Friday, July 5, 2024

Curiosities: Bay State Cottage

John T. Sullivan and his wife were recent arrivals from New York when they became the proprietors of the Bay State Cottage in Santa Cruz in the summer of 1885. Sullivan was Irish born, but heralded from an American lineage that included the first governor of Vermont and the second governor of Massachusetts. He settled in Massachusetts and fought with the 10th Massachusetts Infantry in the Union Army during the Civil War. Shortly afterwards, he married Sarah A. Smith and moved to South Carolina and then New York City. He became an accomplished post office superintendent and was put in charge of the newspaper department. In this position, he became friends with newspaper magnate Horace Greeley during his 1872 run for president against Ulysses S. Grant.

Lithograph of the Bay State Cottages, from E. S. Harrison's History of Santa Cruz County, California, 1892.

Sullivan arrived in California in September 1884 with the intention of starting a fruit-growing company, but soon he found himself in Santa Cruz and founded the Bay State Cottage, named after the state he claimed as his home. The cottage was not new. The property had originally been owned by Abel Mann and encompassed 150 feet frontage along Third Street from and including Younger Way to 911 Third Street. It stretched 268 feet south toward the beach, to the lower end of 127 Younger Way. It had been built around 1860 as a two-story boarding house of a simple style and it was acquired at some point by Josiah Samuel Green. The Sentinel described in January 1887 as "essentially a New England home" close to the South Pacific Coast Railroad's Beach Station and the bathhouses. It featured sixteen bedrooms, fifteen of which were for guests, as well as a dining room, kitchen, bar-room, and office. In its first year, Bay State Cottage was advertised primarily in the Oakland Tribune with an upper class family clientele in mind.

Oakland Tribune advertisement, June 5, 1885.

The Sullivans expanded their advertising to Santa Cruz for the 1886 season, promoting "pleasant sunny rooms (single or suite) with board." The Surf added the boarding house to its recommended hotels for the year, placing it beside the decade-old Liddell House in desirability. The couple also made the property available to winter visitors, offering room and board to guests for the entire off-season. However, big changes were afoot.

Santa Cruz Sentinel advertisement, Christmas Day 1886.

Green decided in December 1886 to renovate and expand. He hired John H. Williams to design a three-story hotel to be built directly beside the existing cottage. The new structure would include an office, dining room, and sixteen new guest rooms, doubling the capacity of the facility.  The cottage, meanwhile, would be moved to the east side of the lot. Bids for construction went out in mid-January 1887, with Olive & Company offering the lowest amount at $5,421.40. This appears to have been too high, though, and Williams went back to the drawing board in early February, reducing the structure to two stories and fifteen rooms. It went back out to bidding in late February with Kaye, Knapp & Company agreeing to build the structure for $2,240. The final building would measure 40 feet by 32 feet.

Surf advertisement, April 13, 1888.

The Sullivans took this as their cue to leave. Their last advertisement was published on March 16, 1887 and on April 1 the Sullivans became managers of the Douglas House one block away. Within a month, they would repaint the structure, replace its furniture, and rechristen it the Sea Beach Hotel. Following the renovation of the Bay State Cottage, Green appears to have run the hotel personally for the 1887 season, with the buildings opening for business in late June. He did not advertise, though. Mrs. E. White took over management for the 1888 season, opening on April 7. She renamed it the Beach Hill Cottages, giving the name "Bay State" to the largest structure. The two smaller structures on the property were named "Ivy" (formerly the main cottage) and "Rosebush." The Surf noted that the property featured croquet grounds, lawns, and other garden accessories. White hosted several dances and events at the hotel, and welcomed some prominent guest including the Coltons, who would purchase the Liddell and Seaside Home properties over the following years. White advertised across the state, appearing in newspaper as far as Los Angeles and Sacramento. She continued as proprietress through the 1889 season.

Sentinel advertisement, April 14, 1890.

On February 1, 1890, Wilbur J. Dakin was named the new proprietor of Green's property. He immediately set to work improving the estate. One of the first actions he took was to move and completely overhaul the old cottage, adding a tower, a bay window, a porch, and other additions to the thirty-year-old structure. He made similar improvements to other buildings on the property and replaced the furniture throughout. In front, beside Third Street, Dakin installed a tennis court, with plans to add a substantial new hotel building there after the summer season. In July, Green announced plans to build a large house for himself on the edge of the property, hiring LeBaron R. Olive to construct the home for $11,000. The intended structure would include twelve rooms, a hall, a tower, veranda, balconies, and piazzas.

Long before the 1890 summer season began, Dakin began offering rooms, reverting to the hotel's former name of Bay State Cottages in his advertising. Presumably construction was ongoing throughout the year, but guests were happy with the accomodations and the Surf praised Dakin and his wife for running a good service. They continued to run the cottages the following year, presumably with similar success, but declined to continue for a third season. Green listed cottages for lease in April 1892, advertising the boarding house as the Bay State Hotel and Cottages. The family of D. M. Delmas rented the entire property for the summer, taking possession on June 10, and as a result the boarding house was closed to the public for the first time since 1886.

Sentinel advertisement, April 21, 1893.

In April 1893, Gus Vossberg, a local cook and caterer, and his wife became the proprietors of the Bay State. They once more opened the place to public boarders, repainting the buildings and updating some aging furnishings before opening on May 1. Vossberg advertised heavily in local newspapers in 1893; however, the economic downturn seems to have impacted several local hotels, including the Bay State. No advertisements appear for the property in 1894 or 1895, though some rooms were rented, presumably from Green directly. In April 1896, J. P. Krieg and his wife, prominent members of the local German community, were hired to manage the hotel and attracted an eclectic group of German immigrants. They avoided public advertisements, relying instead on word-of-mouth to promote the business. The Kriegs ran the hotel through 1897 but relinquished management in October to take over the Hotel Hagemann.

Sentinel advertisement, June 30, 1900.

Green wasted no time in replacing the Kriegs and hired Peter Crinnion and his wife, former managers of the Hotel Del Mar in Live Oak, to take over the establishment from November 1897. They renamed the boarding house again, this time calling it the Bay State Villa. The hotel's reputation appears to have attracted sufficient guests for the first two seasons, but by 1900 the Crinnions began posting daily advertisements in the Sentinel. They also bought the adjacent property from the Dunlap family, either to use as a private home or as space to offer more rooms for rent. Despite their four-season success story, the couple left the business before the start of the 1901 season.

