the main building serving as the station shelter and waiting area.  Unlike its predecessor, Fish Hatchery did not have a spur or platform, so shipments must have been loaded directly along the branch line track, although these would have been relatively rare. Incoming shipments with eggs would arrive only once per year, for the most part, while fish cars would be sent out to San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Monterey Counties and places within Santa Cruz County when the fish were large enough to be introduced to regional waterways. At all other times of the year, the station serviced staff and visitors.

The main Fish Hatchery building, with the exhaust vents on the roof removed, probably late 1940s.
[California Department of Fish & Game]
As with the rest of the Boulder Creek Branch, passenger service ended at the end of 1930, although seasonal freight likely continued through 1933. The line was abandoned and the tracks removed in early 1934. The hatchery continued to run until 1953 when increasing costs made it no longer tenable. The tanks and machinery were removed or destroyed and the property reverted to Logan's heirs.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1074N, 122.1049W

The fish hatchery now serves as a private home off Larkspur Street along the private Old River Lane, which marks the old railroad right-of-way. A private cottage on the property, which housed the facility warden, was later moved to become a vacation home. Larkspur, meanwhile, parallels the right-of-way briefly to the south of the Fish Hatchery until it turns to cross the river.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, February 8, 2019

Stations: Siesta

The mile-long section of track that ran along the east bank of the San Lorenzo River between Ben Lomond and Brookdale hosted two stations that both catered to private residences and appeared around the same time. At the northern end of this stretch, just before the Southern Pacific Railroad's Boulder Creek Branch crossed back over to the west bank of the river, Siesta Station was established beside the property of Fred Wilder Swanton. Siesta was an appropriate name that both described the purpose of the location—it was a "rest" stop for Swanton in the Santa Cruz Mountains—and matched the Spanish Revival atmosphere that was gripping California at the time. Indeed, Swanton named his massive new hotel on the Santa Cruz Main Beach the Casa del Rey and built it in just such a style.

The Swanton Cottage outside Brookdale, c. 1915. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
The Swanton Cottage, though, which sat between the tracks and the river, was no adobé-style mansion. Instead, it was a very simple redwood lumber and log bungalow that matched a slightly older, rugged aesthetic. Swanton had purchased the property in 1908 on land that had originally been John W. Ellsworth's lumber mill decades earlier. It had been logged out early so most of the nearby redwood trees were second growth, leaving plenty of room to build a cabin. Despite its rural location and simple style, it was designed by none other than William Henry Weeks, a famed architect who had built several impressive structures across California including the Boardwalk's Casino and Plunge and the hotel across from them. Weeks and his crew finished the building by the summer of 1910 and Swanton named it "La Siesta."

The swimming hole below Siesta, probably taken from atop the railroad bridge, c. 1915.
[Surf's Edge]

La Siesta was a short-lived thriving private resort. It included a dance pavilion beside the river, electrical lighting, an expansive garden with fountains, and indoor plumbing. Down at the river, Swanton installed a seasonal dam to allow swimming and boating beneath the railroad bridge there. He also experimented with an aerial tramway to transport goods across the river from the county road (State Route 9), aided in the construction of this by W. D. Dalton, his son-in-law. Near the end of 1910, Swanton also brought in a dozen excess cottages that had to be removed in Santa Cruz to make way for the Casa del Rey Hotel. These became the core component of his summer resort. Friends from across the country came to visit and stay the summer south of Brookdale, using the train to get there.

Subdivision survey map, 1909.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]

Swanton had always had a close relationship with the Southern Pacific Railroad. When he began operating the Bay Shore Limited Railway at the Boardwalk in 1907, he gave special tickets to Southern Pacific staff and was granted, in exchange, free rides on their network. Almost as soon as Swanton began construction of La Siesta, the railroad allowed for a stop to be established there. At first, it was probably to transport construction material and cottages since Swanton had no road access initially. But in later years, it was certainly for passenger use. A 1,076-foot siding was built on the east side of the tracks upon which excursion trains could park. To support this stop, Swanton built an ornate station shelter with stained-glass windows that sat between the branch line and the spur.

Swanton's financial investments suffered in the mid- to late-1910s and he was forced to sell his home in 1920. The cottage passed to several owners over subsequent years, but remains largely unchanged in its style. The area across from the Swanton Cottage was subdivided at the same time that Swanton purchased his property and it remains a thriving subdivision today. At some point, probably in the late 1910s, a bridge was built across the river along Larkspur Street to provide direct automobile access. Siesta remained on railroad timetables until the closure of the line in January 1934, but it is unclear if passengers continued to use the stop. Presumably the owners of the cottage and neighbors to the south periodically called passing trains until passenger service ended in 1930.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1033N, 122.1030W

The site of Siesta is now a private driveway just beyond the end of Riverside Road in Brookdale. The right-of-way is entirely intact here with a concrete bridge pier visible to the north and a fence to the south. The Swanton Cottage remains only partially changed across from the stop. The old station shelter was converted into an ornate treehouse and sits behind the cottage atop a large stump. It still retains original stained-glass windows and the look of a 1910s-era building. Trespassing on any of this property, including the right-of-way, is not permitted. However, the home has been up for sale for several months now and may potentially be viewed via Micki Dahl at Century 21. The building has been given a Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History blue plaque award in recognition of its age, architectural style, and history.

