Thursday, November 26, 2020

Curiosities: The Earthquake of 1906 and the Railroad

On the evening of April 17, 1906, the Central Coast of California was on the brink of big changes for local railroads. After nearly twenty years, the Southern Pacific Railroad was finally upgrading its narrow-gauge route along the old South Pacific Coast Railway line from Alameda Point to Santa Cruz. Meanwhile, the Loma Prieta Lumber Company's mill in the Hinckley Basin off Soquel Creek had just started up again for a new season and the F. A. Hihn mill at Laurel was revving up for its fifth full season. Along the North Coast, the Ocean Shore Railway had just reached Davenport where the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company was busy building its new refinery, while the Coast Line Railroad, owned by Southern Pacific, was lagging behind with its tracks through the West Side still under construction. Southern Pacific crews elsewhere in the county had recently finished a substantial survey for a route north of Boulder Creek into the Pescadero Creek basin, where they hoped to build a new connecting loop line that would eventually wrap back south to Davenport and allow access to millions of board feet of lumber in the Pescadero valley. The Ocean Shore was also interested in such a loop route, as well as an electric streetcar line into Big Basin. At around the same time, the Western Shore Lumber Company, owned by Loma Prieta Lumber Company executives, was founded to harvest these tracts as soon as possible. The vision for local railroading ventures was boundless.

A stretch of three-rail track displaced by the earthquake above Los Gatos Creek near Wrights, 1906. [Bancroft Library – colorized using DeOldify]
Earthquakes were not a new phenomenon in California—the indigenous Awaswas people were keenly familiar with them and even the earliest Spanish settlers experienced them somewhat frequently. Every generation of Californian eventually came to terms with the fact that the San Andreas Fault was more unpredictable and temperamental than your average fault line. But the temblor that struck the Bay Area on the morning of April 18, 1906, was unlike any the state had felt since it became a United States possession. Most of the Central Coast was still either sleeping or just emerging from rest when it struck. Railroad workers were just beginning their morning shifts, with construction crews preparing to toss off the third rail between Los Gatos and Wrights, their work of upgrading the line nearly complete. People in the mountains were lighting fireplaces and stoves for their morning coffee and tea. Mill donkey engines were warming up, too, preparing for a long day of sawing cut logs into lumber. None of them anticipated the destruction that would violently interrupt their peace and destroy all plans for the foreseeable future.

An Ocean Shore Railway train assisting in clearing debris from the ruins of San Francisco, 1906. [Bancroft Library – colorized using DeOldify]
The sun was only minutes from rising over the distant Sierra Nevada at 5:12 a.m. when the world first shifted. Frederick A. Hihn, who was staying at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco that day, recounted:
I felt the earthquake coming—much harder than I had ever experienced. The plaster from all around the sides of the room fell in large pieces, while in the middle of the room where my bed was, only sand and dust came down. The quake seemed to continue more than five minutes though it really lasted less than two minutes. It seemed to try its best to shake me out of bed, but I succeeded in staying in. As soon as it subsided I arose and turned on the electric light. Its unsteadiness proved there was an interference which indicated danger to the house being set afire.

He was right to fear the unsteady flames of his lamp—much of San Francisco would burn over the next week due to broken gas lines and open flames causing an inferno through the heart of downtown. The palatial mansions of the Big Four on Nob Hill were among the victims of the fires as were the corporate offices of the Ocean Shore Railway and some of the offices of the Southern Pacific. Over 80% of the city was damaged or destroyed in the temblor and inferno.

A displaced fence caused by a rift through a person's property near Wrights, 1906. [Bancroft Library – colorized using DeOldify]

The earthquake hit in waves, with an initial rumble at 5:12 that woke up much of the Bay Area, and a more severe blast about 30 seconds later, that would later be estimated at about 7.9 on the Richter scale. It was the single greatest earthquake in the recorded history of the West Coast. As few as 700 and as many as several thousand people perished in the quake and ensuing fires, making it also the deadliest natural disaster in California. Aftershocks continued for weeks, causing mayhem and straining nerves. The dispersion of energy from the fault led to earthquakes elsewhere in the state, as well, as far south as the Imperial Valley and as far north as Eureka, where a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck on April 23. Nobody in California rested easy in the month after April 18, 1906.

Twisted rails caused by the earthquake along the viaduct at Moss Landing, 1906. [Bancroft Library – colorized using DeOldify]

Further south, outside Los Gatos at a station named Bermingham, the powder warehouse for the New Almaden quicksilver mines, operated by the California Powder Works, erupted in a massive explosion, although it appears nobody was killed in the incident. Throughout the Bay Area, including along Los Gatos Creek and as far south as the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad's track at Moss Landing, rails were twisted and grades shifted. Even the course of the Salinas River moved from Elkhorn Slough to an old channel northeast of Marina. In truth, the integrity of the entire network of rails that spanned the Central Coast was questioned with surveyors needed to verify that trackage was still stable and reliable. In many places, it was not and required sometimes substantial repairs before rolling stock could pass over it again. For example, the Southern Pacific bridge over the Pajaro River south of Chittenden shifted over three feet off its piers, ultimately destabilizing the bridge. The bridge spanned the San Andreas Fault.

Cracked piers under the Pajaro River bridge near Chittenden, with temporary trestling to maintain the integrity of the span, 1906. [Bancroft Library – colorized using DeOldify]

Overall, the damage in Santa Cruz County was substantially less than in San Francisco, largely because no fires swept through the cities and towns. After Hihn returned from San Francisco he recounted his observations:

At Watsonville I found the damage by the earthquake light comparative to San Francisco and San Jose. There I took another team which brought me to Santa Cruz about five o’clock where I was received with great pleasure by many of my friends and family, who had feared I was lost.

The loss by earthquake at Santa Cruz is comparatively light. Our office building suffered perhaps the most although it was the strongest building. The Court house seems to have been considerably injured and a few other places.
Wreckage at the site of the Hinckley mill, 1906. [Popular Science Monthly]

Eleven people died in the county as a direct result of the earthquake, all but two of whom were killed in a massive landslide that completely buried the Loma Prieta mill on Hinckley Gulch. The Surf reported:

Here both sides of the canyon walls appeared to crush together and a mass of earth estimated at a hundred feet in depth filled the canyon, crushing in and burying the workmen who were living in cabins at work on the new mill

Mill, buildings and road were all submerged. Mr. Williams, the resident representative of the company, sent doctors to the scene, and dispatched laborers by the wagonload as fast as they could be obtained, but on arrival at the scene it was found impossible to reach the men or to make much progress in rescue work. The stream is completely choked by the debris, and the impounded water will form a menace to all the valley below.

The entombed men, as far as known, are believed to be Foreman [James] Walker; J. O. Dunham (the engineer); H. E. Estrada; Alex Morrison; Gus Vollandt; Frank Jones; Fred Peaslee; A. Buckley; and Charley June (the Chinese cook).

Part of the landslide that cost the lives of nine millworkers on Hinckley Creek, 1906. [Popular Science Monthly]

David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University, added that the "mill was completely buried, with nine mill hands, and a redwood tree over a hundred feet high was set erect and unhurt over the place where the mill stood. The bodies of six men were recovered. One of these, the foreman, was found erect, smothered in mud, standing with extended arms and limbs in the act of running from the mill. With him, equally erect and in the act of running, was the body of a Siberian mastiff." The other two deaths in the county were two men who were caught in a similar slide at the Hartman and McNabb mill on Deer Creek north of Boulder Creek.

The slide on Deer Creek that cost the lives of two millworkers, 1906. [Bancroft Library – colorized using DeOldify]

Jordan wrote a detailed forensic analysis of the earthquake's geomorphic impact to the Monterey Bay, explaining:

The crack went on across the hills, always in the same direction, southeast by south, till it came to the Chittenden Ranch in the Pájaro Valley. Here it tore off the hillside, destroying the highway at its base; then descended to the Pájaro River, shifting a pier of its railroad bridge about eighteen inches to the northwest. Here it met the Pájaro cross-fault. But here the straight line from Point Arena came to an end. A series of short breaks creeps off to the southeast, ending two miles southwest of San Juan, the last act being the final, almost complete, wreck of the beautiful and venerable Mission of San Juan Bautista.