Surf advertisement, May 17, 1901.

Replacing the Crinnions were Arthur Wilson, his sister H. Ingham, and a man named Spader, who together had previously run the Baxter Terrace in Santa Barbara. As was becoming common practice by this point, the partners reverted the name back to a slight variant of its earliest form: the Bay State Cottages. Their first summer exceeded demand to such an extreme that two new cottages were erected on the property and a new steel range was installed in the kitchen. The hotel also began hosting weekly hops as well as group trips to the Dolphin Baths. Despite this seeming success, the partners did not renew their contract for 1902.

Evening Sentinel advertisement, March 26, 1902.

The year 1902 brought in Lydia Mathison as the new proprietor of the once more slightly renamed Bay State House and Cottages. Mathison advertised daily in both the Morning and Evening Sentinel, though this seemed unnecessary since the winning streak begun several years earlier continued throughout her tenure with the hotel at capacity most of the time. She maintained the hotel through the winter months, offering it at a reduced rate to families and day travelers. Josiah Green's death on January 29, 1903, left the property to his widow, Elizabeth Harmon (née Fox) Green. Mathias advertised the hotel until late April but then it disappeared from newspapers, suggesting the widow Green may have taken over management directly but declined to pay for advertising. It remained a popular venue throughout the summer.

Surf advertisement, May 25, 1905.

Green hired the Miles sisters to run the hotel for the 1904 season. After a basic renovation, they began placing advertisements in May but these remained uncharacteristically low key. The hotel nonetheless remained very popular, running at capacity all season. When the sisters renewed their contract for the 1905 season, they drastically changed their advertising approach and rebranded the hostelry as The Bay State Hotel, adopting an attractive font to entice newspaper readers. However, behind the scenes, the Green family had hired A. J. Hinds and M. L. Smith to sell the estate. Beginning August 19, 1905, daily advertisements for its sale began appearing in the Surf and Morning Sentinel. The Miles shut down for the year in September and did not renew their contract.

Evening Sentinel advertisement, September 10, 1907.

The April 18, 1906 earthquake led to many displaced people across the Central Coast. Those in Santa Cruz seeking shelter were offer refuge at the Bay State Cottages by the Greens, though most were out by mid-May. Hinds, the property's realtor, ran the estate for the year even as he worked through backchannels to sell it. He leased the entire hotel in August to San José politician B. A. Herington, who used it to run his autumn campaign. A month later, the hotel was sold to J. Q. A. Packard, thereby ending the Green family's long ownership of the boarding house. The hotel went through some strange years afterwards, and it is unclear if rooms were leased after 1905. Charles R. Reitzke sold stocks for the Huntoon Valley Mining Company from the property in late 1907. There was a robbery at the property in 1908. And then things go completely silent for a while.

Evening News advertisement, March 25, 1914.


Evening News article, June 3, 1918.

In 1910, the family of F. Bennett, notably Anna Bennett, bought the property from the Packards and began refurbishing it for use. At the same time, Younger Court (now Younger Way) was graded through the east side of the property, removing about a quarter of the total area of the hotel complex. The remainder was run as an unadvertised hotel from 1912 by Lucy C. Chamberlain, who eventually purchased the property from the Bennetts in October 1914. In April 1918, the Chamberlains added twelve garages for automobiles, installed hot and cold water taps, and overhauled the interior of the hotel buildings. After these changes were made, the owners rechristened the complex the Hotel Chamberlain or Chamberlain Hotel. The family continued to run the hotel until the end of 1940, when they listed it for sale. By this time, the property was about a third of its original size, with portions subdivided off over the years. It still featured 21 bedrooms, a large dining room, kitchen, and sitting room. Nevertheless, the family struggled to sell the hotel and it remained on the market for three years.

Sentinel–News advertisement, September 30, 1947.

Sentinel–News advertisement, August 18, 1953.

The hotel was finally purchased by David B. Lynch who shifted the property's focus to long-term renters with shared kitchen facilities. But Lynch did not own it for long. He died in early 1948 and the property was eventually sold to Paul Reimann and his wife, though nothing is known of their years of ownership. In March 1953, the Chamberlain Hotel was sold for a final time to Mildred Louise Jensen and Ann "Pat" Borsch of Merced for $35,000. Jensen married Charles Grover Stoops of Carmel the next year and the couple ran the hotel together.

A Sentinel–News staff photograph of fire crews extinguishing the Hotel Chamberlain fire in the morning of February 21, 1955

In the early morning of Monday, February 21, 1955, a blaze erupted inside a first floor closet that held combustible paint cleaner and paint. Four fire trucks and 22 firefighters fought the fire, saving the exterior of the structure, but the inside was gutted amounting to a total of $21,000 in damages. Fortunately, nobody, including the owners, were in the building at the time. The main building was immediately condemned by the insurance company and the Stoops appear to have taken the payout and sold the property shortly afterwards. However, the exterior survived and may have served as the basis of the home currently at 905 Third Street. The two structures have many architectural similarities and maintain almost an identical footprint, suggesting that the core of the Bay State Cottage—or rather the 1887 building—remains intact, albeit extremely modified.

Citations & Credits:

  • E. S. Harrison, History of Santa Cruz County, California (1892).
  • Oakland Tribune.
  • Santa Cruz Evening News, Sentinel, Sentinel–News, and Surf.
  • Santa Cruz GIS.
  • Derek R. Whaley, SIDETRACKED: The Santa Cruz Beach to 1903 (Santa Cruz, CA: Zayante Publishing, 2024). [Amazon Associates link]

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Stations: Swanton

Santa Cruz County has many towns and villages that found their footing once the railroad arrived. Most of the communities along the North Coast, though, existed in some form by the time the Ocean Shore Railway graded its ambitious route to San Francisco. The only exception was a tiny hamlet on the south bank of Scott Creek about one mile inland from the coast. Swanton, as it was known at the time, was not even on the route of the railroad until circumstances and a commercial opportunity convinced the company’s directors to extend a track from the end of the Folger wye to the community in 1908.

