Friday, August 8, 2014

Davenport Landing & Bluegum

Davenport Landing and Blue Gum according to an
Ocean Shore Railroad survey map from 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
The settlement that Captain John P. Davenport founded on the North Coast of Santa Cruz County was not Davenport, but rather a smaller community known as Davenport Landing. Settled in 1867 by Davenport, a Rhode Island mariner and local whaler, he and John King built a short 400-foot pier at the mouth of Agua Puerca Creek near El Jarro Point on the border of Rancho Laguna and Rancho Agua Puerca y Las Trancas.

Aqua Puerca Creek served as the southern boundary of Rancho Agua Puerca, the most northern rancho in Santa Cruz County. First named Rancho El Jarro in 1839 when it was granted to Hilario Buelna, it was never settled and was reclaimed by Ramón Rodriguez and Francisco Alviso in 1843 under the latter name. The history of this rancho is little documented, but it undoubtedly served as a dairy ranch as did most properties along the North Coast. While the property was patented in 1867, it seems that a portion was almost immediately sold to Captain Davenport for his fishing and whaling business.

Davenport's settlement may have acted as a whaling station for a few years, though the records are inconclusive on that matter. The town itself grew up over the following two decades, peaking with two hotels, two general stores, a blacksmith shop, and a butcher shop around 1875. Only four homes were in town, but the village did support a small harbor beside El Jarro Point. Besides the possible whaling and definite fishing operations, the town shipped out lumber from the mountains, grain and dairy products from the coast lands, and wine from local vineyards. A post office was established in 1874, simply named Davenport. Its closure in 1889 signaled the decline of Davenport Landing. That decline had already begun prior to then, however: the pier was abandoned in 1880 due to decreased business, and the Davenport family moved back to Santa Cruz in the early 1880s. Davenport himself died in 1892.

By the time the Ocean Shore Railroad passed through the village in 1905, most of it had fallen into disrepair or outright abandonment. The opening of the cement plant just south of town in 1905 sparked a new frenzy of settlement, but most of it was established south of the plant above San Vicente Creek rather than Agua Puerca. The post office was reestablished in 1906 but in the new town rather than the old dilapidated village. Some light rural sprawl did spread toward the Landing in the late 1900s, but it never joined with the old settlement.

Captain Davenport, c. 1852 [SC Library]
The Coast Line railroad terminated just south of the village at a site named Bluegum by the Ocean Shore. This northernly terminal, located 11.9 miles north of the Ocean Shore's Santa Cruz Depot, allowed the Ocean Shore to occasionally service the cement plant via 660-foot siding and 428-foot spur, but use of this siding seems to have been rather periodic rather than regular. The strange name derived from the prevalence of eucalyptus trees that had been planted in the area to form windbreaks, many of which can still be seen beside State Route 1 today. The Coast Line had a large wye built immediately opposite Bluegum to turn its engines around without the need for a turntable, but otherwise their operations were about a mile south of the site at the plant itself. The Ocean Shore stop included a 10' x 18' open front passenger shed and platform, likely to ferry plant workers back to various points along the line to Santa Cruz.

Just 0.3 miles north, the Davenport Landing stop serviced the small remnant community at the village. It included a small 8' x 12' open front platform and shelter and, like the Bluegum stop, likely ferries local workers back to Santa Cruz and other stops. It may also have serviced any remaining lumber, produce, dairy, or fishing industries remaining in the area. Unfortunately, a fire swept through Davenport Landing in 1915, destroying most of the remaining infrastructure that had supported the small village. Whether the stop remained in service after that year is unknown, but the line closed down in 1920 either way and the tracks were pulled in 1923.

Davenport Landing Beach and its handicap access ramp.
Today the northern terminus of the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railroad (previously the Coast Line or Southern Pacific) is at the site of Blue Gum. The Ocean Shore tracks have long been gone but the old S.P. tracks dead end into the dirt, having seen periodic service until 2011 when the cement plant finally closed down. The entirety of Cement Plant Road is the old County Road while the Cabrillo Highway (CA State Route 1) is the right-of-way of the Ocean Shore Railroad. Cement Plant Road eventually crosses the highway and becomes Davenport Landing Road—this is the site of the former station, just north of the crossing on the west side of the highway. The road continues westward where it passes through the American Abalone Farms, the former site of the village of Davenport Landing. Here there is also a small beach that is handicap accessible and generally less crowded than other local beaches. Nothing of the old village remains but most of the surrounding area is owned by the County of Santa Cruz, though the village site itself is privately owned.

  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Alverda Orlando, "Early History of Davenport", Santa Cruz Public Libraries <> (Accessed 7 August 2014).

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