Rift through the road caused by the earthquake at the entrance to Watsonville's Chinatown, 1906. [Pajaro Valley Historical Association]

A letter by a member of Hihn's staff, dated the day after the quake, gave more particulars regarding damage to downtown Santa Cruz and to the operations of the Hihn company:

Very heavy earthquake here. Court House badly damaged. Office building [of F. A. Hihn] — rear wall down above second story and side walls cracked. Other buildings of the Company were on lines injured. Two thirds of the chimneys in the entire town off. Might have been worse but bad enough. We suppose you have received reports from the Hinckley Mill. Nine lives being lost and two at Boulder Creek.

Watsonville badly shaken. San Jose, several buildings down. San Francisco reports the earthquake did not do much damage but the fire has burned from the Ferry to Seventeenth Street and Larkin Valley. Lick House reported burnt so the fire must have crossed Market as the report also says Battery Street building is on fire.

Fix up the water works first and clear creek of lumber. Do not think advisable to do more than necessary to place things in order until Mr. F. A. Hihn returns. Have sent four different parties to San Francisco but have not been able to receive any information in regard to Mr. Hihn. Party reports leaving Palace at 9 o’clock after earthquake and the Palace Hotel not injured a great deal, thus was greatly relieved in regard to Mr. Hihn being injured.

Can order meat sent to Glenwood if advisable. Think advisable not to build fire under boilers or run any portion of the Mill until F. A. Hihn returns as every portion should be inspected. Think advisable to stop all other operation to skid road and other work until we secure some information in regard to time it will take to clear tunnels for operation.

Instruct all tenants not to build fires in chimneys where broken below the roof. Do not delay in fixing water mains.
The shifted wall within the Summit Tunnel, the town of Wrights visible through the portal at right, 1906. [Bancroft Library – colorized using DeOldify] 
In the end, much of the damage around the Monterey Bay and in the Santa Cruz Mountains was relatively easy to repair. The biggest problem, however, was the damage to the Southern Pacific route through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Besides small landslides, sinks, washouts, shifts in the grade, and twisted rails, the route had suffered a monumental blow to the Summit Tunnel, which experienced an internal lateral shift of five feet at about 400 feet inside from the Wright's side. In the weeks after the quake, Southern Pacific Engineer Everett P. Carey assessed the tunnel, concluding:
The damage to the tunnel itself consisted in the caving in of overhead rock; the crushing in toward the center of the tunnel of the lateral upright timbers, and the heaving upward of the rails, due to the upward displacement of the underlying ties. In some instances, these ties were broken in the middle. In general the top of the tunnel was carried both north or northwest with reference to the bottom.
This should have been predicted—the San Andreas Fault passed directly through the tunnel on its northern side and a coal vein linked to this fault line had released methane and oil into the tunnel in 1879, prompting a deadly explosion. Repairs after a massive landslide in 1893 had led to the upgrading of the portal on the Wright's side, which also addressed more definitively the methane leak but not the potential problem of the fault line, which engineers had positively identified as such as early as the 1880s.

Work crews inside the Summit Tunnel, ca 1907. [Derek Whaley – colorized using DeOldify]
With the Summit Tunnel out of commission, work on standard-gauging the line came to a halt, as did all traffic along the line. Any railroad traffic into Santa Cruz would have to go via Pajaro once those tracks were repaired. Indeed, for several days, Santa Cruz County was almost entirely cut off from the outside world, with telegraph and telephone wires severed and transportation difficult across ruined bridges and suddenly uneven roads. The Laurel-Glenwood Tunnel and the smaller tunnels along the southern portion of the mountain line mostly survived the quake and were back in working order within weeks. As a result, Hihn opened up a shingle mill at Laurel to cut crossties, bents, and posts to repair the railroad lines, while he relocated the rest of the mill's machinery to King's Creek north of Boulder Creek, where he produced lumber for the rebuilding of downtown Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and the other more severely hit Bay Area towns.

Derailed fruit boxcars that were awaiting shipment at Chittenden, 1906. [Graniterock – colorized using DeOldify]
The Railroad Wharf, which had only occasionally been used for the past decade, once more became a primary means of shipping goods and steamships called in regularly in the months after the quake to collect lumber, lime, and blasting powder, and other products for use in San Francisco and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the mountain tracks remained narrow-gauge and would continue to be so for the foreseeable future until the tunnels and existing infrastructure were repaired. Much of the old rolling stock had already been sold, meaning that operations relied heavily on California Timber Company stock and locomotives and other long-outdated machinery.

Closeup of the temporary trestlework done to the Pajaro River bridge near Chittenden to reinforce the structure, 1906. [Bancroft Library – colorized using DeOldify]
Relying on old machinery and obsolete track gauges meant that Southern Pacific had to work fast to restore access to Santa Cruz County. The Pajaro River bridge was restored to functionality via a complex wooden trestle frame installed around the collapsed piers. The remainder of the coastal route was repaired over late spring and operating again by summer. The next step was to standard-gauge the track from Santa Cruz to Boulder Creek to facilitate the easy transfer of lumber between the two points. Unfortunately, this required replacing the bridge over the San Lorenzo River south of Felton and several other bridges on the way to Boulder Creek. The tight curves along San Lorenzo Gorge, as well as the tunnels, delayed progress more since the curves had to be lessened and the tunnel enlarged. The route only opened to standard-gauge traffic in June 1907, although narrow-gauge tracks still existed to Old Felton, from the Newell Creek Mill, and along the Dougherty Extension.

Repair camp at Wrights outside the Summit Tunnel, February 22, 1907. Photograph by Frank Herman Mattern. [Greg De Santis – colorized using DeOldify]
Meanwhile, repairs to the narrow-gauge track from Felton to Laurel, including to the tunnels, was completed by July, allowing wood products produced in Laurel to get to market. In early 1907, Southern Pacific announced that it did not intend to reopen the mountain route at all until the route was broad-gauged, meaning that the line would remain out of commission for at least another year. In reality, it took over two years, largely because of the economic Panic of 1907, which was partially caused by the earthquake. Reconstruction efforts in San Francisco brought in millions of dollars of funds from the East Coast but this led to an imbalance in investing in the market. From January 1906 to July 1907, the stock market became increasingly unstable culminating in a crisis in October 1907. These financial issues caused Southern Pacific to become more cautious with its spending, in effect delaying the upgrading of the mountain route and shelving plans for a Pescadero route or an extension of the Coast Line.  The panic also led to the temporary closure of several mills due to a lack of funds for building projects and a surplus of building materials.

Washout out Ocean Shore Railway tracks at Devil's Slide, 1906. [Huntington Library – colorized using DeOldify]
Following a year of uncertainty and little progress, Southern Pacific resumed upgrading in late 1908. On the North Coast, the Coast Line to Davenport was completed and the Ocean Shore Railway, which had suffered heavy financial loses in the earthquake and the panic, resumed work on a line from its temporary terminus at Scott to Swanton, where it had received a contract from the San Vicente Lumber Company in 1908 to use its line to transport logs. At Wright, Laurel, and Glenwood, Italian, Greek, and Japanese workers were brought in to finish the standard-gauging of the mountain route and enlarge the four tunnels still in need of upgrading. On May 29, 1909, the route was finally opened to standard-gauge trains and the last physical impairment caused by the earthquake in Santa Cruz County was removed.