Ocean Shore Railroad workers posing on the station platform at Swanton with the Laurel Grove Inn in the background, circa 1918. [Roy D. Graves Collection, Bancroft Library – colorized using MyHeritage]

In its earlier days, Swanton was known as Laurel Grove after a scenic grove of laurel trees that drew the attention of travelers from the 1860s. Located two and a half hours north of Santa Cruz by stage coach, the grove was directly on the route of the Coast Road, a rugged trail that connected Santa Cruz with its one-time northernmost communities of New Year’s Point and Pescadero. By the 1870s, Laurel Grove had grown into a popular rest stop and attracted seasonal picnic parties, as well. People camped along Scott Creek and its tributaries, Little Creek and Big Creek, where they fished for trout and hunted wild game. The Santa Cruz Sentinel in 1880 gushed that Laurel Grove “is a very pretty place. The thick foliage and the delightful aroma emanating from laurel trees; the pure and sparkling waters of a little stream that flows through the grove; the bright plumaged birds with their rich musical notes, all tend to make this spot a favorite resort for persons seeking a few days’ rest from the busy toil of urban life. It is a favorite resort for Santa Cruz campers also, especially those who have a relish for fine speckled trout and healthy mountain quail.”

Gianone Hill north of Swanton, circa 1930. Photo by Harry A. Kay. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

Despite its popularity with travelers, Laurel Grove and the Scott Creek valley were only sparsely settled. The land had originally begun as Rancho El Jarro, granted by the Mexican government to Hilario Buelna in 1839. El Jarro was likely the Spanish name for Scott Creek. Buelna lost possession of the property in 1843 and it passed to Ramón Rodriguez and Francisco Alviso under the name Rancho Agua Puerca y las Trancas. This name references the southern and northern boundaries of the property: Agua Puerca Creek just north of Davenport and Arroyo las Trancas, immediately south of Waddell Creek. Most of the population of the former rancho settled around Davenport Landing and on the coastal terraces, but the Coast Road followed the south bank of Scott Creek for several miles before crossing and ascending Gianone Hill, thereby returning to the coast. In 1867, James Archibald purchased the rancho from the Rodriguez family and set up his ranch at the bottom of Archibald Creek. He invited Ambrogio Gianone, a Swiss cheesemaker, to settle on his land around 1870 and the two turned the valley into a dairy farm. Gianone leased a large portion of the rancho into the 1890s, eventually purchased the northern third, while Archibald’s widow sold the property in 1883 to Joseph Bloom.

A large nutmeg tree in Swanton, 1955. [Santa Cruz Sentinel – colorized using MyHeritage]

Laurel Grove was included within the El Jarro School District in 1865, the only school for which was on a coastal terrace near Waddell Creek. This is where David Post established the area’s first post office, called Seaside, in 1873. Two years later, El Jarro School was renamed Seaside School. The post office shut down on June 24, 1881 and around the same time the school moved to the top of Gianone Hill, likely to make it easier for children from the Scott Creek valley to travel to school.

Big Creek Electric Power & Water Company powerhouse in Swanton, circa 1896. [The Street Railway Review – colorized using MyHeritage]

Meanwhile on Big Creek, big things were happening. Fred Swanton, who would found the Boardwalk a decade later, decided to focus his entrepreneurial efforts toward bringing electricity to Santa Cruz. He selected Big Creek as an out-of-the-way, underutilized waterway with sufficient flow to power a voltage-producing waterwheel and founded the Big Creek Electric Power & Water Company to achieve his goal. Construction began in early 1896 and a full current first ran to Santa Cruz on April 9, 1897. In its first years, electricity would be used primarily to operate sewer pumps, provide electrical street lighting, and supplement the power needed for the Santa Cruz Electric Railway, partially owned by Swanton.

Some workers posing outside the Coast Counties Gas & Electric Company powerhouse shortly after it was bought by Billing and Packard, circa 1903. [Images of America: Davenport – colorized using MyHeritage]

The activity on Big Creek led to a sudden increase in population along Scott Creek. A local stage coach driver, Pasquale Sonognini, decided it was time for the area to have a post office again and applied to create Trancas Post Office. The Post Office Department, in its usual bureaucratic indifference, accepted the proposal but rejected the name. When it approved the new office on May 28, 1897, the name attached to the branch was Swanton, after the power company’s chief promotor. The post office was situated within a new grocery store Sonognini opened beside a campground that took advantage of the eponymous laurel grove. Within the grove, he erected a large dance floor and other amenities to entertain guests in the summer months. By the summer of 1899, there was also a public hall nearby for indoor events. Swanton divested himself of the power plant in February 1900 and sold it to F. W. Billing and John Q. Packard, two wealthy Utah miners. This ended Swanton’s involvement with the community named after him three years earlier. This likely led to a drop in enrolments at Seaside School, which closed at the end of the school year.

Pasquale Sonognini, circa 1890. [Find A Grave – colorized using MyHeritage]

Swanton, still called Laurel Grove by most locals and in advertising, remained a popular tourist destination despite the drop in population. Sonognini’s campground continued to expand and attract travelers each year, prompting him to erect a small boarding house no later than summer 1904. It seems likely that this house was in fact Sonognini’s home and grocery store, expanded with the addition of guest rooms and an enlarged kitchen. This theory is further reinforced by the fact that Riccardo Mattei was granted a liquor license to operate a saloon from Sonognini’s building in Swanton in June 1905, suggesting that the structure was being used for more than just a grocery store and was Sonognini’s only building in the hamlet. Sonognini himself died while fighting a fire up Big Creek on September 6, 1904, leaving ownership of his property to his three young children and his widow, Theresa DaVico, also of Switzerland. On January 29, 1906, Mattei married the widowed Theresa.

Ocean Shore Railroad No. 4 at Swanton, circa 1918. [Images of America: Davenport – colorized using MyHeritage]

The promise of the Ocean Shore Railway, incorporated in 1905, revigorated interest in the Scott Creek valley. Company surveyors were sent along the coast searching for the best route north to Pescadero and San Francisco. Yet, the railroad did not initially venture far into the valley. In 1907, crews reached the mouth of Scott Creek and turned up it, but only far enough to reach the first large meadow, which had been subdivided and named Folger, after the coffee magnate who was also an investor in the railroad. On this field the company installed a wye to allow trains to turn around and return to Santa Cruz. The actual passenger and freight station for the valley was further south at today’s Swanton Berry Farm, where the Ocean Shore Railway intersected the Coast Road on its way up Scott Creek. Another stop near the creek mouth, Scott Junction, was where the railroad planned to continue north, though that would never happen in reality. Thus, Swanton was within reach of a railroad, but still had no direct service.