The right-of-way at Swanton, looking north, clearly showing enough width for the mainline and a spur, 2013.
[Derek R. Whaley]

Citations & Credits:

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Stations: Phillipshurst

Until the end of the nineteenth century, lumber was the primary industry in the upper San Lorenzo Valley. Between Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek, small shingle mills and larger milling operations pockmarked both sides of the San Lorenzo River. A mile north of Ben Lomond Station, the Boulder Creek Branch crossed the San Lorenzo River onto the east bank for a short length. It was here that a shingle mill under the management of Myron Young operated from about 1896 until 1908. Young took on several partners over the years, including a Mr. Hall from 1896 to 1900, and a Mr. Lawrence from 1901 to 1908. Despite the name "shingle" mill, Young's operations north of Ben Lomond cut large and small redwood trees for processing. Much of the wood was, indeed, cut into shingles, but other split stuff such as grape stakes and railroad ties were made, and some timber was shipped off to mills to be turned into lumber, suggesting the mill had at least some railroad access, even if none was ever recorded in official documents. By early 1913, the property had sat vacant for five years and the redwoods that once sat on either side of the railroad tracks were almost entirely gone, replaced by a rolling meadow.

The Phillipshurst flag-stop with waiting passengers, late 1910s.
[George Pepper]
Around 1901, Dr. William A. Phillips, a graduate from Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, settled in Santa Cruz County. Phillips had lived for twelve years in Reno practicing medicine and serving as the president of the Nevada State Medical Society. In 1909, Phillips became the first president of the Santa Cruz Board of Health. Around the same time, he served as the lead physician of the Woodmen of the World's Santa Cruz Branch. Little else is known about the physician except he was quite wealthy and well-respected within the county. Hoping the mountain air would help a chronic illness he had developed, Phillips purchased the 47.5-acre mill site, which spanned both sides of the river, in mid-1912 on which he built a single-story rural bungalow he named Phillipshurst. As early as March 1913, local newspapers were already gossiping about the mountain retreat.

By this same time, Phillips had managed to negotiate a private flag-stop for his property. Southern Pacific was not really in the business of creating new flag-stops along the Boulder Creek Branch at this time, so it is unclear what convinced them. Money, certainly, helped but the tracks already passed through Phillips' property so there is no other clear motivation for the railroad. In any case, the stop featured a sign beside a mile-marker. Survey maps report that there was also a small shelter at the station, although why the sign was not atop it is unclear. Phillips built a short suspension bridge that spanned the river to access the stop and the lands across the river. There was no platform or additional track at the Phillipshurst stop and it was only ever listed in timetables as a flag-stop. It was the last new stop listed along the Boulder Creek Branch. Only a couple photographs of the stop exist and all depict the same outing.
The main building of the Riverwood Manor, 1982. [Roger Wilder]
Phillipshurst as a station would live on until the end of the Boulder Creek Branch in 1934. However, the adjacent property have passed through several hands since 1912. Phillips sold the property in 1923 to Dr. William Everett Musgrave, who renamed it Riverwood Manor. Musgrave remodelled the estate with the assistance of Albert Farr and turned it into Tudor Revival-style mansion. He also hired John McLaren, the landscaper of Golden Gate Park, to arrange the gardens on the estate. Upgrading of the estate was completed in the spring of 1925. The completed manor-house consisted of ten bedrooms, multiple kitchens, two private apartments, a music room, library, living room, and an elegantly-covered porched collectively covering 10,000 square feet of real-estate. Unfortunately, Musgrave did not get to enjoy his improved mansion for long. He died in 1927, leaving the estate to his widow, Florence Blythe Moore, who continued to reside on the property until 1936. Whether or not Musgrave and Blythe used the railroad stop during this time is unknown.

View of some of the gardens beside the Riverwood Manor, 1980. Photo by Peter Amos. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Riverwood was sold to Theodore Hammond Smith who founded a school for people with mental disabilities. The estate was renamed the Blake Hammond School and the main building the Blake Hammond Manor. Blake was a reference to Smith's mother, Elizabeth Ellen Blake. Similar to the previous men who owned the property, Smith had medical training, having served as a Naval medic during World War I, and he wanted to use the mansion as a place where he could educate mentally disabled students using techniques pioneered by his mother. During his tenure on the estate, several buildings arose on either side of the river for housing, classrooms, and other amenities. Many of these structures, as well as the original Phillipshurst bridge that crossed the river, were destroyed in the 1955 flood. Smith rebuilt the bridge, which still exists today, but most of the outbuildings were abandoned.

View of the library inside the Riverwood Manor, 1980. Photo by Peter Amos. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Smith closed the school in October 1968 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died in February 1969. He and his family continued to live on the estate during this period, but the costs of maintaining it forced the Smiths to leave. After sitting several years on the market, realtors and the Smith family decided to break up the property to make it easier to sell, subdividing the forty acres on the east bank of the river while leaving the 7.5 acres on the west bank intact.

Pat Wilder giving a tour of the Riverwood Manor's living room to visitors, 1980. Photo by Pater Amos.
[Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Roger and Patricia Sambuck Wilder purchased the mansion in 1977 and immediately began the process of restoring the structure to its former glory. The estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places (#3004369) in August 1983. Despite plans to reopen the mansion as a medical center or rehabilitation facility, it has remained a private estate ever since the Wilders acquired the property.
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1012N, 122.0996W

The site of both the Phillipshurst stop and the Blake Hammond Manor are unaccessible to the public. The stop is located near the southern end of River Road, which has since become a gated community. Nothing remains of the stop in any case, although River Road follows the railroad right-of-way in this section. The manor is still owned by the Wilder family as a private residence and tours of the structures are no longer available to the public. The manor can be partially viewed from State Route 9 just across from Pike Road—the highway wraps around a two-story structure that forms a part of the property, with the old gatehouse located directly across from this building.