Destroyed crushing plant along the tracks at the Graniterock quarry at Logan, 1906. [Graniterock – colorized using DeOldify]
The earthquake, however, had a long shadow and its long-term impact on the people of Santa Cruz County was felt in several ways. The hit to the tourism industry in the San Lorenzo Valley was permanent. Places like the Hotel de Redwood near Laurel, the various Glenwood resorts, Brookdale, and even Big Trees suffered and never full recovered since people were more weary and also had less cash to spend on travel. By the time the economy had recovered, the Model T Ford had arrived and people decreasingly spent their entire summers in one place as they had prior to the earthquake. While Fred Swanton's Neptune Casino and Plunge at the Santa Cruz waterfront survived the earthquake, both burned down only two months later and the economic fallout from the Panic of 1907 was one of the primary reasons why Swanton became increasingly desperate from 1908 to turn a profit with his rebuilt Casino and Natatorium. 

Debris blocking the flow of Los Gatos Creek creating a pond beside the three-rail tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad, 1906. [Derek Whaley – colorized using DeOldify]
Meanwhile, Southern Pacific shelving most of its ambitious plans for the region meant that all of the local lines were doomed to a slow abandonment once their principal industries closed down. Indeed, the need for lumber to rebuild San Francisco greatly expedited the timber harvesting efforts at the headwaters of Pescadero Creek, on Bear, Deer, Two Bar, and King's Creeks, in the Aptos and Soquel Creek basins, within Rancho San Vicente, and in the Newell Creek basin, leading to the decimation the county's remaining old-growth redwood by about 1920. With these sources of timber gone, branch lines began to shut down—the Newell Creek Branch in 1913, the Dougherty Extension in 1917, the Ocean Shore-San Vicente line in 1923, the Loma Prieta Branch in 1927, the Boulder Creek Branch in 1934, and the mountain section in 1940.

Hay barn and stable damaged by the earthquake at Scaroni's Ranch on the North Coast near Davenport, 1906. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History – colorized using DeOldify]
Lastly, the costs associated with recovering from the earthquake's damage to its lines around Devil's Slide near Pacifica, as well as from the fallout of the panic in 1907 and further damage caused by destructive storms in January 1909, led to the financial collapse of the Ocean Shore Railway by December 1909. In January 1911, a new company, the Ocean Shore Railroad, was formed to revive the dream, but its scope was narrower and its dreams more realistic. In the end, it too failed to connect with the northern line that abruptly stopped just south of Tunitas. The Coast Line, with no functional competition and a ready customer in the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company at Davenport, abandoned its plans to continue the line north to San Francisco or even to Pescadero, permanently ending the dream of a railroad line along the North Coast.

The Santa Cruz County Court House (Cooper House) undergoing repairs following the earthquake, 1906. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]
There are moments in history when everything changes in a moment. For California, that moment was the San Francisco Earthquake. Even though the Central Coast quickly recovered and most of the quake's visible scars were wiped away through new construction and renewed economic activity, the delay of roughly five years of progress stripped San Francisco of its central position in California politics. During this time, San Pedro Harbor opened in Los Angeles, slowly displacing San Francisco as the state's primary industrial port. The film industry also settled in the Los Angeles basin rather than the Bay Area during this time, partially due to a lack of space and facilities caused by the lingering impact of the earthquake. And the expansion of the automobile meant that people could travel farther and control their destination more acutely, which led to the slow abandonment of many formerly-popular vacation spots along the Central Coast. While the earthquake alone did not cause the diminution of the Bay Area, its timing was poor and certainly eased the shifting of political power to the rapidly-developing south.

Citations & Credits:
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2007.
  • Hihn, Frederick A. Letter written by F. A. Hihn regarding the San Francisco earthquake and fire of Wednesday, April 18, 1906. Santa Cruz, CA: University of California, Santa Cruz, Library.
  • Jordan, David Starr. "The Earthquake Rift of 1906," Popular Science Monthly 69 (Oct. 1906).
  • Powell, Ronald G. The Shadow of Loma Prieta: Part Three of the History of Rancho Soquel Augmentation. Santa Cruz, CA: Zayante Publishing, forthcoming.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Zayante Publishing, forthcoming.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Streetcars: Santa Cruz Electric Railway

There were two very different breeds of streetcars in Santa Cruz County in the nineteenth century. There were the three old, slow-moving horsecar lines that together meandered from Walnut Avenue on the West Side to Arana Gulch and Twin Lakes on the East Side. And there was chic, new electric streetcar lines, that eventually spanned from West Cliff Drive to Capitola and Delaveaga Park. The electric lines did not emerge out of nothing, though—the first company began as a modest rival to the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad, intent on outpacing its horses and moving Santa Cruz into the twentieth century.

A Santa Cruz, Garfield Park and Capitola Electric Railway streetcar at the end of Front Street beside the tracks for the Pacific Avenue horsecar line, 1891. [University of California, Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections — colorized using DeOldify]

The Pacific Avenue Street Railroad was doing extraordinarily well in 1890. It had already beaten out its competition, Frederick Hihn's Santa Cruz City Railroad, and faced only peripheral competition from the newly-built East Santa Cruz Railroad horsecar line. But despite the success, the fact was that horsecar lines were only so fast and efficient. The idea of an electric streetcar line was attractive to many, especially recent arrivals from the East Coast and Europe, where electric metropolitan lines were widespread. Raised in Brooklyn, Fred W. Swanton was one such man with a vision for an electric future. He teamed up with H. H. Clark to bring electricity to Santa Cruz via the Santa Cruz Light and Power Company. Shortly afterwards, he began to advocate for an electric streetcar system similar to that installed in San José in 1890. He was aided in his vision by James P. Smith from New York. Together they held a meeting on May 19, 1891 where they discovered an abundance of support from the public. They quickly had sufficient subscribers to move forward with their plans.

Santa Cruz, Garfield Park & Capitola Electric Railway (1891–1892)

The Santa Cruz Common Council approved their proposed streetcar line and, as a result, on June 2, 1891, the Santa Cruz, Garfield Park and Capitola Electric Railway was incorporated. The proposed route was from the northern boundary of Santa Cruz (near Vernon Street), down River Street, along N Pacific Avenue, down Front Street to Minnesota (Soquel) Avenue, down Minnesota and then up Pacific Avenue to Walnut Avenue, up Walnut to Mission Street, down Mission to Younglove Avenue, and then down Younglove and Garfield (Woodrow) Avenue to the cliffs, where the end of track was to be marked by the Vue de l'Eau station and ocean observatory. Permission was also granted to continue from Garfield and Pelton Avenue, down Lighthouse Avenue and Bay Street before continuing to the Santa Cruz Main Beach bathhouses. At Riverside Avenue, the route would turn inland, continue down Leibbrandt Avenue, the Laurel Street Extension, and Front Street and then turn down Cathcart Street and onto Pacific Avenue, where it would meet its other end at the bottom of Minnesota Avenue. The total distance of the proposed route was five miles and permission was granted by the city for the electric streetcar line to share the rails of the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad and the East Santa Cruz Railroad.

The Santa Cruz, Garfield Park and Capitola Electric Railway offices and car shed at the corner of Front and Cathcart Streets, 1892, with a young boy in the foreground. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections — colorized using DeOldify]

This sharing agreement was a major blow to the two horsecar lines but the city's leaders simply didn't care. The idea of the electric system was years in the making and had the capital support of two wealthy and ambitious investors. These facts alone pushed it over the edge but when incorporation came, almost every major investor in the city came forward to provide funds, including William T. Jeter (future city mayor and California lieutenant governor), J. Harvey Logan (superior court judge), Frank McLaughlin (future city mayor), Frank W. Ely (son of the owner of the East Santa Cruz Railroad), Edward G. Greene (former Vermont legislator), and Swanton himself (future city mayor). While Frederick A. Hihn did not invest, the project had the potential to greatly benefit his Camp Capitola resort, which was projected to be the eastern end of the line.