Seaside schoolhouse in Swanton, Feb 29, 1952. Photo by Paul L. Henchey. [UC Davis – colorized using MyHeritage]

In the aftermath of the San Francisco Earthquake, the Loma Prieta Lumber Company found itself unable to properly harvest timber in its Hinckley Gulch property outside Soquel. In response, it bought stumpage rights to 1,000 acres along Mill Creek, a tributary of Scott Creek located just north of Swanton. The company hoped to use the Ocean Shore Railway once a spur was extended to Swanton, but for its first two seasons, that did not happen. As a result, lumber was hauled out of Swanton to Scott or Davenport, where it was then loaded onto flatcars for shipment to the yards in Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Watsonville. This increase in activity in Swanton from mid-1907 led to the reopening of Seaside School the following year, with the schoolhouse moved for a second and final time to Schoolhouse Gulch.

An Ocean Shore Railroad train outside the Mattei's boarding house in Swanton, circa 1918. [Sandy Lydon – colorized using MyHeritage]

Everything changed in 1908 when the San Vicente Lumber Company announced its plans to harvest the massive untapped timber tracts along the headwaters of Little, Big, Archibald, and San Vicente Creeks. A cash-strapped Ocean Shore Railway could not help but support the scheme and by the end of the year, it was actively extending its track from Folger into Swanton, with a short spur to support the Loma Prieta Lumber Company’s mill and a branch railroad called the Scott Creek Railway extended up Little Creek to the site of the first San Vicente lumber camp. Between Little Creek and Archibald Creek, a small freight yard was built with several sidings to hold flatcars for the various operations in the area. Meanwhile, the Sonognini–Mattei family’s boarding house became the de facto passenger station for the railroad in Swanton, with the tracks running directly beside it.

James Gray poses with his auto buses at the Swanton House in Pescadero, circa 1918. [Mattei family collection, Santa Cruz MAH – colorized using MyHeritage]

The history of Swanton during the Ocean Shore years is very poorly recorded. Riccardo—commonly known as Richard or Dick—served as the local official in charge of capturing fish for the Brookdale Fish Hatchery from 1907. He served in this role until around 1924. He proved less proficient as a saloonkeeper when he had his license revoked in September 1909 for keeping a disorderly house. This led to Theresa taking a more active role in management of the hospitality business. Little was said of Swanton for the next five years. By the summer 1914 season, the boarding house was known as the Laurel Grove Inn, with Theresa as proprietor. Meanwhile, Riccardo took an interest in automobiles and bought a Ford touring car in July 1914. This passion was shared with his step-son-in-law, James W. Gray, who was vice president of the Ocean Shore Auto Company and who had just begun running Stanley Steamer passenger coaches between Swanton and Tunitas to fill the 26-mile gap in the Ocean Shore Railroad’s route. Gray and Elvezia M. Sonognini married on November 30, 1914.

Map of Rancho Agua Puerca y las Trancas shortly before the San Vicente Lumber Company left Swanton, March 1922. [Santa Cruz GIS]

The closure of the Ocean Shore Railroad in October 1920 and the end of logging above Swanton in 1923 led to the quick decline of the community as a population center. Industrial workers moved away and took their children with them. Automobiles, meanwhile, passed through the town but did not linger. For a shore while, Gray managed to continue his passenger service and expanded into freight following the collapse of the Ocean Shore Railroad. The last mention of the Laurel Grove Inn in newspapers is in July 1924, though the Matteis continued to host events on their property for at least a decade afterwards. The family ran the post office until December 31, 1930. Riccardo died at his home on May 11, 1932. Theresa died nine years later on September 21, 1941 at her home in Santa Cruz.

Swanton historical marker at site of Laurel Grove Inn, Jan 3, 2013. Photo by Barry Swackhamer.

In 1938, the Poletti and Morelli families had purchased much of the lower Scott Creek valley, and the United States entry into World War II three years later led to the further depopulation of the area. Farms shut down and local industry shifted to artichokes and Brussels sprouts, with cattle ranching on the side. Bereft of students, Seaside School shut down for the last time after the 1960 school year. Students afterwards were sent to Pacific School in Davenport. Albert B. Smith, a former Southern Pacific Railroad employee, bought the property that comprised much of the former hamlet in 1978 and donated it as Swanton Pacific Ranch to California Polytechnic State University, San Luís Obispo, upon his death in 1993.

Citations & Credits:

  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary, 2nd edition (Santa Cruz: Museum of Art & History, 2002).
  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways, 2nd edition (Santa Cruz: Otter B Books, 2007).
  • Mildred Brooke Hoover, Hero Eugene and Ethel Grace Rensch, and William N. Abeloe, Historic Spots in California, 3rd edition (Stanford: University Press, 1966).
  • Charles S. McCaleb, Surf, Sand and Streetcars: A Mobile History of Santa Cruz, California, 2nd edition (Santa Cruz: Museum of Art & History, 2005).
  • Ronald G. Powell, The Shadow of Loma Prieta: Part 3 of the History of Rancho Soquel Augmentation (Santa Cruz: Zayante Publishing, 2022).
  • Jeanine Marie Scaramozzino, “Una Legua Cuadrada: Exploring the History of Swanton Pacific Ranch and Environs,” thesis submitted toward an MA in History, California Polytechnic State University, San Luís Obispo (December 2015).
  • Al Smith, “The History of Swanton” (July 1990).
  • Various articles from the Evening News, Sentinel, and Surf.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

People: The Colton Family

 The Big Four of the Central Pacific Railroad left a significant legacy across California. In Santa Cruz County, the initial construction of what would become the Santa Cruz Branch was delayed twice due to Leland Stanford overpromising and underdelivering. Later, in 1883, Stanford, Collis Huntington, and Charles Crocker were instrumental in approving the construction of the Loma Prieta Railroad, which allowed them to harvest their timber tracts on Aptos Creek. Mark Hopkins’ widow, Mary, also invested heavily in the Aptos Forest, and her adopted son, Timothy, became a leading figure in the Loma Prieta Lumber Company, which harvested the forest into the 1920s. However, the Big Four also had a junior partner, David Douty Colton, the Central Pacific Railroad’s chief lawyer, vice president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and namesake of Colton, California, near San Bernardino. While Colton himself had little to do with Santa Cruz County, his family provided some of its most prominent citizens.