Citations & Credits:

  • Clark, Donald Thomas, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Official Registry and Directory of Physicians and Surgeons in the State of California. San Francisco: Medical Society of the State of California, 1914.
  • Santa Cruz Evening News and Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1896-1983.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Maps: Riverside to Ben Lomond

The 3.2-mile route between Riverside—the junction point for the Old Felton Spur and the Boulder Creek Branch after 1908—and Ben Lomond was a scenic but not especially difficult journey. It was graded initially as the narrow-gauge Felton & Pescadero Railroad between 1883 and 1885 and closely paralleled the route of the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company's v-flume. The line was upgraded to standard gauge in 1908, but this presented few construction challenges except in the area south of Brackney. The route was renamed the Felton Branch in 1887 and the Boulder Creek Branch in 1912.

Aerial view of downtown Felton with the railroad grade still visible on the hillside behind the town, 1946.
[Felton Homes and History]
Photographs of the town of Felton show that the railroad tracks sat in a shallow cut as it rounded the large meadow on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River just across from downtown Felton. From there, it progressed north, always remaining on the east side of the river throughout its entire passage to Ben Lomond. Just south of Bonny Brae, two short fills were required to bridge seasonal streams that pass through the meadow. The land then levelled off through Bonny Brae and the site of the Christmas tree lot before a short but deep cut was required through an especially difficult piece of terrain.
Railroad route between Riverside and Ben Lomond, 1885-1934. Structures and spur lengths not to scale.
 [Derek R. Whaley]
From here, the route reached its most treacherous point, hugging the hillside above the San Lorenzo River as a steep, sandy cut continuously poured debris on the tracks throughout the line's fifty-year existence. The only reported construction casualties along this line occurred here when a landslide killed two Chinese workers. Upgrading of the line in 1908 undoubtedly presented further challenges since the cut had to be pushed back even further, but newspapers report no serious incidents.

A home with a concrete pool in the Glen Arbor subdivision, c. 1930s. [Zillow]
From Brackney, the line evened out for the next 1.5 miles, passing through Glen Arbor before turning to the east with the river as it passed around The Highlands (Highlands County Park). Near where Quail Hollow Road intersects with Glen Arbor Road, the railroad grade met the road grade and continued paralleling it to the east to Newell Creek. At Newell Creek, a short redwood truss bridge was installed, one of two bridges used in this section. Soon afterwards, the route passed Newell Junction.

County survey of the Newell Creek watershed, showing the Newell Creek Branch and private trackage, 1909.
[George Pepper]
The Newell Creek Branch was only a mile long and only crossed the creek once, just before the mill. From there, an ever-lengthening narrow-gauge line continued deep into the Newell Creek basin. Very few photographs of this operation survive, but a few maps show where the tracks crossed the creek several times—at least six. Other bridges were required to cross feeder creeks and gulches in the basin. No photographs survive of any of these structures, but they were probably crudely-built using felled redwood trunks and other available pieces of timber, much like bridges on private lines north of Boulder Creek and along Aptos and Valencia Creeks.

Bridge over the San Lorenzo River north of Ben Lomond, c. 1900. [Helen Weber]
Back on the Boulder Creek Branch, the final journey between Newell Junction and Ben Lomond Depot was interrupted only by a bridge over Love Creek, the design of which has been lost. When the railroad first reached the settlement, it was known as Pacific Mills and several railroad tracks could be found throughout the area. One line continued up Oak Avenue along Love Creek to an indeterminate location. Another split from the mainline before crossing Love Creek on its own bridge, from where it continued down Mill Street, past the mill and across the San Lorenzo River to the west, eventually rejoining with the branch line there. From this track, a spur broke off to head up Hubbard Gulch to an unknown point. One last spur turned down across the San Lorenzo River to the south along what would later become State Route 9. Again, its ultimate destination is unknown.

Railroad tracks crossing the former entrance to Hotel Ben Lomond, with the depot in the background, c. 1920.
[George Pepper]
At the depot itself, a single siding wrapped around the depot to the south while the main track continued north of the depot, after which it crossed Fremont Avenue and turned to cross the San Lorenzo River and continue to Boulder Creek.

Nancy and Sally Hinman standing watching a train pass in Ben Lomond, c. 1920s. [Tracy New]
The Boulder Creek Branch was abandoned in January 1934 and the tracks pulled soon afterwards. None of the track in this area remains today, but much of the right-of-way between Riverside and Glen Arbor remains intact if you know where to look. In contrast, most of it from Glen Arbor to Ben Lomond has been covered by private homes and remnants of both bridges have disappeared into the creeks. The Newell Creek Branch is now Newell Creek Road, while the Newell Creek basin has since been inundated to create Loch Lomond, although remnants of the former logging rights-of-way can be found near the top of the lake when water levels are low.

Citations & Credits: 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Curiosities: Ben Lomond-Area Resorts

Ben Lomond's transition from a remote lumber mill to a resort community came rather suddenly in the late 1880s and early 1890s, yet surprisingly few resorts actually arose in and around the town. Part of the reason for this was that James Pieronnet Pierce of Pacific Mills still owned much of the land at the beginning. He, therefore, had some control of the town's evolution over the next two decades. Thus, while other towns were more wild in their development and entrepreneurs could experiment with new resorts, Ben Lomond was more like a planned town. The history of its resorts during the era of the railroad reflect this unique growth pattern.