A Santa Cruz, Garfield Park and Capitola Electric Railway car parked outside a freshly-renovated Sea Beach Hotel, 1892. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections — colorized using DeOldify]

The streetcar company planned to adhere to a narrow gauge but of heavier rail and a slightly wider gauge than that used by the existing horsecar lines, meaning that no track would actually be shared. Work on the line began almost immediately with a viaduct installed along Front Street and a carbarn at the junction of Pacific Avenue and Cathcart Street. Work progressed quickly as rolling stock arrived and was assembled. The initial route had its trial run on November 1 and ran into several problems, with derailments, insufficient power to make it up Weeks' Hill on Walnut Avenue, and other issues, but these were soon resolved and full operations began on November 25.

An electric streetcar at the lower end of Pacific Avenue, ca 1894. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections — colorized using DeOldify]

Both of the branches of the streetcar network proved popular. People caught the 20-minute cars to the Vue de l'Eau regularly for a picnic and walk on the cliffs, while beachgoers hopped on the beach route along the San Lorenzo River to relax on the shore or visit the bathhouses. In the first year of operation, cars were often packed from morning until midnight. The immediate success of the company led the financiers to install a third branch down Center Street and on to the waterfront, where the track paralleled the Southern Pacific and the Pacific Avenue horsecar tracks down the middle of Beach Street, with the route eventually connecting to the other beach branch at the end of Riverside Avenue. This move proved too much for the old horsecar line and on August 6, 1892, the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad Company sold out to the Santa Cruz, Garfield Park and Capitola Electric Railway. 

Santa Cruz Electric Railway (1892–1904)

With all these changes and the acquisition of new property and rights, the company reincorporated as the Santa Cruz Electric Railway on August 23, 1892. Most of the board of directors were the same but plans to connect the Vue de l'Eau to the beach and install a route to the city limits along River Street were abandoned. The horsecar line up Mission Street to Walnut Avenue officially shut down for upgrading and electrification in December and the tracks down Pacific Avenue were upgraded to a wider gauge and heavier rail in March 1893 with the last horsecar running around March 20. Six new streetcars were built to operate down the Pacific Avenue line. The first run to Vue de l'Eau on the upgraded Lower Plaza to Walnut Avenue tracks began on April 2, while the Pacific Avenue route to the beach reopened to electric traffic around April 30.

A Santa Cruz Electric Railway car cruising down the Front Street viaduct, ca 1898. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections — colorized using DeOldify]

Over the next several years business continued apace, as did accidents along the line. Derailments, vandalism, electric problems, washouts, cut wires, and every other problem impacted the city's first electric streetcar line. Not long after upgrading the Pacific Avenue tracks, the Center Street route was quietly abandoned since it was no longer necessary—it had achieved its purpose. Meanwhile, the old horsecar line into the freight yard was upgraded to become an occasional route for streetcars desiring to meet morning trains. A small shelter was also erected on Pacific Avenue just across from the new Union Depot for people to transfer between the trains and streetcars. After trouble establishing official stops, the streetcar company decided that any street corner could serve as a car stop so long as the driver was flagged enough in advance.

A Santa Cruz Electric Railway car on Pacific Avenue with men on top repairing electrical lines, April 1894. The recent fire has devastated the buildings between Pacific Avenue and Front Street. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections — colorized using DeOldify]

A recession beginning in late 1893 followed by a devastating fire downtown in April 1894 slowed growth. The offices and old carbarn for the Santa Cruz, Garfield Park and Capitola Electric Railway, located at Front and Cathcart, were destroyed, prompting the company to relocate permanently to the former and more spacious Pacific Avenue Street Railroad carbarn at Pacific and Sycamore. Yet the company was otherwise uneffected and service resumed the next day. The Vue de l'Eau Casino was erected that summer off West Cliff Drive and streetcar service was extended to the mouth of the San Lorenzo River, where the city had installed a dam to form a large lagoon area. To draw tourists to this new river venue, James Smith promoted the popular Venetian Water Carnival in 1895 and 1896. Meanwhile, Fred Swanton tapped a new power source north of Davenport through his Big Creek Power Company, which quickly became the primary source of electricity for the city, including its streetcars. The upgrade of power led to the firm replacing the old carbarns on Sycamore with an entirely new, greatly-expanded complex in April 1897.

Southern Pacific Railroad (left) tracks beside the tracks of the Santa Cruz Electric Railway running behind the Neptune Bathhouse with the Sea Beach Hotel in the distance, ca 1900. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections — colorized using DeOldify]

Nonetheless, simplification of the line was inevitable. After the second water carnival, the line was cut back to Riverside Avenue and the Walnut Avenue section was abandoned since the Mission Street trackage obtained from the Pacific Avenue horsecar line covered much of the same area. Plans to extend the route to Capitola were shelved until the economic situation improved. This finally item proved to be a mistake, though. Swanton, desiring capital to invest elsewhere, sold Big Creek Power in February 1900 and soon used the proceeds to buy most of the attractions at the Santa Cruz Main Beach. The new owners, R. C. P. Smith and John M. Gardiner, had a vision of their own: to build an electric streetcar system that spanned the Monterey Bay from Santa Cruz to Pacific Grove and inland to Salinas. As part of this project, they began buying power companies throughout the area. With their sources of energy secured, Smith and Gardiner then incorporated their own Santa Cruz, Capitola and Watsonville Railway Company on September 11, 1902. 

Passengers detraining a crowded Santa Cruz Electric Railway streetcar at the Neptune Bathhouse, ca 1900. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections — colorized using DeOldify]

The Santa Cruz Electric Railway had been outmaneuvered with the help of one of its own financiers. A fight soon ensued in the spring of 1903 over rights-of-way in the Lower Plaza. The Santa Cruz Electric had rights to most of the major thoroughfares in the city, leaving the new Capitola line on the periphery, largely adhering to the existing East Santa Cruz horsecar line's boundaries. But the new company wanted more, such as access to the Union Depot and more solid access to the Lower Plaza, especially after it revealed plans to extend a line across the San Lorenzo River at Water Street and up Ocean Street to the Odd Fellows Cemetery and the California Powder Works. Despite all the back and forth in newspapers and public discourse, it was clear that the Santa Cruz Electric held the high ground. Yet, after several court cases and meetings, the Capitola line retained all of its advantages and its competitive edge, leaving the Santa Cruz Electric Railway with few options left except to improve services in the hope it would block its rival's progress.

Two Santa Cruz Electric Railway streetcars on the esplanade outside the newly-opened Neptune Casino with the Santa Cruz, Capitola and Watsonville Railway tracks at far right with a car parked beside the casino in the distance, 1904. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections — colorized using DeOldify]

Beginning in May 1903, the older streetcar line once more extended its tracks to the river along the beach and restored service along Walnut Avenue to Mission Street. It also streamlined its timetable, designating official stops in order to make service more consistent, and it resumed full service year-round rather than reducing service in the winter. New cars were brought in and the route as a whole was repaired and upgraded. But it was too little and too late. With most of the old East Santa Cruz horsecar line electified by  by June 1904 and the new track to Capitola nearly completed, the two streetcar lines were at an impasse. Neither could expand services much further and both still retained a unique competitive advantage over the other: West Side access for the older line, East Side and Capitola access for the newer.

Changing times—a Santa Cruz, Capitola and Watsonville Railway streetcar at Vue de l'Eau following its merger with the Santa Cruz Electric Railway in 1904. [Jim Vail – colorized using DeOldify]

Following weeks of speculation, James Smith finally sold the Santa Cruz Electric Railway to a newcomer, F. S. Granger of San José, on June 21, 1904. Granger immediately set to work improving the line further, with plans to reopen the Vue de l'Eau Casino and expand service to the Powder Works. He also opened up negotiations with the Capitola streetcar line to coordinate schedules more closely, apparently ending the short rivalry between the firms. In reality, though, he was negotiating with Smith and Gardiner. On September 2, 1904, the Santa Cruz Electric Railway was reincorporated as the Union Traction Company. That same day, it was revealed that the Santa Cruz, Capitola and Watsonville Railway had merged into this new entity as well. The board of directors of the new company included members of both former companies, with several major investors remaining on as silent financial partners. The consolidation marked the end of Santa Cruz County's first electric streetcar line, but also heralded the beginning of a standard-gauge, unified streetcar system that would dominate municipal transportation in the county for the following twenty years.