The bottom of the Railroad Wharf, with the Hotel St. James at the left, the Sea Beach Hotel in the distance, and the wooded Colton and Martin estates between them, circa 1905. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

General Colton died from prolonged internal bleeding caused by a fall from a horse on October 9, 1878. His most relevant achievements in relation to Santa Cruz County’s history were marrying Ellen Mason White and fathering Caroline. Colton began life as a farmer in Maine in 1832. Five years later, his family moved to Illinois, where he later met Ellen, a Chicago-born daughter of a physician. The two became engaged in 1850, but her father would not let them marry, so Colton headed out to California to make his fortune in the Gold Rush. Falling ill, Colton briefly moved to San Francisco until he earned enough money doing odd jobs to relocate to Oregon to continue his search for wealth. Soon he drifted back south in to the Shasta region, where he was based when Siskiyou County was created. He was chosen as under-sheriff in Yreka, and subsequently elected sheriff. He decided this made him eligible for Ellen’s hand, and he retrieved her from her Illinois home.

Lithograph of General David D. Colton from Chapters on the History of the Southern Pacific by Stuart Daggett (1922).

Through acts of heroism while serving as sheriff, Colton was given the rank of Brigadier-General in the state militia, a title he kept in courtesy once his term ended. He ran for state senator, but lost in a close race to the Know-Nothing Party’s candidate. In 1859, he became partners with Ralph C. Harrison of Merchant Street and became a lawyer, albeit a very energetic one who rarely would be found in his office. Following a two-year trip to Europe with his family, Colton began investing in coal mining and it was this that brought him into contact with the Central Pacific Railroad, which bought his coal to fuel its trains. His influx of wealth allowed him to build the first mansion on Nob Hill. At the time of his death at only 46 years old, he was planning to travel to Arizona to oversee the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad through the state.

Half of a stereograph showing General Colton's mansion on Nob Hill, circa 1890. Photo by Carleton E. Watkins. [California State Library – colorized using MyHeritage]

General Colton’s premature death left his wife, Ellen, with most of the family fortune. His family was still relatively small at this time. In addition to his wife, David had two daughters, Caroline and Helen, the latter of whom had a daughter of her own also named Helen. A year after his death, Caroline gave birth to her eldest daughter, Theodosia, while eight years later, she had her second child, Katharine. The younger branch of the family would have little involvement in Santa Cruz history, except for an inheritance dispute. Meanwhile, Caroline’s family quickly became major property owners at the Santa Cruz Beach.

The Colton Family Tree
David Douty Colton (1832 – 1878)
+ Ellen Mason White (died Feb 1905)
—Caroline Colton (12 Jun 1856 – 12 Feb 1918)
—+1 Daniel Cook (9 Aug 1837 – 9 Oct 1882)
——Theodosia Cook (21 Aug 1879 – 1 Jun 1945)
——+ Francis Joseph Morgan Grace (4 Oct 1873 – 9 Sep 1933)
———Francis Joseph Morgan Grace, Jr. (13 Mar 1904 – 30 Jul 1948)
—+2 Henry MacLean Martin (15 May 1849 – 8 Apr 1891)
——Katharine Agnew Martin (25 Mar 1886 – 6 Jun 1936)
——+ Marcel Ernest Cerf (2 Apr 1877 – 20 Jun 1935)
———Charlotte Crosby Cerf (15 Oct 1910 – 15 Aug 1997)
———+ Charles Cook Cushing (8 Dec 1905 – 14 Apr 1982)
———Elizabeth Agnew Cerf (11 Aug 1912 – 26 Oct 1988)
—+3 John Bernard Dahlgren (2 Dec 1874 – 23 Nov 1921)
—Helen “Nellie” Colton (2 Dec 1854 – 17 Oct 1899)
—+ Crittenden Thornton (2 Feb 1849 – 29 Sep 1921)
——Helen Colton Thornton (12 Sep 1877 – 8 Feb 1904)
——+ Siegfried Sacher (ca 1865 – 10 Jun 1927)
———Hélène Marguerite Béatrice Sacher (26 Mar 1900 – ?)

From the 1860s through the 1880s, four properties dominated the part of Beach Hill that fronted the beach between Pacific Avenue and Main Street. The properties passed through several owners and the boarding houses on them went by many names, but by the mid-1880s, they were known as the Sea Foam Hotel, Seaside Home, Liddell House, and Douglas House. The first of these never had a relationship with the Colton family, but the remainder fell into the family’s hands one-by-one. It remains unclear when the Coltons first visited Santa Cruz, but Ellen and Caroline spent a summer in the city in 1885 and again in 1886. General Colton may have visited the place in the early 1870s alongside Leland Stanford, or else it may have become a place of interest once the South Pacific Coast Railroad began building its railroad through the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1877.

A girl posing on the Railroad Wharf with the Seaside Home, Liddell House, and Douglas House in the distance, circa 1885. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

The Liddell House was the first to fall into the family’s hands. The third hotel from Pacific Avenue, it was also the oldest having served as a public boarding house for sailors in the early 1860s before the family erected the first permanent bathhouse on the Santa Cruz Beach. By the mid-1880s, the Liddell family had fallen on hard times and were ready to sell. On April 2, 1887, D. K. Abeel of the adjacent Douglas House offered to buy the property for $8,000. He hoped to merge the two properties in order to build an expansive new hotel, but his offer was declined. Two months later, C. Hoffman offered $10,000 for the estate and the Liddells accepted. Hoffman was a property agent for Ellen Colton and Caroline Martin, and he soon transferred the Liddells’ property to them. Colton and Martin allowed the current proprietor, Mrs. M. A. Bergler, to run the boaring house until the end of the season, after which all of the furniture was sold and the main building of the property demolished. They rechristened the estate Miramar and ran it as a private resort for their friends and family.