Hotel Ben Lomond (1887-1911)
The first resort in Ben Lomond was the aptly named Hotel Ben Lomond. It was established in 1887 by Thomas L. and Weltha A. Bell, who were tasked by Pierce to found the Ben Lomond Land & Lumber Company and begin the commercial and residential development of the former mill properties. The hotel was situated on the northwest corner of town near where State Route 9 crosses the San Lorenzo River. Originally, it consisted of a two-story structure which hosted thirty-five guest rooms, a dining room, parlor, kitchen, and office. A wide veranda wrapped around the building. Around 1890, a separate club room was also built, which featured in it billiards tables and a small dancing area. Outside on the hotel grounds were four four-room cottages that could house families in the summer months. Below the hotel on the banks of the San Lorenzo River were several changing rooms (called "swimming baths") to allow people to enjoy the river. Fishing and hunting were advertised as key features, while the close connection to the railroad station meant that vacationers could also head to the Santa Cruz Main Beach to enjoy the Monterey Bay.

Colorized postcard of Hotel Ben Lomond at its peak, c. 1895. [CardCow]
The Bells owned the property for just under a decade, but their dreams of a mountain resort outgrew the size of their little hotel complex on the edge of town. In 1896, they started fresh on the south side of town and founded the Hotel Rowardennan. In any case, the couple rarely managed the property personally. From 1890 to 1896, it went through no fewer than six proprietors, including M. A. Farrar (1890), W. K. McCollim and Charles C. Douglas (1891), W. M. Ward (1892), G. L. A. Smith (1893-1894, 1899), and James J. C. Leonard (1895-1898). This was high turnaround for such a successful resort and, in at least two cases, part of the problem was dishonest managers. The Bells sold the resort to D. W. Johnston, who allowed Leonard to remain as proprietor.

The entrance to Hotel Ben Lomond, across the tracks from Ben Lomond Depot off Fairview Avenue, c. 1905.
[Derek R. Whaley]
With the establishment of Hotel Rowardennan, Hotel Ben Lomond had direct competition. In 1896, an arms race began with Rowardennan. Whatever happened at one, the other copied it. In that year, Leonard added sixteen rooms to the hotel, increasing its capacity substantially. The next year, the river was dammed to allow a pool for boating, the dining room was enlarged, and 150 electric lights were installed. Despite the resort only consisting of 24 acres, compared to Rowardennan's 300, it could support 150 guests at maximum capacity.

Colorized postcard of Hotel Ben Lomond, 1907. [eBay]
Despite the competition, Hotel Ben Lomond thrived throughout the 1890s and early 1900s. After two years of ownership under Joseph Ball, who also managed the property, the resort was taken over by Benjamin F. Dickinson, who had run Hotel Rowardennan on behalf of H. Francis Anderson for five years, during which time he founded separately Hotel Dickinson. He retained the latter even while taking over Hotel Ben Lomond. But this seemed too much for Dickinson and he sold the property in 1904 to F. A. Cory, who immediately began upgrading the hotel further with the addition of more guest rooms and a larger office, even going so far to incorporate the business as the Ben Lomond Hotel Company in February 1905. A few years later, though, Cody sold it to E. H. Scott, who in turn sold it to Lydia B. Sowell in 1910. A portion of the property was also parcelled off as a private residence at this time. Disputes arose in 1911 between the two new proprietors, leading to the sale of much of the furniture and other moveable goods at the hotel. It never recovered.

On March 5, 1914, the end finally came for the resort. A fire started by the hotel's proprietor, Walter W. Everton, supported by its owners, C. A. Cooper and Ellsworth Beeson, engulfed the main hotel complex, including the parlors, kitchen, dining room, and bedrooms. Only out buildings such as the cottages and club house survived. Everton was arrested for the crime and all three were implicated in arson fires, made for insurance reasons, across the state. The property sat abandoned for fourteen years before becoming the Fairview Manor in 1928. The home now hosts a bed and breakfast.

Kent House (1894)
Located directly to the north of Ben Lomond depot, the Kent House advertised its central locale as its primary feature when it entered the scene in April 1894. Run by Martin B. Matson, a former employee of Hotel Ben Lomond, the hotel did not survive for more than one season. In 1895, Matson was arrested in Los Gatos for trying to pass a forged check.

Hotel Rowardennan and Ben Lomond Lodge (1896-1935)
Not satisfied with the relatively small hotel west of downtown, Thomas and Weltha Bell reincorporated as the Ben Lomond Improvement Company in 1896 and constructed the massive 300-acre Hotel Rowardennan resort, which sprawled across the county road to the south of Ben Lomond and spanned the San Lorenzo River near its confluence with Newell Creek. Unlike Hotel Ben Lomond, at least initially, Rowardennan featured tennis courts, campgrounds, forest paths, and boating along the river. A dam installed in the river created a swimming hole and also powered the hotel's electric lighting.

Colorized postcard of the Hotel Rowardennan lodge, c. 1905. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
As happens so frequently with structures in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the original Hotel Rowardennan burned down in February 1897, only months after it opened, but the Bells rebuilt and the resort continued to grow. It was expanded to include a restaurant, billiards room, indoor dance hall, and a telegraph office. It had all the features any resort could wish for, but its year-round operations were bleeding it dry. In 1899, the Bells relocated to the confluence of Bean Creek and Zayante Creek to build the Arcadia resort (later Mount Hermon). They sold Hotel Rowardennan to H. Francis Anderson, the wealthy British owner of The Highlands (now Highlands County Park), who hired Benjamin and Gertrude Dickinson to manage the hotel operations.