Citations & Credits:

  • McCaleb, Charles S. Surf, Sand & Streetcars: A Mobile History of Santa Cruz, California. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum of Art & History, 2005.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

People: Presidential Visitors

Santa Cruz County has never been a magnet for politicians. Its remoteness and relatively small population simply makes it too unimportant in the grand scheme of United States and even California politics. For the first thirty years after statehood, no sitting United States president traveled to the West Coast. Ulysses S. Grant had served during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 in the state, but he did not become president until 1869. He later returned to the state in 1879 as the first former president to visit, although no sitting president had yet come in the interim. Ultimately, only two presidents visited Santa Cruz County during the Age of Steam, although a third tried to visit and a fourth skirted the edge of the county.

President Roosevelt waiving farewell from the back of a South Pacific Coast Railway train as it begins its journey to Santa Cruz, 1903. [Ross Gibson – colorized using DeOldify]

Rutherford B. Hayes (~15 September 1880)

That honor finally went to Rutherford B. Hayes, who from September 9 until late October, 1880 travelled to Oakland via the transcontinental railroad and spent nearly two months touring the state, partially in an attempt to snub his anticipated successor, James Garfield. On September 9, Santa Cruz Mayor J. D. Chace wrote a letter, also published in the Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel, formally inviting Hayes to the city for a visit. The telegram response, given a few days later, was brief but cordial: "Thanks for your kind invitation; cannot accept it; time is limited. R. B. Hayes." Sarcastically editorializing on the dismissal, the Sentinel ruled that "Come to think of it, we do not want any president in Santa Cruz. A President's presence would make other places jealous and greatly excite our usually quiet people." This was proven prophetic in later years.

In reality, Hayes technically was the first president to visit Santa Cruz County, but only briefly as his Southern Pacific train passed through Chittenden on its way to Salinas. Hayes's train passed through Pajaro without stopping and then traveled to Monterey where Hayes spent the night at the brand new Hotel del Monte. While the Pajaronian was silent on the snub, an advertisement praised the president and his impact on Monterey history, stating his visit would be "an event that will be long remembered, and will be spoken of, decades hence, to their children, aye, even their grand children, by the young folks of to day. And it is proper that the event should be remembered, because it carries with it a strong lesson, telling that the smallest child of humblest origin, may, in time, by the possession and cultivation of his best energies and talents become the ruler of this great nation." No photographs seem to exist of his visit to the Monterey Bay and few of even his travels along the West Coast.

Benjamin Harrison (April 29-May 1, 1891)

The first president to formally visit Santa Cruz was Benjamin Harrison, the oddball Republican who sat between Grover Cleveland's disjointed terms in office. Harrison, who loved touring the country and wished to escape fierce politics in the east, eagerly fled to California, arriving at Indio on April 2, 1891. He spent the next four weeks in Southern California, touring every mid-sized town from San Diego to Santa Barbara and the entirety of Los Angeles County. The incomplete state of the Coast Division of the Southern Pacific Railroad meant that Harrison had to backtrack and travel to San Francisco first before turning around to visit the Monterey Bay via the Pajaro Valley beginning on April 29.

Map of President Harrison's tour of the West Coast, 1891. [Smithsonian]

Harrison made three speeches across three days on his visit to the Monterey Bay. On the first day, at Watsonville, he was greeted by almost the entire town of 2,000 residents. Six hundred school children and a young ladies' zouave company, as well as the city's Board of Trustees, performed a welcoming ceremony for the president, while representatives from Corralitos and Castroville also attended. Prominent locals at the event included W. A. Sanborn, George W. Peckham, George A. Trafton, and John T. Porter. The first local speech made by a president was not overly exciting, but it was honest:

My Friends—I am very glad to see you this evening. I am sorry that the fatigues of the past few days have left us all in a state not quite so fresh and blooming as your fields and gardens. We are a little dusty and a little worn, but you quite rekindle our spirits by this demonstration. We have ridden with great delight through this beautiful valley to-day. It seems to me, as we pass each ridge or backbone and come into a new valley, that we see something that still more resembles the Garden of Eden. It is a constant succession of surprises, but most of all I delight to see such convincing evidence of the contentment and happiness of your people. I am sure that those I see here to-day must come from happy and prosperous homes. I wish you all good-by.

He departed the town shortly afterwards and spent the night at the Hotel del Monte in Monterey. The next morning, April 30, outside the old Custom House in Monterey, a reception was held for the president with all the city's leaders. Following a meal, the entire party was taken on a tour of 17-Mile Drive, with Mayor W. J. Hill of Salinas acting as host. Hill presented the president with a silver plate showing the Custom House and explaining its importance to California history. The president replied with a short speech to the attendees:

Mr. Mayor and Fellow-citizens—Our whole pathway through the State of California has been paved with good-will. We have been made to walk upon flowers. Our hearts have been touched and refreshed at every point by the voluntary offerings of your hospitable people. Our trip has been one continued ovation of friendliness. I have had occasion to say before that no man is entitled to appropriate to himself these tributes. They witness a peculiar characteristic of the American people. Unlike many other people less happy, we give our devotion to a Government, to its Constitution, to its flag, and not to men. We reverence and obey those who have been placed by our own suffrages and choice in public stations, but our allegiance, our affection, is given to our beneficent institutions, and upon this rock our security is based. We are not subject to those turbulent uprisings that prevail where the people follow leaders rather than institutions; where they are caught by the glamour and dash of brilliant men rather than by the steady law of free institutions.

I rejoice to be for a moment among you this morning. The history of this city starts a train of reflections in my mind that I cannot follow out in speech, but the impression of them will remain with me as long as I live. California and its coast were essential to the integrity and completeness of the American Union. But who can tell what may be the result of the establishment here of free institutions, the setting up by the wisdom and foresight and courage of the early pioneers in California of a commonwealth that was very early received into the American Union? We see to-day what has been wrought. But who can tell what another century will disclose, when these valleys have become thick with a prosperous and thriving and happy people? I thank you again for your cordial greeting and bid you good-morning.

Crowds welcoming President Harrison to an unnamed city during his tour of the Western United States, 1891. [Smithsonian]

By this point, excitement for the president's visit had reached a fevered pitch in Santa Cruz. The Sentinel wrote on May 1 with anticipation:

President Harrison, Mrs. Harrison and traveling companions, welcome to Santa Cruz! You are the guests of this city and county, regardless of party, sect, sex or nationality. You, Mr. Harrison, may never have heard of the City of the Holy Cross till within a few days, but we have all heard of you, gave you a large majority two years ago, and feel proud in extending the freedom of the city to the President of the United States. Our county is not large, but it is patriotic to the core, and happy at the thought that it is an integral part of a republican government governed by freemen. We had hoped that you would tarry with us a night; would spend a day riding by our seashore, viewing the landscape o'er from some commanding hill-top; would linger among budding orchards and creeping vines; would enter the pathless woods and disturb century solitudes; would examine at length forest giants that for size and beauty and straightness and variety can not be equalled on the Atlantic side; would angle for speckled beauties in our streams and troll in our bay for the monsters of the deep, mackerel and whales; would hunt the woods among and down a California lion and capture a grizzly bear or two, but as you can not--must be off on matters of state in a few minutes after your arrival, we say, in the name of the people: Welcome--farewell!