Block No. 25 on Beach Hill, showing Ellen Colton and Caroline Martin's properties, circa 1892. Drawn by Charles L. Pioda. [Santa Cruz County GIS]

Next door, the youngest of the four boarding houses, Seaside Home, was soon listed for sale. Seaside Home was built in 1871 by Annie M. Richards and given its name five years later by the hotel’s proprietor at the time, George W. Goss. Management passed in 1883 to Martha Jane Lewis—Patty Reed of the Donner Party—who ran it profitably for the next four seasons. By 1889, the Richards family decided to sell the property to Alfred H. Fitch. Within a year, though, Fitch changed his mind and sold half of his interest in the property to W. S. McCormick of San Francisco in January 1890. In June, McCormick sold this interest to John E. Armstrong, the owner of the lot above Seaside Home that fronted Second Street, for $7,800. Armstrong did not keep it; rather, he sold it immediately to Ellen Colton for the same amount. Colton began demolishing the main structure of the Seaside Home in February 1891, with plans to replace it with a new building, though none was ever erected. Meanwhile, Fitch sold his remaining interest in the property to Armstrong in September 1891 for $300. Armstrong, in turn, sold this to Colton and Caroline Martin in November for the same amount. Colton, wishing to distance the property from its former life, renamed it The Cabins in 1892.

Lanteen boats next to the Railroad Wharf with the forested Colton and Martin properties on Beach Hill in the distance, circa 1910. Photo by Charles L. Aydelotte. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

By the end of 1891, Colton and her daughter owned the two largest single lots between Pacific Avenue and Main Street, now both running as private resorts under the names The Cabins and Miramar. Granted, the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Santa Cruz Electric Railway, and the Esplanade ran directly through their properties, rendering the lower third completely unusable, but the women seem to have been content with their terraced cottages surrounded by gardens and trees. Throughout the late 1880s and early 1890s, Colton and Martin heavily renovated their properties, moving around structures, expanding some and demolishing others. Colton sold her share in Miramar to her daughter in July 1890. Later, in October 1897, Colton acquired the entirety of Armstrong’s adjacent property, which stretched to Second Street, for $2,000. Both women used their properties primarily to entertain friends and family, and Martin repeatedly offered Miramar to her in-laws for the summer months.

Sentinel photograph of The Cabins, September 13, 1933.

Ellen Colton died in 1905 and Caroline took sole control over The Cabins since her sister, Helen, had died six years earlier, followed in 1904 by Helen’s only daughter. A great-granddaughter, born and raised in Paris to a German father, would become a thorn in her side for several years in the late 1900s since she was left out of Ellen’s will, but this had little impact on the beach properties. In Ellen’s will, her Beach Hill property officially went to Caroline’s eldest daughter, Theodosia Grace. In reality, Caroline controlled both properties, confusingly adopting the name The Cabins for both, until her death in February 1918.

Ruins of the Sea Beach Hotel, June 1912. Photo by Paul Baker. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

The final piece in the Colton family’s take-over of the beachfront boarding houses came in the years after the Sea Beach Hotel fire of June 12, 1912, and shortly after Caroline’s death. Katharine Agnew Cerf, Caroline’s second daughter, had spent most summers of her childhood at Miramar and The Cabins. After she was married on May 8, 1909, she continued this tradition with her new husband, Judge Marcel E. Cerf of San Francisco, and their two daughters, Charlotte and Elizabeth. Beach Hill was a barren place without the dominating presence of the Sea Beach Hotel, so they decided to do something about it.

Judge Marcel Cerf's residence on the site of the Sea Beach Hotel, photographed from the Pleasure Pier, July 4, 1922. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

In early 1918, they purchased the front lot of the Sea Beach property and hired George McCrea to build a luxurious mansion on the site. The home was completed before May 1, 1918 and supplemented with an expansive garage, tennis court, and gardens. Its most iconic feature was a massive flagstaff that towered above Beach Hill flying a large American flag. The Evening News reported in 1919 that the property “is the pride of the entire [water]front.”

The Martin-Dahlgren and Grace properties shortly after Ellen Colton's death, July 1906. This, with the lower (right) portion dominated by the railroads, streetcars, and Esplanade, would become the final arrangement of the two properties. Drawn by A. W. Pioda. [Santa Cruz GIS]

Caroline’s death allowed the former Miramar estate to pass out of the Colton family into the family of Caroline’s third husband, John Dahlgren of Washington, D.C. He only lived another three years, despite being almost two decades younger than his former wife, but her property was retained by his children by his first wife. In November 1923, the Dahlgrens sold it for about $15,000 to Frances T. Coleman of San Francisco, permanently separating it from the family’s control.

View of the Municipal Wharf from the Goebel–Waterman property, formerly Caroline Martin's Miramar, 1925. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

Coleman only owned it for two years before selling it to George Goebel and Val C. Waterman, who sold it two months later to Harry L. Hussmann, president of the Hussmann Refrigerator Company of St. Louis, on July 9, 1925. Hussmann planned to build a resort hotel on the property and bought up several surrounding lots to realize his plan, including the back lot of the former Sea Beach Hotel property and the lot on Second Street immediately behind the former Dahlgren property, across Drift Way.

Promotional postcard for Terrace Court, 1941. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

Hussmann never built his resort but he held onto the property into the 1930s. In July 1933, he defaulted on his payments to the Santa Cruz Land Title Company, a result of the stock market crash of 1929, and his properties in the county were sold at auction. The purchaser was Randall Currell of El Paso, who did nothing with the estate during his seven years of ownership. George Lawrence Holland Jr. bought it in late 1940 and finally began construction of the long-delayed hotel on the property. Over the next year, he constructed 15 terraced units of an ultramodern design. Each room had a combined living room and bedroom with a view of the bay, a car garage, kitchen, and ensuite toilet. In March 1941, Holland christened the resort Terrace Court. Holland had little time to enjoy his new resort complex since World War II ruined the summer season for the next four years. In 1944, he decided to cut his losses and sold the property to Frank L. Genshlea, former production manager at Magnavox.

The Casa Blanca Apartments, 1948. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

To the east, the Cerf family had its own crisis when Marcel died in June 1935. His widow, Katharine, decided it was a good time to sell their Beach Hill mansion. In 1936, it was bought by attorney Stanford Smith, who maintained it as a private residence for the next seven years. During World War II, though, he sold it to Holland, which greatly enlarged the potential Terrace Courts property. Nonetheless, the property was included in the sale to Genshlea the following year. Genshlea began to make improvements, such as building a reinforced bulkhead along the beach, but suddenly decided in March 1946 to sell both properties to John Azevedo, a Sacramento-based wine producer. Azevedo took over the Terrace Court and renovated it extensively, expanding into the back lot to Second Street. The hotel now operates as the Beach Street Inn and Suites. He also developed the former Cerf mansion into the Casa Blanca Apartments before passing ownership of the property to his son, Robert Azevedo, and a partner, Thomas Allen, in 1951. The hotel today is known as the Casablanca Inn.