Tennis players on the tennis court at Hotel Rowardennan, c. 1915. [eBay]
The Dickinsons were optimistic and eager to make Rowardennan profitable. Benjamin had been one of Pierce's lumbermen and had worked for Bell at the hotel previously. He also served as the assistant postmaster for Santa Cruz. Within a year of being hired as manager, the Dickinsons acquired the smaller tract of land between the Rowardennan property and the San Lorenzo River to the north, upon which they erected tent cabins and cottages for campers. The Dickinsons continued to manage Rowardennan off and on until 1910, after which the spun-off their adjacent property as Hotel Dickinson.

Main dining room at Hotel Rowardennan, c. 1910. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The popularity of the picturesque resort began to decline in the 1910s. In June 1926, Anderson sold the property to Robert Barr and W. L. Morton, who renamed the resort Ben Lomond Lodge. By this point, Anderson had already sold off most of the property, leaving Barr and Morton with only twelve acres. It remained a popular dancing and music venue while vacationers continued to stay in the lodge and the surviving cottages scattered above the river. The partners also rebranded the resort an auto camp, designating an area along the river as campgrounds. The property was sold to G. L. James in 1928 and then Clara Warren in 1931. James had attempted to convert the hotel into a girls' school in 1929, but the venture never took off. Warren sold the property to Helene LaCraze in February 1932, but she would prove the final owner.

The San Lorenzo River behind Hotel Rowardennan, c. 1908. [California State Library]
Before the start of the 1932 summer season, the entire lodge and three cottages burned to the ground on April 9. Fourteen cottages survived, as well as several other amenities such as the dance pavilion. These allowed LaCraze to continue operating the resort at an extremely reduced capacity for the next two summers. But tragedy struck again in September 1933 when the club house, which housed a bowling alley, dance hall, and dinner tables, burned down. Only nine cottages survived and with these LaCraze hoped to rebuild the lodge as an entirely new establishment in 1934. But her dreams were shattered when, in February 1934, a third fire demolished the largest of the surviving cottages and damaged two others. The resort manager, C. Clementi, who ran a restaurant on the property, continued to advertise throughout 1935, suggesting something of the original property survived, but by 1937 the remaining buildings were up for sale again.

Final iteration of Rowardennan Lodge, 1952. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Sal Christina purchased the abandoned property in April 1937 and demolished the structures, renaming the property Ben Lomond Lodge Park and subdividing it for sale as vacation rentals and permanent homes. Eight years later, Ben Lomond Lodge was registered as an official business again but little more is said of it in local media thereafter. The Rowardennan Lodge then appeared in 1947 but its relationship to the previous business is unclear and this new iteration disappeared in 1955. The site now hosts a swimming pool and private residences.

Hotel Dickinson and Town & Country Lodge (1910-1967)
In 1904, the Dickinsons purchased a large tract of land north of Hotel Rowardennan upon which they placed some tent cabins and cottages. In March 1910, they finally broke their arrangement with H. Francis Anderson and Hotel Rowardennan and founded Hotel Dickinson on their property. Initially, they simply built a small hotel structure, but in 1914 they erected a large lodge that served as the centerpiece of their resort. The Dickinsons never tried to compete with their neighbors by offering the same level of resort options. Theirs was a simple hotel meant to cater to an increasingly mobile population. In many ways, it was more a roadhouse than resort. Nonetheless, they did manage some amenities, such as the creation of their own swimming lake on the San Lorenzo above that of Hotel Rowardennan. Throughout the 1920s, the lodge served as a popular meeting place in the San Lorenzo Valley. Concerts and galas were held there, as well as the monthly meetings of the local Chamber of Commerce. In 1927, The Cuckoo Clock tea house was opened at the hotel. In fact, with the final destruction of the Ben Lomond Lodge in 1933, Hotel Dickinson briefly became the only high-capacity hotel in the Ben Lomond area.

Entrance to the Hotel Dickinson, c. 1910. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
During the Great Depression, the hotel suffered somewhat from the Works Progress Administration project to redirect State Route 9 through downtown Ben Lomond. The new route of the road passed directly beside the hotel and required the demolition of its tea house, part of the main hotel structure, and a number of aesthetic features. Dickinson and his parneters, Tyler Henshaw and Fred Tubbs, sued the government for damages, arguing the hotel was not adequately compensated. The hotel won the case and was awarded $5,000 in damages. In 1936, Dickinson demolished the cottages at his hotel and sold them for scrap.

The swimming pool behind the Town & Country Lodge, 1952. [Santa Cruz Public Librarires]
Benjamin Dickinson continued to run the hotel until his death on July 29, 1943. The property was then sold by his wife and heirs to Gordon O. Perry in September 1945. Perry ran Hotel Dickinson as a night club as well as hotel, eventually renaming it the Town & Country Lodge in March 1947.  The hotel was sold to Gene Gundel in June 1967 and continued to run as a hotel and cocktail lounge, but when it passed to Bob and Beverly Dakan in 1968, it became a restaurant and night club famous as a home of acid rock. Fire code violations and complaints by the public forced the club to shut down in 1975, after which it was sold as a private home to Rick J. Thomas. It reopened as an antique store called American Heritage Antiques in 1977 under the ownership of Mike Love and Dann Hewit. It has remained an antique store ever since, now called Towne & Country Antiques and Uniques, although the La Placa Family Bakery now sits on a corner of the former lodge.

