Friday, May 16, 2014

Centennial Flour Mill and the Oliver & Co. Planing Mill

Centennial Flour Mills, c. 1876 (Santa Cruz Public Library)
Down by the freight yard in Santa Cruz, the Centennial Flour Mills set up operations at the place where Pacific Avenue turns sharply to the north after briefly following along Beach Hill. Flour in Santa Cruz County was first manufactured along the north coast near Davenport along Scott's Creek. Around 1875, the Centennial Flour Mills replaced the old operation run by Mr. Majors and located their refinery to Santa Cruz. When the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad came into town that same year, a spur was run from the mainline to to the Centennial Mills allowing bulk processed flour to be loaded directly into waiting boxcars. The facility was relatively simple, according to the one extant Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of the site, including the primary mill structure, a freight warehouse, and some office out buildings. The primary mill building, however, was five stories tall making it one of the tallest structures in Santa Cruz in 1880. The Centennial Mills was closed at some point between 1883 and 1886, when the next Sanborn Map was issued. The buildings were noted as being abandoned with the primary mill house being used as a hay barn. The spur to the mill was taken up and parts of the old right-of-way were being used for lumber storage.

1883 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the Centennial Flour Mill near
the Santa Cruz Depot & Freight Yard. (UCSC Digital Collection)
Behind the Centennial Mills was one of the George E. Olive & Company Lumber Yards. Begun by 1883 as the Olive & Foster Lumber Yard, by 1888 H. Foster was no longer attached to the company. George E. The spur to the holding yard behind the Centennial Mills was removed at the same time as the closure of the flour mill, but the larger planing mill holding yard, located near the place where Washington Street turns decidedly eastward and just south of Santa Cruz Depot, remained immediately beside the racks for easy freight loading. Unfortunately, the Grover & Co. yards, located directly south of Olive's yards, not only claimed the two sidings for themselves, but also squeezed the amount of trackside real estate that was available to Olive's Mill. The planing mill was a small structure with few out buildings. It disappears from Sanborn Fire Insurance surveys after 1888, after which, in 1892, George is noted as being vice president of the Santa Cruz Lumber Company whose operations were up Liddell Creek near Davenport. It can be assumed that his company shut down prior to 1892.


  • Edward Sanford Harrison, History of Santa Cruz County, California (1892).
  • Samuel Hopkins Willey, "A Historical Paper Relating to Santa Cruz, California: Perpared in Pursuance of the Resolutions of Congress for the National Centennial Celebration, July 4, 1876: At the Request of the Common Council of Santa Cruz" (Printing Department of A.L. Bancroft, 1876).

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