Terrace Court and the Casa Blanca Apartments, with the vacant lot of The Cabins at left, circa 1950. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

The Grace property, formerly the Seaside Home and The Cabins, was the last of the properties to leave the Colton family’s ownership. Francis Grace, Sr., Theodosia’s husband, was murdered outside The Cabins while walking in his garden by an ex-nurse Wilhelmina Weltz on September 9, 1933. When the Graces sold the property is unknown, but Theodosia died in 1945 followed by her son in 1948. Prior to this, the family had sold the property and it eventually fell into the hands of Charles K. Bell. He sold it on June 17, 1944, to Joe and Mary L. Gardella, who held onto it for about a decade before developing the back lot facing Second Street into a short-term rental complex known as the Edgewater Beach Apartments, while the narrow beach portion was seemingly left in a state of nature. Today, the Edgewater Beach Motel remains on Second Street, while the Beach Street part of the property is an overflow parking lot for the hotel, often rented out to beachgoers on busy summer days.

Citations & Credits:

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Railroads: San Vicente Lumber Company Railroad

Far up Santa Cruz County’s north coast, Scott Creek winds inland from the Pacific Ocean along a gradually climbing path up to its source near Little Basin. Less than two miles from the coast is a tributary, Little Creek, a comparatively shorter stream than its neighbor, Big Creek. Passing through a narrow canyon, Little Creek runs 2.8 miles to the northeast in the direction of Bonny Doon. And it was atop this strange mountain plateau created by the headwaters of Little Creek, Big Creek, and San Vicente Creek that the San Vicente Lumber Company focused its effort to harvest over 615,000,000 board feet of timber beginning in the summer of 1908.

One of the San Vicente Lumber Company's shay locomotives with crews loading logs onto flatcars above Swanton, with a large steam donkey at left, 1909-1922. [Margaret Koch Collection, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History – colorized using MyHeritage]

The San Vicente Lumber Company was incorporated on May 8, 1908, and immediately contracted with the Ocean Shore Railroad to extend a track along Scott Creek between Folger near the coast and Swanton 1.4 miles inland. The Pratchner Company was hired to install the tracks and, according to the Santa Cruz Evening News, had a crew composed of a dozen teams to build the line. On June 19, a new railroad company, the Scott Creek Railway, was founded as an Ocean Shore subsidiary to extend the new line from San Vicente Junction south of Swanton 2.5 miles up Little Creek to the site of Camp No. 2. At the junction, several spurs and sidings were installed to park flatcars for use on the line up Little Creek.

A hand-drawn survey map based on observations and GPS recordings by George Pepper and Rick Hamman.

Construction of the Scott Creek Railway finished sometime before mid-March 1909. Camp No. 1 was established a mile east of Swanton at the confluence of Little Creek and its largest tributary, Chandler Creek. Here ox teams and steam donkeys hauled cut timber from along Chandler Gulch to the railroad grade. Camp No. 2, the site of the worker village, required a switchback to climb up roughly 500 feet in elevation to Stoney Point and then a further mile east to a flat clearing, where timber from upper Little Creek and the headwaters of Berry Creek could be pulled over the ridge via steam donkey. The extension of the line beyond Camp No. 2 was a task done by the lumber company rather than the railroad company. The mill itself was erected in Moore’s Gulch at the western limits of Santa Cruz and was completed around March 22, 1909. Yard tracks were not installed at the facility until the weeks before it opened, and no logs were shipped over the route until March 23.

The main San Vicente Lumber Company forest crew, ca 1912. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

The company employed around 225 men annually, over half of whom worked in the forest and lived in the camps. They were an eclectic mix of Italians, Greeks, Irish, Swedes, and other people of mostly European descent. In its first year, Camp No. 2 hosted around 50 cottages, which supported both workers and their families. Famed California reporter Josephine Clifford McCrackin visited Camp No. 1 in late September 1909. She reported that “the company has built very pretty cottage for its employees… At the general store goods are sold at Santa Cruz prices; and at the market meats and vegetables can be bought just as in Santa Cruz.” In addition, the camp featured a boarding house for visitors, a cookhouse, and a bunkhouse for single men. The anticipated influx of children led to Seaside School moving from Gianone Hill to Swanton. Swanton, too, grew when it became the northern terminus of the Southern Division of the Ocean Shore Railway. Its hotel became the transfer point for Ocean Shore-sponsored buses heading to the southern end of the Northern Division at Tunitas, and a few commercial businesses may have arisen around the old Laurel Grove Hotel.

One of the San Vicente Lumber Company's shay locomotives running up a grade above Swanton, ca 1915. [UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

The San Vicente Lumber Company’s railroad used two Shay locomotives for its logging operations, although Ocean Shore Railway trains ran irregularly to Camp No. 2 to provide passenger and switching services. 36-foot-long flatcars with air brakes were used to haul full logs from the hills to the mill. Several spurs were kept at Camp No. 2 for yarding and storage, and photographs show that several boxcars were converted into makeshift buildings for the company. Beyond Camp No. 2, bridges were built as needed using available resources—namely felled pine trees—and some of these bridges rose up to 90 feet in height. Because the area was prone to slides and heavy rainfall, bridges and half-trestles were preferred over fills, and both switchbacks and tight curving trestles were used to achieve quick increases the gradient in confined spaces. Nonetheless, gradients of up to 8% were not unknown on this railroad.

A section of the original Scott Creek Railway trackage between Swanton and Camp No. 2, July 1918. [Mattei Family Collection, Santa Cruz MAH – colorized using MyHeritage]

Logging was continuous but probably did not move into the San Vicente Creek watershed until 1912. The first major extension of the railroad took it up Little Creek and over it in a tight loop in order to gain elevation. It then switch-backed and continued to the headwaters, where another switchback allowed the route to finally exit the Little Creek watershed and climb atop the plateau at the top of the grade. From there, the track swung to the south and curved around a hill, on the other side of which Camp No. 3 was established. The camp was placed here since it intersected with a rugged county road between Davenport and Bonny Doon, the southern part of which is today’s Warrenella Truck Trail. Camp No. 3 was established to gather timber from the West and East Forks of San Vicente Creek.