Lockwood's Grove (1926-1958)
Advertisement for Lockwood's Grove, May 20, 1935.
[Santa Cruz Evening News]
A late entry in the list of local resorts, Wilfred E. Lockwood's Grove only appeared on the scene in the mid-1920s as a rural auto camp. Local newspapers describe the resort as a "cottage colony" that probably sat in the vicinity of the St. Peter & St. Paul (Gold Dome) Orthodox Church. It was a popular convention venue for local mid-sized organizations and had at least ten cottages on the site, as well as a large camp bonfire pit and a swimming pool. Lockwood got a job for Strout Realty in 1941 and began subdividing his property the next year. The remaining resort property he sold in February 1951 to Lee Weatherwax, who sold the 80-acre resort in 1958. It probably became Redwoods on the River, a mobile home village at the end of Brown Gables Road.

Vernal Lodge (1920s-1940)
Vernal Lodge was little more than a four-acre property that its owner, the English immigrant Mary Theresa Dietz, wished to share with campers and vacationers in the summer months. She moved to Ben Lomond in 1897 and opened her tiny resort in the mid-1920s. All mention of the lodge ends in 1940. Dietz died on July 20, 1954.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Stations: Ben Lomond

The development of the settlement that became Ben Lomond took well over three decades to achieve and, compared to many other settlements in the San Lorenzo Valley, had surprisingly little to do with the coming of the railroad. The area is located north of the northern boundary of Rancho Zayante and, as such, it had virtually no development prior to the 1860s. A few rugged farmers established themselves in the area, but otherwise there were no formal roads or services offered north of Felton. The name Ben Lomond was actually given to the mountain to the west of the San Lorenzo Valley, upon which the Scotsman John Burns began the first commercial vineyard in Santa Cruz County. Throughout the 1860s, a number of small lumber enterprises moved into the area that would become the town of Ben Lomond, including Isaac Graham's daughter, Mary E. Marshall, after whom Marshall Creek was named, and Thomas B. Hubbard, the namesake of Hubbard Gulch. On the opposite side of the area, Captain Henry Love, famed for killing the outlaw Joaquín Murieta, owned another small logging operation along the creek that would later bear his name.

A view down Mill Street at Pacific Mills, c. 1885. [Preston Sawyer]
James Pieronnet Pierce purchased Love's property in 1868 and it is with him and his Pacific Manufacturing Company that the true history of Ben Lomond as a settlement begins. Pierce saw the lumber potential provided by the various wooden creeks that all met the San Lorenzo River around floodplain where the river turned abruptly eastward before continuing on its southward journey to the Monterey Bay. But Pierce was patient and harvest other lumber sources while he awaited better access to his land along the river. This opportunity came in 1877, after the San Lorenzo Valley Flume was completed and sufficiently stress-tested.

Pacific Manufacturing Company factory in Santa Clara, c. 1880s. [San José Public Libraries]
At the bend in the river, Pierce built Pacific Mills, a mid-sized lumber mill that ran for almost ten seasons. Pierce's priority was Love Creek, but Hubbard and other local firms also either leased their properties to Pierce or used his large facility at the floodplain to process their felled timber. In Santa Clara, Pierce built a massive planing mill that turned the crudely-cut wood into lumber, window sills, and coffins, among other items, for sale across the West.

Men and a carriage outside the first Ben Lomond depot, c. 1895. [Bruce MacGregor]
In mid-1884, the Felton & Pescadero Railroad first reached Pacific Mills, allowing Pierce to ramp up production of lumber exponentially. Spurs and sidings snaked throughout the mill property, as well as across the San Lorenzo River to the south, up Love Creek to the east, and up Hubbard Gulch to the west. The ultimate extent of his private railroad network is unclear, but remnants found along Love Creek suggest that Pierce built over seven miles of narrow-gauge track, although he probably used horses, oxen, or mules to actually transport felled trees.

Ben Lomond subdivisions as proposed by J.P. Pierce, 1887.
During the summer of 1886, the area around Pacific Mills was logged out and Pierce looked toward selling the acreage. Although Pierce wished to keep the Pacific Mills name, the United States post office disagreed and the name became Ben Lomond in May 1887. Pierce incorporated the Ben Lomond Land & Lumber Company that same year to manage property sales on the 4,000 acres he owned, land that stretched nearly two miles to the north and south and a mile east and west. A Southern Pacific-style combination passenger and freight depot was erected just north of the mill at around this same time, with track passing on either side of the depot. While south of the river, Pierce leased his land to Thomas Bell, who established the Hotel Rowardennan resort complex, within the settlement Pierce separated the land into two large subdivisions he called Sunnyside and Brookside, the former located on the floodplain, the latter along Love Creek.

A passenger train parked beside the new Ben Lomond depot, c. 1910. [Bruce MacGregor]
By the mid-1890s, the town of Ben Lomond was firmly established and the former mill grounds were evolving into downtown. The various spurs up the creeks and around the mill were removed leaving only a short stretch of double track behind the depot and a single run-around track in front of it. Following the San Francisco Earthquake, the track through Ben Lomond was upgraded to standard-gauge in 1908. The next year, the small depot at Ben Lomond was replaced with a structure nearly twice the size and significantly taller, identical to a new station also erected at Boulder Creek.