President Harrison giving a speech from the back of his carriage outside the Pacific Ocean House, 1891. [UC Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

That same day, Harrison boarded a train for Santa Cruz, becoming the first sitting president to visit the city. The train had stopped at the siding at Capitola station first thing in the morning for breakfast before arriving at Santa Cruz Beach station at the foot of the Railroad Wharf just before 8:00 a.m. In what would become the town's usual fashion, a floral arrangement was prepared for the president's train by several local women's clubs. Mayor G. Bowman welcomed the president in the company of the town's prominent citizens, among whom were Duncan McPherson, William T. Jeter, A. A. Taylor, Frederick A. Hihn, R. C. Kirby, J. H. Logan, James F. Cunningham, and many others. A procession left from the site of the future Santa Cruz Union Depot and down Pacific Avenue, where the president gave a speech to the whole city outside the Pacific Ocean House:

Mr. Mayor and Fellow-citizens—It seems to me like improvidence that all this tasteful and magnificent display should be but for a moment. In all my journeying in California, where every city has presented some surprise and where each has been characterized by lavish and generous display, I have not seen anything so suddenly created and yet so beautiful. I am sure we have not ridden through any street more attractive than this. I thank you most sincerely for this cordial welcome. I am sure you are a loyal, and I know you are a loving and kindly people. We have been received, strangers as we were, with affection, and everywhere as I look into the faces of this people I feel my heart swell with pride that I am an American and that California is one of the American States.

President Harrison's personal South Pacific Coast Railway train at the Santa Cruz yard, prepared for its journey through the mountains, 1891.
[UC Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

After only staying in the city for thirty minutes, Harrison and his party boarded a South Pacific Coast Railway train at the old narrow-gauge depot and headed to Big Trees in a tradition that would be followed by later presidents and politicians. At Big Trees, the party was greeted by Felton schoolchildren who sang "America." After a walk through the woods to visit various iconic redwood trees—although he did not visit the tree named after him—the party had lunch.

President Harrison addressing a crowd outside Los Gatos Station, 1891. [Colorized using Deoldify]

Uniquely among all of the presidents to visit the county, Harrison resumed his journey on the South Pacific Coast line to Los Gatos, thereby passing through all of the mountain towns including Felton, Glenwood, Wright, and Alma. Upon arriving at Los Gatos, a smaller party, headed by James H. Lyndon, gathered outside the train station to welcome Harrison and introduce themselves. Afterwards, Harrison gave the last of his local speeches, saying:

My Fellow citizens—If California had lodged a complaint against the last census I should have been inclined to entertain it and to order your people to be counted again. From what I have seen in these days of pleasant travel through your State I am sure the census enumerators have not taken you all. We have had another surprise in coming over these mountains to find that not the valleys alone of California, but its hill-tops are capable of productive cultivation. We have been greatly surprised to see vineyards and orchards at these altitudes, and to know that your fields rival in productiveness the famous valleys of your State.

I thank you for your cordial greeting. It overpowers me I feel that these brief stops are but poor recompense for the trouble and care you have taken. I wish we could tarry longer with you. I wish I could know more of you individually, but I can only thank you and say that we will carry away most happy impressions of California, and that in public and in private life it will give me pleasure always to show my appreciation of your great State.

Harrison returned to San Francisco and then continued to Oregon and Washington before returning to Washington on May 16.

The Harrison Group at Big Trees, ca 1910. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]

William McKinley (May 13, 1901)

The most inconsequential visit by a sitting president was that of William McKinley in 1901. Arriving in Redlands, California on May 8, McKinley and his wife, Ida, toured the West Coast for only four days before illness struck the First Lady and the tour was interrupted. On the evening of May 10, McKinley's party made it to Monterey.

A panoramic of President McKinley's coach passing through the center of crowds outside the Custom House in Monterey, 1901. [California State Library]

The next morning, they were welcomed by Mayor Robert Johnson in a grand reception at the intersection of Alvarado and Franklin Streets. McKinley gave a brief speech to the citizenry:

My Fellow Citizens: It gives me very great pleasure to receive the words of welcome on behalf of this people so heartily expressed by your honored mayor. I am glad to stand in this memorable city, the early capital, and in the place where the first convention assembled that was made. This is indeed historic ground. This quaint old town of toil and traffic, of traditions and of history, is most interesting to your fellow countrymen generally, and is especially interesting to me. I am glad to be welcomed. not only by the people at large, but to receive the greeting of the school children of this community. It will only be a little while till the older of us shall have passed away and then must rest upon these school children now gathered around me the responsibility of the home, of the community, of the state and the grave responsibilities of the nation. 

I am glad to know that there is no community anywhere beneath our flag where the humblest child cannot receive an education to fit him for the responsibilities and duties of life. That is our chief joy; that is our chief satisfaction. It is the very bulwark of our strength and our great security. The poorest boy and the poorest girl in the United States has every door of opportunity opened to him or her. The humblest in the town of Monterey today, with integrity and industry taking advantage of those opportunities that are furnished him by the state, may reach not only the important places in the business world but the highest place within the gift of the government of the United States. 

Thank God we have no classes in the United States, and we have no platform except our country and our constitution. We may differ about local things, we may differ about public policies, but we never differ in an international contest, there we are united. I thank you for this greeting, Mr. Mayor, and all my fellow citizens, and bid you good morning.

Part of a stereograph of President McKinley exiting the Old Methodist Church in Pacific Grove, 1901. [Pat Hathaway / Fine Art America]

Photographs of the visit show an excited populace but a distracted president. Shortly afterwards, McKinley visited the Old Methodist Church in Pacific Grove where he met with veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic and gave a speech:

I am greatly pleased to meet with the veterans of the civil war and my comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic. War in memory is to be preferred to war in motion. The shell that has exploded is safer than when unexploded. It is a good deal more comfortable to talk about the war than it was to take part in the war. And very much safer. There is not nearly so much peril in it and the events of war lose nothing by time. We rarely ever understand the story of our achievements. We fight our battles over, but fight them at long distance and none of our heroic adventures are forgotten. That is to my comrades of the war, to nobody else. 
The nation you served so well owes you a debt of gratitude which it can never repay. You saved the jewel of freedom for the family of nations. You preserved with your sword and your sacrifices the freest government on earth. The South went to war rather than that the Union should live. You engaged in the war rather than see the Union perish. And you triumphed. We consider less (great and appalling as it was) what the war cost us in life and treasure when we see what the war brought us in liberty, equality and opportunity. Americans never surrender but to Americans. The men who yielded after four and a half years of struggle, who were blood of our blood, finally yielded to their own fellow citizens and we are today a nation reunited. 
I have passed within the last ten days over the track of many of the battlefields on which you fought. I have been greeted by the men against whom you fought. I have seen the beautiful sight, beautiful to every lover of his country, of the members of the Grand Army of the Republic walking arm in arm with the Confederate veterans, bearing the American flag, and each vieing [sic] with the other in the warmth of that welcome to the president of the United States, and each demonstrating in friendly rivalry their devotion to the government and to the flag that shelters us all. And so you are to be congratulated today upon what you did, upon what you suffered, upon what you sacrificed, that liberty and union might not perish. It cost a great deal. More than a half million lives were given up as a sacrifice for the preservation of this Union. Some things are so precious and so good that nations which get them pay only with blood. And what blood this Union has cost us! But what a Union it is now! 
Washington in addressing his troops before one of his battles said to them: "Liberty, property and life and honor are all at stake: upon your courage and conduct rest the hopes of our bleeding and insulted country, our wives, children and parents expect safety from us only, and they have every reason to believe that heaven will crown with success so just a cause." 
Their cause was crowned with success and the Union was formed. In 1864 Mr. Lincoln, at Gettysburg, said: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth uoon this continent this nation. conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure." That issue was settled and the principles of free government live and they are brighter and more glorious than they have ever been before, and all due to the courage and the valor and the sacrifices of the veterans of the war. I suppose in this Grand Army encampment of California and Nevada the soldiery of practically every state in the Union is represented. Am I right? [Response: Yes!] You were not all Californians in 1861. You came from the old states of the east, the central states, the northwestern states, some of you from the Southern states. All Californians now, but when you enlisted you represented other states and here you are today, comrades in feeling, in heart, in sympathy, comrades having the right to rejoice that liberty was saved to mankind and to civilization. I congratulate you.
I cannot tell you what pleasure it gives me to be with you today. I have been welcomed by all of my fellow countrymen, but this is the first time in my long journey that I have felt the warm heart touch of so many of the men with whom 1 kept step from '61 to '65. And having saved the Unlon, it is the duty of all to keep it saved. We shall not always be here, but the sons of the veterans on both sides of our war will be here and their sons will follow, and this priceless heritage will be transmitted to our latest generation. Indeed what you won and what we mean to preserve, belongs to civilization and to the ages.

