Friday, March 15, 2019

Stations: Filbert

Cottrell's general store, Lorenzo, c. 1878.
Photo by R. E. Wood. [Chico State University]
The town of Boulder Creek eight miles north of Santa Cruz along the San Lorenzo River doesn't really feel like a homogenous place. In the hills around it are small communities of people who visit the town to buy groceries or refuel but otherwise just commute on through—places like Wildwood, Bracken Brae, Forest Park, Little Basin, Riverside Grove, and San Lorenzo Park, among others. In the town itself, there is a rather obvious geographic division between those who live south of Scarborough Lumber and those who live north, differentiated by a slight curve in State Route 9 and a low hill. For certain, all of these places are a part of Boulder Creek, but the town was not always a single unit. In the beginning, there were two towns: Boulder and Lorenzo.

In January 1875, just months before the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company constructed its v-flume through the area of the Turkey Foot—the confluence of Bear and Boulder creeks into the San Lorenzo River—Joseph Wilburn Peery set to work incorporating a town he named Lorenzo. He bought a lumber mill owned by Frank L. Pitt that ran off water from the intermittent Harmon Gulch creek and used it to attract lumbermen and others who could support a town. The settlement included precisely what one would expect to find in such a rugged environment: saloons, places of ill-repute, a few hostelries, and a growing number of private homes.

Stereograph of the Lorenzo Hotel, built by J. W. Peery, c. 1878. Photo by R. E. Wood. [Bancroft Library]
Peery's mill had come to him via Pitt, but Pitt wasn't its first owner either. It began life as the Sylvar mill and was little more than a shingle mill and tannery. Peery upgraded some of its facilities but continued using it for its original purpose. Some lumber was produced there and used in the construction of homes in the area, but the mill primarily focused on the more valuable split stuff. Excess lumber was loaded onto the flume and shipped to Felton from 1875 to 1885.

Lumber floating down the San Lorenzo Valley flume, c. 1878. Photo by R. E. Wood. [California State Library]
Although the flume helped Peery's lumber operation, it did little to help his town. The flume company had purchased a large lot half a mile north of Lorenzo so that flume traffic could be sorted and loaded efficiently. For a brief time, Lorenzo served as the primary settlement catering to the flume's operations and even managed to convince the local post master to relocate to the back of a saloon in Lorenzo. But the residents of the smaller settlement of Boulder one mile to the north revolted, arguing that one should not have to go into a saloon to send mail. Boulder at this time was a dry town. In 1877, the post office returned to Boulder and Lorenzo's decline soon followed.

L.S. & P. Mill & Tannery, located on J.W. Peery's property in Lorenzo, c. 1880s.
[UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
In 1883, Lorenzo petitioned the newly-formed Felton & Pescadero Railroad to establish Lorenzo as its northern terminus. The railroad declined due to the fact that it owned the large flat that had previously served as the flume sorting area. The residents of Lorenzo certainly did not help matters—they demanded such high prices for property that the railroad took a circuitous route around the town, almost entirely avoiding it. Peery's mill received a station called Lorenzo which initially served as the terminus while construction was finished further to the north, but then the new station of Boulder Creek located closer to Boulder became the line's new terminus.

Lorenzo declined sharply over the next decade. Peery convinced the railroad to build a 556-foot-long siding at his mill so that he could continue to ship out lumber, split stuff, and tanned hides. Nonetheless, service to the station was so low that Southern Pacific demoted it to a flag-stop when they took over in 1887. Then in 1897, a kitchen fire spread throughout the town, destroying the two major hotels, the town hall, and other buildings along the county road. Peery briefly attempted to rebuild, but gave up within a year, selling his mill to Joseph Lane. Lorenzo was soon afterwards incorporated into Boulder Creek.

People awaiting for a train at Filbert, the successor to Lorenzo, c. 1900. [The Valley Press]
In addition to demoting the stop, Southern Pacific also renamed the station Filbert in 1887. This was probably to avoid confusion with another station named Lorenzo, or perhaps San Lorenzo, but it was an odd choice for a name. It was probably a reference to the California Hazel Tree, which is also named the filbert—although this tree is native to the Boulder Creek area, the nickname is not local and was probably provided by non-local railroad employee. After standard-gauging of the tracks in 1908, Filbert became strictly a passenger flag-stop, suggesting the Lane mill was no longer in use. A passenger shelter was built at this time, probably for visitors to the nearby Redwood Rest resort. In 1916, locals negotiated a new fare for travel between Filbert and Santa Cruz and also were granted permission to pay their fares directly to the conductor, saving them the trouble of traveling to Boulder Creek station to pay for tickets.

Postcard of Redwood Rest Hotel near Filbert station, c. 1930. [Derek R. Whaley]
Regular passenger service along the Boulder Creek Branch ended in late 1930, although special excursion trains may have operated after this date. All service ended in January 1934, after which the tracks were pulled and the land sold. Redwood Rest Resort continued to operate their resort beside the former right-of-way and probably purchased a portion of it after Southern Pacific left the area.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1165N, 122.1172W

The site of Filbert was located near the end of Grove Street on the south side of town. It was located to the northeast of Redwood Resort RV Park, which marks the former location of the Redwood Rest Resort. While portions of the right-of-way survive in this area and can be observed on Google Maps, the majority of the land has been developed for private use and trespassing upon any of it is not advised.

Citations & Credits:

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