The San Lorenzo River near Hotel Rowardennan, c. 1908. [California State Library]
Following the end of logging along the Boulder Creek Branch around 1912, Ben Lomond became primarily a tourist destination, with visitors coming from throughout the Bay Area and beyond to visit Hotel Ben Lomond, Hotel Rowardennan, Hotel Dickinson, and other resorts dotting the hills around the town. Significant swimming holes could be found along the river south and west of town, while Hotel Rowardennan also maintained a swimming hole as a part of its resort. Boating and fishing were popular at this time, as were hunting and camping. Ben Lomond produced few freight goods except some fruits grown along Love Creek and north of town.

Postcard of a McKeen motor car parked outside Ben Lomond depot, 1913. [The Valley Press]
Increasing automobile traffic beginning in the late 1910s spelled the doom of the Boulder Creek Branch in general and the station at Ben Lomond in particular. Fewer people took the train to the town, favoring instead to drive there from the Bay Area. A lack of freight customers at Ben Lomond made this problem more acute. Southern Pacific attempted to limit their losses in the mid-1910s by trying McKeen Company motor cars on the line, but these steel tanks proved unable to navigate the turns and grades of the branch line and were quickly moved elsewhere. Traffic continued to fall throughout the 1920s until only a single mixed train ran daily. Passenger service was ultimately ended at the end of 1930, although the tracks remained an active freight line until January 1934.

Mill Street in downtown Ben Lomond soon after the abandonment of the railroad, c. 1940. 
When the tracks were removed later that year, Santa Cruz County planners decided it was a good opportunity to redirect the county road through downtown Ben Lomond. Prior to 1934, through traffic bypassed the town by remaining on the west side of the San Lorenzo River, but a new road, supported with two new bridges built by the Works Progress Administration, was built along the northern edge of downtown, paralleling the old route of the railroad, although never overlapping it. Over the following years, businesses, homes, and the town's fire department were built atop the railroad grade, the remnants of which fell into obscurity.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0899N, 122.0902W

The site of Ben Lomond depot is currently occupied by the Shell gas station at the corner of California State Route 9 and Main Street. The ultimate fates of both depots remains open for debate. The older depot may now serve as a heavily-modified private residence behind the gas station, but the second depot appears to have been demolished. The right-of-way to the east passes through the Scarborough Home Center parking lot, Henfling's Tavern, and the Ben Lomond Fire Department before crossing Love Creek Road and Love Creek on its way to Glen Arbor. To the west, the right-of-way runs through Spanky's and three residences before passing behind the Tyrolean Inn and over the San Lorenzo River, where remnants of the former bridge there can still be discerned on either bank. Nothing else survives of the station at Ben Lomond.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Stations: Newell Mill

The Southern Pacific Railroad's Newell Creek Branch to the south of Ben Lomond had only one unique stop: Newell Mill. However, much like the Loma Prieta mill near Aptos, this mill on Newell Creek justified the railroad's costs in building the branch and its continued existence over the next decade.

In 1903, Timothy Hopkins, treasurer of Southern Pacific, joined forces with A. C. Bassett, president of the California Timber Company, which was formed via the consolidation of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company (once owned by James Dougherty) and the Big Basin Lumber Company (previously owned by Henry L. Middleton). Their goal: harvest the old growth redwood that still sat within the upper Newell Creek basin. Hopkins convinced the railroad to build the 1.5-mile-long branch line while the California Timber Company built the mill and all extra trackage and roads required to get the felled timber to the mill pond. Bassett brought most of his machinery from the now-abandoned Dougherty mill north of Boulder Creek in the summer of 1904. In May 1905, Hopkins delivered on his promise and the branch line to the mill was completed. Only one small bridge was required along the line to cross the creek. In anticipation of the future upgrade, the branch line was triple-railed to support both narrow- and standard-gauge rolling stock.

Newell Mill alongside Newell Creek, c. 1906. Note the creek to the left of the mill and the railroad tracks continuing beside the mill and up the creek. [Bruce MacGregor]
The mill opened on May 1, 1905, averaging an output of 60,000 board feet of lumber per day. The tiny Felton locomotive, nicknamed the Dinky, which originally ran on the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad line before being purchased by the Doughertys around 1887, was transferred to the Newell Mill where it operated in the Newell Basin on narrow-gauge tracks installed by lumber crews. Unlike the branch line to the mill, the miles of tracks installed north of the mill were privately-owned and undoubtedly crudely made, with several bridges built to cross the creek and various gullies and feeder streams. In October, a fire burned down the entire mill. Fortunately, most of the timber was still soaking in the mill pond at the time and very little actually was lost. Bassett rebuilt the mill the following February and resumed operations. 

Lumbermen waiting on a narrow-gauge flatcar for a pickup by a locomotive. [Rick Hamman]
The April 18, 1906, earthquake should have catapulted Newell Creek into peak production to support the San Francisco rebuild, but several issues slowed down operations. The closure of the mountain route for three years meant that lumber either had to be shipped out along the coast via Pajaro or by ship at Santa Cruz. Southern Pacific also took the closure of the route as an opportunity to finally upgrade its trackage to standard-gauge, which occurred along the Boulder Creek Branch in 1908. Prior to this time, all of the San Lorenzo Valley's trackage had been narrow-gauge, but the upgrading meant that the tracks along Newell Creek were now the only narrow-gauge tracks in the valley. The California Timber Company rushed to convince Southern Pacific to send to its mill all remaining narrow-gauge rolling stock before pulling out the third rail. This allowed the mill to continue to optimise its harvesting operations in the hills.