The party then proceeded along 17-Mile Drive for a tour, but McKinley returned to the hotel to join his wife. The situation with her had quickly changed while her husband was out visiting local officials. Ida had taken a turn for the worse and the party remained at the Hotel del Monte for another night, canceling plans for a speech in San José the next day.

President McKinley's train passing through Pajaro, probably on May 12, 1901.
[Colorized using DeOldify]

The president intended to visit Santa Cruz on May 13, where he was to arrive in the late morning, take a scenic drive around the West Side and downtown before giving a speech and then visiting Big Trees via a special narrow-gauge excursion train set up for him. After eating an early lunch and walking the grove, he was to return to Santa Cruz, transfer to a standard-gauge train, and head to San José. Two speeches were planned, one at Santa Cruz and another at Big Trees. None of this went according to plan, however. Unbeknownst to them, Ida had taken a turn for the worst and McKinley quickly canceled his appointments after giving a brief speech at Monterey on the morning of May 12. By that evening, the whole presidential party was in San Francisco and Ida was undergoing treatment by the most experienced doctors in California.

President McKinley's train at the end of Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, May 13, 1901.
[University of California, Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

On the morning of the 13th, the presidential train arrived as scheduled, but the president was not aboard. Worried about his wife, he had remained in San Francisco and left his party to visit the city on his behalf. Secretary of State John Milton Hay and his wife took the place of President and First Lady and were feted with as much excitement as could be mustered by the local populace. After a procession down Pacific Avenue, the secretary's carriage stopped at the Cooper House where Hay gave a short speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen: I appear before you this morning in the most ungracious attitude which a human being can present himself to his friends and that is a bearer of bad news. I have no doubt the telegraph has anticipated me and informed you by this time that the President of the United States would not have the pleasure of meeting you this morning. Mrs. McKinley whose health at no time is what her friends desire was so indisposed yesterday that the President thought best to proceed directly with her to San Francisco where she might have the care she requires. Our own inclination would have been to go with him, and not subject you to the disappointment of meeting an acephalous cabinet. But it is by the President's earnest desire that we come for the purpose of expressing to you his deep regret that he is not able to meet you personally and to sincerely thank you for the cordial welcome you have prepared for him. Ever since he left Washington he has been met with the same demonstrations of personal good will and regard, and what was perhaps even more gratifying to him was to see the manifestations of loyalty and devotion to the government of this union of states, and to this banner of beauty and glory which symbolizes it. Of course he knew that such devotion existed prior to his starting but it was none the less delightful to him to see this grand beautiful expression of it.

I will not detain you longer than to say how much we all share your disappointment in the absence of the President, and to thank you in his name, and in our own for this most kind and cordial reception.

Secretary Hay's wagon as it passes down Pacific Avenue in front of the Cooper House, 1901.
[UC Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

Stereograph of President McKinley's train in the Santa Cruz freight yard, 1891.
[Library of Congress – colorized using DeOlidfy]

The whole party ventured on the narrow-gauge to Big Trees afterwards, where they toured the grove and met with local politicians and the press. The party left at noon but the locals stayed on to meet Governor Nash of Ohio, who was arriving via the mountain route to Big Trees for his own reception. The president's cabinet did not linger, either, upsetting an already indignant crowd who had planned a parade for the president. A large painting by Frank L. Heath commissioned of the redwoods was gifted to McKinley via his representatives, but the Santa Cruz Surf noted its likely ignominious fate: being stored permanently in some forgotten crate, never to be seen by its intended recipient. Considering McKinley's own fate only four months later, the reporter was likely correct.

Colorized postcard of the McKinley Tree at Big Trees.

Over the next two weeks, McKinley ventured out of his hotel for several short speeches and attended a few events throughout the Bay Area, but he never strayed far from his wife. An abbreviated visit of fifty minute at San José on May 14 cost locals around $40,000 or $800 per minute. A belated suggestion to the mayor published by the Evening Sentinel on May 23 asked McKinley to visit Santa Cruz before his departure, but McKinley did not take up the offer. After nearly two weeks, Ida McKinley recovered sufficiently to travel and the presidential party left for the East Coast on May 25, the president having never visited Santa Cruz despite his train and party stopping by.

Theodore Roosevelt (May 10-11, 1903)

By far the most famous and well-remembered presidential visit to Santa Cruz County and the Monterey Bay was that of Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. Pushed into the presidency by the assassination of McKinley in September 1901, Roosevelt was an outdoorsman and soldier who was more at home in the wilderness than in an office. Traveling the country by train was a past-time for the wealthy socialite and he had already visited the Monterey Bay once in 1896 while president of the New York City Board of Police Commissioners. During that trip, he stayed at the Hotel del Monte and rode the entire length of 17-Mile Drive on horseback. Afterwards, he expressed his enjoyment of the region, stating:

This is a beautiful hotel in which we are spending Sunday, with gardens and a long seventeen-mile drive beside the beach and the rocks and among the pines and cypress…The surf was beating on the rocks in one place, and right between two of the rocks where I really did not see how anything could swim, a seal appeared and stood up on his tail half out of the foaming water and flapped his flippers, and he was as much at home as anything could be. Beautiful gulls flew close to us all around, and cormorants swam among the breakers or walked along the beach.

Theodore Roosevelt at the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey, 1896.
[Pebble Beach – colorized using DeOldify]

Roosevelt was never going to be comfortable sitting in a stuffy Washington office every day and he took every opportunity to get out and visit both the people and the country more generally. His first opportunity to revisit the West Coast came in the spring of 1903, and he made the most of it. After setting out an extensive itinerary that included visiting twenty-five states over nine weeks, Roosevelt set out on April 1 from Washington, D.C. He did not reach Southern California until May 7 and spent very little time in any specific place but rather jumped from railroad station to railroad station along the coast. On May 10, he passed through Salinas and then diverted his train to Monterey to spend the evening at the Hotel Del Monte, as he had back in 1896. He gave no speech and did not visit Monterey or Pacific Grove, but rather left early on the morning of May 11 to head to Santa Cruz County.

President Roosevelt giving a speech at Pajaro from the back of his train, 1903.
[Pajaro Valley Historical Association – colorized using DeOldify]

Roosevelt arrived first at Pajaro at 8:50 a.m. where he gave an impromptu speech from the back of his coach while he waited for the locomotives to be changed over:

My Fellow Citizens: I want to thank you for coming out to greet me this morning. I have been giving much more time to California than to any other state and I am glad of it for I have enjoyed every hour I have been in your beautiful and wonderful state. I have been traveling up from the south and shall now visit San Francisco, then go straight through to the north. It seems to me every good American that can should visit the Pacific slope, to realize where so much of our country's greatness in the future will lie. I did not need to come out here in order to believe in you and your work. I knew you well and believed in you before with all my heart, but it has done me good to get in touch with you. The thing that has impressed me most coming from the Atlantic across to the Pacific has been that good Americans are good Americans in every part of this country. That is the fundamental point to remember. 

I am glad to have seen you. I want to welcome the men and women, and especially the children. Of course it is more truism to say that this country depends upon what the next generation is.

Leaving ten minutes later, the presidential train crossed the Pajaro River and arrived at Watsonville, where Roosevelt stopped for the second speech of the day:

My Fellow Citizens: I have but a minute here, and I can only express to you my appreciation of your having come out to greet me. This is a great fruit center; California is a great fruit state, a great agricultural state, but above all California is a great state for Californians

The thing that has impressed me most in this country in coming from the Atlantic to the Pacific is the essential oneness of our people, the fact that good Americans are good Americas from Maine to California, from the Golden Gate to Sandy Hook. This is the important part.

