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Friday, August 9, 2013

Phillipshurst Flag-Stop

Location of Phillipshurst (Courtesy Duncan Nanney)
The Southern Pacific Railroad was not really in the business of creating new flag-stops along the Boulder Creek Branch in 1913, yet somehow a man named Dr. William A. Phillips convinced them. Phillips was a graduate of Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, who set up shop a mile north of Ben Lomond around 1913. He had already lived in Santa Cruz County since at least 1906 since he is mentioned as the elected physician of the Woodmen of the World, Santa Cruz branch. Considering the size of his estate and the fact that he managed to negotiate a special flag-stop to it, he must have been well off. He earned his degree in 1888, receiving his certificate three years later, which leaves more than twenty years of unrecorded history between his doctorate and move to Santa Cruz County. His estate he named Phillipshurst for himself, appending the suffix -hurst, meaning thicket, to it thereby adding a mystical quality. The Tudor Revival-style structure was built by Albert Farr.

The Phillipshurst flag-stop with waiting passengers, 1900s.
(Courtesy George Pepper)
Regarding the flag-stop itself, its purpose if any, other than for personal use, is unknown. Since the right-of-way was across the river, a narrow suspension bridge was built between Phillipshurst and its namesake flag-stop. Even the Santa Cruz Sentinel was unable to definitively explain the purpose of the station or Phillips' bargaining tool in negotiating it. The Southern Pacific Railroad's August 19, 1923 internal timetable notes various facts of the spur. It was located 77.3 miles south of San Francisco via the Mayfield Cut-Off and Felton Junction. It was additionally 2.4 miles south of Boulder Creek. In relation to its neighboring stops, it was one mile north of Ben Lomond Station and 0.3 miles south of Siesta, another flag-stop. The station was established in 1913 and was around until at least 1923 and most likely until the end of the branch line in January 1934. The flag-stop itself was simply a sign and flag with no platform or other adornments.
Photograph of the Phillipshurst-Riverwood Mansion, 1982. (Courtesy Roger & Pat Wilder)
In 1935, the Phillipshurst estate was sold to Theodore H. Smith who founded a school for mentally unstable peoples. The school was named the Blake Hammond School (the building itself was named the Manor). "Blake" was a reference to Smith's mother's maiden name while "Hammond" is unknown but may have been his middle name. Phillips himself went on to become the founder of the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce in 1926 during which time he married a local schoolteacher teacher, Beulah Berryhill.

Today, Phillipshurst-Riverwood is on the National Register of Historic Places (#83004369) at 10580 Highway 9, Ben Lomond, CA. It was added to the registry in August 1983. It remains a private home today. It picked up the name Riverwood at some point, though when and why is unknown. The right-of-way, meanwhile, parallels on the west of River Road on the opposite bank of the San Lorenzo River. Homes have been built along this length of the right-of-way and the original Phillipshurst property has long since been divided by the river. The station site now sits at roughly 1888 River Road in Brookdale. The suspension bridge connecting the disjointed estate has also long been removed. Photographs of the station and suspension bridge both exist, but are not presently available to this author.

  • Clark, Donald Thomas, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Official Registry and Directory of Physicians and Surgeons in the State of California (San Francisco: Medical Society of the State of California, 1914).


  1. This is where my Uncle, George Harland Lowder, supposedly passed away from a heavy equipment accident in 1949.

    1. At the flag stop? That is very odd. I'd love to hear more information on this incident if you have anything.

  2. Around 1967-69, this area was a meadow of tall grass, similar to the Felton area. River road was a small, forgotten road with a thin coat of asphalt. The Blake Hammond School was evidently still around as a single house with restrictions housed adults during the day. Other than that, I can't remember any other item out here, but then we were pretty small and preferred the forest.

    The photo with the three friends looks south because of the shadows upon their faces. The trees and the curve to the track (preparation for the upcoming bridge?), make me believe that it was further south than the meadow. Overhead wires on the west side, that sign might read "Ben Lomond, One Mile"; the style of dress and that 'modern' telephone pole suggest to me the 1920s.


    1. Necktie, and a slim one (in the photo that George Pepper contributed), tells me that this is the late teens or the twenties. I think black was popular at the turn of the century, and women wore white in the teens, so the twenties are most likely.

      A somewhat professional dress shirt on the man, but he lost his jacket due to the heat; my guess is that he was seeing one or both of his friends off. The photo may have been taken by another man which balances the group, so one couple saying goodbye to another. I wonder when small point-and-shoot cameras became common.

  3. The suspension bridge went down in the 1955 flood. My father, Theodore Hammond Smith built the existing bridge that connected our 40 acres on both sides of the San Lorenzo River. The bridge is no longer in use but is still behind the manor. My father bought the manor in 1936 from Dr Musgrave's estate. It became a home and school for mentally and physically challenged people. The home and school were initially in the manor and existing outbuildings until the flood of 1955, which destroyed the bridge and the surrounding outbuildings. My father had acquired 40 acres on the back side of the river and built the home\school larger to accommodate more than 100 people. He became ill in 1968 with pancreatic cancer, so the home\school was closed in October of 1968 and the occupants were moved to other institutions. My father had hoped to keep the manor and existing seven acres and do something for the valley with the back 40 acres and buildings. At the time he was mulling the idea of a Medical Center. He died February 5th 1969 and the manor and school, including bridge and barn, all had to be sold. It took 8 years to sell and sold in June of 1977. The back property was then subdivided and sold off as homes. The manor is privately owned but no longer in our family. We owned it for 41 years. Blake was my grandmother's maiden name. Hammond was the family crest name.