Kitty sitting on a triple-railed track in the Newell Creek property, c. 1907. [Rick Hamman]
The Dinky was no longer as capable as it had once been and in 1910 the lumber company replaced it with the Kitty, a saddleback locomotive purchased from the Molino Timber Company. The Dinky returned to the narrow-gauge track north of Boulder Creek where it was used in subdivision promotions around Wildwood. With the Kitty, harvesting operations on Newell Creek were able to expand even faster than anticipated. By 1911, 3.5 miles of track meandered up to near the headwaters of the creek, crossing over the creek five times before reaching the end.

Lumbermen posing outside the Newell Mill, c. 1906. [UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
By the end of 1912, the basin was completely bereft of profitable old growth timber. The mill shut down early the next year and was subsequently dismantled, the machinery and Kitty shipped elsewhere. The tracks north of the Newell Mill were probably scrapped in the late 1910s for use by the military during World War I, while the main branch to Newell Junction languished until at least 1920.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0987N, 122.0751W

Today, nearly all of the original California Timber Company grounds are submerged under the Santa Cruz City Water District reservoir known as Loch Lomond, which is accessible to the public seasonally via Lompico. The dam was built in 1960 and the valley flooded three years later. It currently provides much of the drinking water for the City of Santa Cruz. Little survives of the narrow-gauge right-of-way because of the inundation, although remnants do exist near the top of the lake. The railroad right-of-way to the Newell Mill mostly parallels Newell Creek Road just to the east, passing through what are now private homes. The site of the mill sits just below the earthen dam at the end of the road and is inaccessible to the public.

  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Stations: Newell Junction

When Addison Newell established his homestead along a remote tributary of the San Lorenzo River in 1867, he likely did not anticipate how long his name would be remembered. Indeed, he did not stay long in the area. In 1875, he sold the property and moved away, leaving his name to the little tributary stream, Newell Creek. Soon afterwards, the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company erected its v-flume up the valley. At Newell Creek, it installed a feeder flume to keep the water flowing in the main flume on its way to Felton. The area around this junction became a gathering point for local residents when a school was established near here as Newell Creek School in 1876. By 1881, the area also supported a shingle and box mill operated by John Peter Houck, an operation that would at times lend the name "Shingle Springs" to Newell Creek.

The Felton & Pescadero Railroad changed the situation at and for Newell Creek. Demolishing the flume, the railroad erected a line to Boulder Creek that had to cross Newell Creek before reaching Pacific Mills (Ben Lomond). In fact, Newell Creek was its first major fluvial crossing. Because of the nearby school, the railroad established a siding at Newell Creek that was appropriately named the Newell Creek School House Siding. Whether the siding was actually used to shuttle in nearby school children or was used for freight is unknown. When the Southern Pacific Railroad took over in 1887, Newell Creek did not appear on its timetables and its very status during this period remains unclear.

The passenger shelter at Newell Junction, c. 1920. [The Valley Press]
In 1891, Newell Creek reappeared in Southern Pacific station books as a freight stop. By 1895, a platform and spur were also available at the stop. This likely reflected the future plans of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, which increasingly owned the entirety of the Newell Creek valley, which included hundreds of acres of prime old-growth redwood. By 1902, Newell Creek was the only significant watershed in the San Lorenzo Valley that had not been harvested. But that soon changed.

The California Timber Company succeeded the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company in 1903 and it shifted operations from above Boulder Creek to Newell Creek. To support this venture, the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed one of its shortest branch lines, the 1.5-mile-long Newell Creek Branch, which ran between Newell Creek and the Newell Mill. Because the Boulder Creek Branch was scheduled for broad-gauging, the Newell Creek Branch was built dual-gauge. This not only allowed for it to be upgraded immediately, but it made it easier for the California Timber Company's narrow-gauge trains to use the mill trackage efficiently.

Newell Creek station became Newell Junction in 1908, once standard-gauging was completed, and it retained this name for the remainder of its existence. Around this same time, a small shelter was installed beside the switch to allow passengers to flag passing trains. This shelter was identical to the one at Brackney. Whether a freight platform remained after standard-gauging is unknown, but it seems unlikely since the spur at Newell Junction was removed at this time.

As a functioning branch line, the Newell Creek Branch ceased all or most operations by 1913, although the tracks remained in place until 1920, when the branch was decommissioned. Nonetheless, Newell Junction retained its name as a junction, despite the branch having disappeared. A remnant of the branch remained as a spur until 1930, although the purpose of this spur is unknown. The station remained available as a flag-stop until the end of passenger service at the end of 1930, after which the entire line only serviced freight. The Boulder Creek Branch was abandoned on January 25, 1934, at which time Newell Junction ceased to exist. The fate of the station shelter and sign remains unknown.

The approximate location of Newell Junction today. [Google Street View]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Approx. 37.0838N, 122.0815W

The site of Newell Junction is at the bottom of Newell Creek Road at its junction with Glen Arbor Road, although it is unclear where precisely the shelter was located. The Boulder Creek Branch right-of-way parallels Glen Arbor Road to the south and west in this area, while Newell Creek Road closely matches or parallels the route of the former Newell Creek Branch. No remnant of Newell Junction survives, but Addison Newell's legacy continues through street names and Newell Creek.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.