Glad though I am to see all your products, I want to congratulate you especially upon one—the children. I do not come here to teach; I come here to learn. It has done me good to be in your state and to meet your people, Until last week I had never been in California, and I go back an even better American than I came, and I think I came out a fairly good one. Things that are truisms, that you expect as simply part of the natural order of events, need to be impressed upon our people as a whole. We need to understand the commanding position already occupied, and the infinitely more commanding position that will be occupied in the future by our nation on the Pacific. This is the greatest of all the oceans, is one which more and more during the century opening must pass under American influence; and as inevitably happens when a great effort comes it means that a great burden of responsibility accompanies the effort. A nation cannot be great without paying the price of greatness, and only a craven nation will object to paying that price.

I believe in you, my countrymen; I believe in our people, and therefore I believe that they will dare to be great, therefore I believe they will hail the chance this century brings as one which it should rejoice a mighty and masterful people to have. And we can face the future with the assured confidence of success if only we face it in a spirit in which our fathers faced the problems of the past.

Stereograph of President Roosevelt's train covered in flowers at Santa Cruz, 1903.
[Library of Congress – colorized using DeOldify]

Short on time, Roosevelt's train left shortly afterwards for Santa Cruz, passing through Aptos and Capitola along the way. The Union Depot was grandly decorated with flags and redwood saplings, although the president could see almost none of this over the thousands of people awaiting his train when it arrived at 9:55. Mayor D. C. Clark welcomed the president accompanied by the city's elite, among whom were Frederick Hihn, Duncan McPherson, A. A. Taylor, Ed Martin, and other local politicians and celebrities of the day. The presidential parade passed over and around Beach Hill before proceeding down Pacific Avenue, with the Hastings Band leading the cavalcade.

The president giving a speech from the back of his coach on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, 1903. 
[UC Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

Outside the Cooper House, the carriage stopped beneath a canopy and Roosevelt addressed the crowd:

Mr. Mayor, and you, my fellow citizens: I thank you for the greeting that you have extended to me. I wish to say a word of special acknowledgment to the men of the Grand Army, to the representatives of the pioneers, to the men who proved their loyalty in the supreme test from '61 to '65, and to the pioneers who showed the same qualities in winning this great West that you of the Civil War showed in your feat. I also wish to say how pleased I am to have had as my escort the men of the Naval Militia. The one thing on which this country must forever be a unit is the navy. 

We must have a first-class navy. A nation like ours, with the unique position of fronting at once on the Atlantic and the Pacific, a nation forced by the mere fact of destiny to play a great, a mighty, a masterful part in the world, cannot afford to neglect its navy, cannot afford to fail to insist upon the building up of the navy. We must go on with the task as we have begun it. We have a good navy now. We must make it an even better one in the future. We must have an ample supply of the most formidable type of fighting ships; we must have those ships practiced; we must see that not only are our warships the best in the world, but that the men who handle them, the men in the gun turrets, the men in the engine rooms, the men in the conning towers, are also the best of their kind. I think that our navy is already wonderfully good and we must strive to make it even better.

An alternative shot of he president giving a speech from the back of his coach on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, 1903. [UC Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

I am about to visit the grove of the great trees. I wish to congratulate you people of California, people of this region, and to congratulate all the country on what you have done in preserving these great trees. Cut down one of these giants and you cannot fill its place. The ages were their architects and we owe it to ourselves and to our children's children to preserve them. Nothing has pleased me more here in California than to see how thoroughly awake you are to preserve the monuments of the past, human and natural. I am glad to see the way in which the old mission buildings are being preserved. This great, wonderful, new State, this State which is itself an empire, situated on the greatest of oceans, should keep alive the sense of historic continuity of its past, and should as one step towards that end preserve the ancient historic landmarks within its limits. 

I am even more pleased that you should be preserving the great and wonderful natural features here, that you should have in California a park like the Yosemite, that we should have State preserves of these great trees and other preserves where individuals and associations have kept them. We should see to it that no man for speculative purposes or for mere temporary use exploits the groves of great trees. Where the individuals and associations of individuals cannot preserve them, the State, and, if necessary, the nation, should step in and see to their preservation. 

We should keep the trees as we should keep great stretches of the wildernesses as a heritage for our children and our children's children. Our aim should be to preserve them for use, to preserve them for beauty, for the sake of the nation hereafter.

I shall not try to make any extended address to you. I shall only say how glad I am to be here, bid you welcome with all my heart, and say how thoroughly I believe in you, and that I am a better American for being among you.

President Roosevelt's train waiting for him on the siding at Big Trees, 1903.
[UC Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

 Much like Harrisons' journey a decade earlier, Roosevelt proceeded from Pacific Avenue to the site of the old South Pacific Coast depot, where a narrow-gauge train was waiting to take him to Big Trees. Once the party arrived there, Fred Swanton welcomed the group and they all enjoyed lunch together. A tree dedicated to Roosevelt was revealed to him, much to his enjoyment. The president made some remarks at Big Trees as well, directly primarily to the ladies in attendance:

Mr. Mayor, and ladies first, and to the rest of the guests in the second place: I want to thank you very much for your courtesy in receiving me, and to say how much I have enjoyed being here. This is the first glimpse I have ever had of the big trees, and I wish to pay the highest tribute I can to the State of California, to those private citizens and associations of citizens who have cooperated with the State in preserving these wonderful trees for the whole nation, in preserving them in whatever part of the State they may be found. All of us ought to want to see nature preserved; and take a big tree whose architect has been the ages, anything that man does toward it may hurt it and cannot help it; and above all, the rash creature who wishes to leave his name to mar the beauties of nature should be sternly discouraged. Take those cards pinned up on that tree; they give an air of the ridiculous to this solemn and majestic grove. To pin those cards up there is as much out of place as if you tacked so many tin cans up there. I mean that literally. You should save the people whose names are there from the reprobation of every individual by taking down the cards at the earliest possible moment; and do keep these trees, keep all the wonderful scenery of this wonderful State unmarred by the vandalism or the folly of man. Remember that we have to contend not merely with knavery, but with folly; and see to it that you by your actions create the kind of public opinion which will put a stop to any destruction of or any marring of the wonderful and beautiful gifts that you have received from nature, that you ought to hand on as a precious heritage to your children and your children's children. I am, oh, so glad to be here, to be in this majestic and beautiful grove, to see the wonderful redwoods, and I thank you for giving me the chance, and I do hope that it will be your object to preserve them as nature made them and left them, for the future.

Stereograph of "The Nation's Chief before the Forest King—President Roosevelt in Big Tree Grove, Santa Cruz, California," 1903. [California State Library]

Roosevelt then proceeded into the park, where he and a small group toured alone, mostly away from cameras. He noted a displeasure for postcards nailed to trees, which had become a habit among visitors to Big Trees over the preceding years, but his notice put a quick end to the practice and it was not resumed. Roosevelt was also the only president to visit the tree named after him, although he insisted that a plaque placed on it with his name be moved elsewhere. While the president was at Big Trees, women back in Santa Cruz bedecked his standard-gauge train in flowers of every type.

Colorized postcard of the Roosevelt Tree in Big Trees, taken during the president's visit since the sign is still on the tree, 1903. [UC Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections]

Roosevelt returned just after noon, switch back to his primary train and returned to Pajaro, where he switched locomotives. By 3:15, Roosevelt was speaking in San José and spent the night in San Francisco. Four days later, the president arrived in Yosemite with John Muir, where he stayed for two nights. Roosevelt left California via the Central Pacific Railroad at Truckee on May 20. He was the last sitting president to visit the county for nearly ninety years and the last to travel to it via the railroad. The legacy of these presidents was preserved for many decades in the three redwood trees named after them at Big Trees, but the labels have long since been removed and other than the photographs and stories above, little from their visits left a long-term impression on the county and Central Coast.

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