Two women standing beside the San Vicente Lumber Company's tracks, probably between Camp Nos. 1 and 2, July 1918. [Mattei Family Collection, Santa Cruz MAH – colorized using MyHeritage]

Tracks were slowly extended beyond Camp No. 3, probably between late 1912 and 1913. On one of the tightest curves on the railroad, known as the Bear Trap, the track crossed the West Fork of San Vicente Creek and then headed south until stopping just before the creek’s fork with its other branches. Here a switchback brought the track alongside the Middle Fork. As before, crews used donkey engines here to pull out logs from the surrounding forest, loading them onto flatcars and sending them down the line.

The impressive series of trestles spanning the Bear Trap above the West Fork of San Vicente Creek, ca 1912. [UC Berkeley – colorized using MyHeritage]

When the West and Middle Forks were harvested, the railroad moved again, this time north around the headwaters of the West Fork to Camp No. 4, known as White House Camp because of the presence of an abandoned whitewashed house at the site. This move likely happened in 1914 and was perhaps the shortest-lived camp. It focused on harvesting the headwaters of the West and Middle Forks, and may have also pulled down material from atop the ridge that separated the San Vicente Creek and Big Creek watersheds.

A high lead and gin pole above the San Vicente Lumber Company's tracks above Swanton, ca late 1910s. [Fritz–Metcalf Collection, UC Berkeley – colorized using MyHeritage]

Around 1915 or 1916, the track was extended to the east between the Middle and East Forks of San Vicente Creek, with a substantial curve and switchback in the middle of the route to lower the grade and avoid a hill. The track then continued south, bringing it directly opposite the main settlement area of Bonny Doon. Camp No. 5 was, therefore, appropriately named Bonny Doon Camp. This camp was responsible for harvesting all of the timber within Rancho San Vicente from the East Branch of the creek—the property boundary—and the Middle Fork. These operations likely wrapped around 1918, perhaps delayed by World War I and the influenza pandemic that followed.

Three women standing on a steam donkey platform probably near Camp No. 6 during the final phase of harvesting, July 1918. [Mattei Family Collection, Santa Cruz MAH – colorized using MyHeritage]

Following the war, the company pursued its final drive to harvest timber to the northwest along the headwaters of Big Creek. A new switchback was built near the headwaters of Little Creek with the tracks heading to the west around several short hills and gulches. It finally reached a pond in a high clearing, where Camp No. 6 was established just above Big Creek. The main track wrapped around the camp from the south and descended to the creek via a single switchback. It then continued along the creek through Deadman Gulch and up the East Branch of Big Creek before terminating near its headwaters. Presumably San Vicente Lumber only had rights to harvest timber east of Big Creek’s main course, and it spent its last four years harvesting this dense forestland from above and below.

Members of the Mattei family and friends posing beside a cottage, probably at Camp No. 2, with converted train car cottages and permanent cottages in the background, July 1918. [Mattei Family Collection, Santa Cruz MAH – colorized using MyHeritage]

It is not entirely clear whether Camp No. 2 remained the main camp for families or if the entire camp relocated every few years. Logically, it makes sense if the camp remained in place throughout this time. Camp No. 2 marked the end of the Scott Creek Railway and Ocean Shore trains could still reach it to shuttle children between the camp and the school in Swanton. It would also be directly connected with southbound trains so people and camp businesses could easily resupply. Rick Hamman, however, states that the camp moved each time, with the cabins loaded onto flatcars and then placed on the ground at each new location. This seems a rather large burden to do every two years, though, and there is no evidence that this was in fact done. What was done, though, is the removal and reinstallation of track as the line moved. Whenever a section was cleared of usable timber, the rails and ties would be pulled and reused, when possible, to build the next extension. The downside of this is that a new section of track could not be built while an old section was still being used.

An Ocean Shore Railroad passenger car separated from its wheel truck by presumably a runaway flatcar that crashed into it, ca 1920. [Mattei Family Collection, Santa Cruz MAH – colorized using MyHeritage]

Because of the steep grades, sharp turns, and switchbacks, the railroad was prone to many incidents. The number one issue was runaway rolling stock. Both of the Shay locomotives escaped the engineers’ control on several occasions, and flatcars escaped constantly. Fortunately, most incidents at worst resulted in the stock in question crashing into a hillside at the end of a switchback or tearing of the ties after derailing. Many of the switchbacks, however, we designed in such a way that they rose up near the end to decelerate runaways without damaging the stock. Most of the time, operations along the railroad ran remarkably smoothly considering all the compromises that had to be made. The same cannot be said of the workers, who were frequently injured on the job resulting in several maimings and a few deaths.

Four women posing beside a section of cut forest with the San Vicente Lumber Company's railroad tracks heading into the distance, July 1918. [Mattei Family Collection, Santa Cruz MAH – colorized using MyHeritage] 

The San Vicente Lumber Company’s railroad outlasted the Ocean Shore Railroad, that had helped build and support it. Around the end of 1920, the company bought the Southern Division of the Ocean Shore, which had effectively gone defunct in October following a worker strike. As part of the deal, they acquired Ocean Shore engine no. 4, which they used as their primary locomotive to transport logs to the mill. The railroad continued to haul logs until the end of the 1922 season, at which point the company began wrapping up its operations. In January 1923, the mill was shut down and crews began dismantling the railroad and workers’ village. Henry G. Stoddard of the Nibley–Studdard Lumber Company continued to run the company’s lumber yard for about eight months, but all other operations at the mill ended in February and the large plant was partially dismantled with usable parts destined for a new mill at Cromberg, California.

A woman shyly posing beside a San Vicente Lumber Company locomotive crew at Swanton, July 1918. [Mattei Family Collection, Santa Cruz MAH – colorized using MyHeritage]

Much of the former rights-of-way survived in the mountains, with a few repurposed as private access roads or county park trails. Others have degraded into nearly unrecognizable paths, with the August 2020 fires destroying some of the last artifacts from the age of logging in the area. Prior to the fires, George Pepper and Chuck Ryder carefully hiked the hills with a GPS recorder to identify the former railroad grades, making several corrections to Hamman’s map. The entire area remains private property, but the Santa Cruz Land Trust is working on creating a trail network within the area, called San Vicente Redwoods, some of which trails will closely follow the rights-of-way of the former San Vicente Lumber Company’s railroad.

Citations & Credits:

  • Articles of incorporation for the Scott Creek Railway Company. Courtesy Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Pepper, George, and Chuck Ryder. Personal correspondence.
  • Santa Cruz SentinelSurf, and Evening News, 1908-1923.