Friday, August 16, 2019

Curiosities: Boulder Creek-Area Resorts

From its earliest years as a community, Boulder Creek and its predecessors—Boulder and Lorenzo—was more of an industrial town than a resort destination. Throughout the five decades that the railroad operated in the community, the driving purpose of the settlement was the lumber industry, and it should come as no surprise that much of the timber in the surrounding hills were logged out, leaving little space or scenery for resorts. Nonetheless, resorts did develop from early on and the town was known to host several hotels throughout these years. Below are just some of the hotels and resorts that operated in the vicinity of Boulder Creek during the period 1884-1934.

Boulder Creek House (1872 – 1933)
The first commercial hotel to open in the vicinity of Boulder Creek was the Boulder Creek House, erected along modern-day Park Avenue near where the public library sits today. The hotel was built by John Alcorn, a native of Indiana who moved to the area in 1865. His wife and a Mrs. Eygler ran the day-to-day operations and the hotel was open year-round, which testifies to its industrial clientele. The Weekly Sentinel stated that the building was "two stories high, with a porch the entire length, from which a flight of stairs leads to the dancing hall above. The lower part is divided into dining room and sleeping apartments, and arrangements for the necessaries and comforts of dwellers and travelers."

Boulder Creek House, c. 1877. Photo by R. E. Wood. [California State University, Chico]
Alcorn soon sold the property to Demicrius Crediford, who turned around and sold it to J. S. Carter in 1874. When the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company was founded the next year, Carter sold the hotel to serve as a boarding house for local lumbermen. It passed to the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1879 and probably remained under their—as well as Southern Pacific Railroad—ownership for nearly thirty years. Several managers were brought on during this time to handle daily operations, including George Denison (1883), Joseph Ball (1886), Samuel D. Morgan, (1894, who briefly renamed the hotel the Morgan House), and George and Albert Denison (1905). During this time, most of the excess property of the hotel was sold to Winfield Scott Rodgers.

J. M. Fuller's Cash Grocery with the Boulder Creek House in the background, c. 1910.
Photo by Cheney Photo Advertising Company. [WorthPoint]
In 1905, Patrick and Fannie Welch purchased the property and it remained in their family for twenty-eight years. In most years, the Welches personally supervised the hotel, but Helen Jeter was brought on to assist in 1913. After Fannie's death, the hotel passed to her son-in-law, Frank Murphy, who leased it to William D. Alexander. Alexander tried to rebrand the hotel the White House in 1924, but the name never took off. Soon afterwards, he tried again by naming it the Alexander House and he opened an Italian restaurant under the name Alec's Boulder Creek House.  Unfortunately, an explosion in the kitchen in the twilight hours of August 14, 1933, quickly turned into an inferno and consumed the entire building except for a few pieces of furniture.

Lorenzo Hotel (1875 – 1897)
Joseph Peery was an entrepreneur and visionary and wanted to create a small city high up the San Lorenzo Valley. He founded the town of Lorenzo in 1875 and built the San Lorenzo Hotel along the main county road as a part of his plan. The two-story hotel was a rather no-nonsense structure composed of roughly twenty guest rooms and a stable. Management was initially given to the Elliott family, but it later passed to James T. Taylor, owner of the Big Tree Hotel in Felton, in 1880. George M. Day took over in 1882 and began selling wine, liquor, and cigars downstairs, profiting from the alcohol ban in nearby Boulder. Management of the hotel proved unstable over the following years, though. In quick succession, the hotel was run by Taylor (1884), the Hartman Brothers (1885), W. G. Randall (1886), and Samuel Hubbs (1887). Some time over the next decade, H. E. Gardner purchased the property and hired H. H. Morrell to manage it. Little else is known from this decade, though, except that the hotel appeared as a casualty of the April 14, 1897 fire that destroyed most of the commercial block of Lorenzo. The town was soon absorbed into Boulder Creek and the hotel was never rebuilt. The hotel was located on State Route 9 near Mountain Street.

Hartman Hotel (1883 – 1897)
Another early hotel and possibly a spin-off of or companion to the Lorenzo Hotel, the Hartman Hotel was located where the Boulder Creek laundromat now sits. Dan Hartman founded the hotel in 1883 and it was run by himself and his brothers. During its years in existence, it hosted several VIPs including Grover Cleveland, Ulysses S. Grant, and an entire circus troupe. Like its neighbor, the Lorenzo Hotel, the Hartman Hotel burned to the ground on April 14, 1897. Dan Hartman sustained minor injuries escaping the inferno.

Rex Hotel (1884 – 1932)
For being one of the oldest standing buildings in Boulder Creek, surprisingly little is known about the Rex Hotel, largely because it has a confused and conflated history with another hotel that was located two buildings over: the Basham House. The current building called the Basham House has historically always been the Rex Hotel. Established as early as 1884 as a bordello, the hotel did not gain any respectability until the early 1920s after Newton Ernest Raymer took over the building. He ran a barber shop and general store on the first floor while renting rooms upstairs and in the back. But Raymer was no angel. The hotel barely survived Prohibition and Raymer was arrested for illegal possession of liquor on at least two occasions. On February 2, 1932, Raymer shot himself in a drunken rage while attempting to murder his wife. It was not the first violent attack by Raymer, but it was his last. The hotel shut down for several years but was eventually purchased by P. Giacosa in March 1937, who undertook a remodeling of the hotel. But then it disappeared from records once again. It was taken over by the Boulder Club, run by Jack and Frances Gaultier, in 1973 and after several years servicing local workers, it became a popular gathering place for Hell's Angels and other biker gangs. Drunken fights became an almost daily occurrence and the business ran afoul of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) several times. In 1990, the club shut down permanently. Three years later, the building was purchased by Wes Felts, who renovated it into a restaurant and opened in October 1993 as the Basham House, mistaking the building with the earlier structure that had stood two buildings to the north. After only a year in business, Felts put the restaurant up for sale where it languished for over a year. At some point since then, it was purchased and renovated and now serves as the home of the Psychic Temple at 13133 Central Avenue.

The Rex Hotel as it appeared in 1990 while hosting the Boulder Club. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
South Pacific Hotel (1886)
As soon as the Felton & Pescadero Railroad came to town in 1885, property speculators came in. And one such speculator was J. W. Billings, who in 1886 erected the South Pacific House on Central Avenue, a clear reference to the new railroad's parent, the South Pacific Coast Railroad. Within months of opening, Billings was adding new rooms and upgrading facilities. However, tragedy struck early in the life of this hotel. On July 30, 1886, just months after opening, a fire ravaged the town and severely damaged the hotel, injuring both J. and his wife in the process. Nothing more is mentioned of this hotel after the fire.

Wildwood Home (1886 – 1932)
The Wildwood Home was another hotel that sprang up in the wake of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad's arrival to Boulder Creek in 1885. Situated at the corner of Lomond and Pine Streets, Wildwood Home was built, owned, and managed by Mrs. L. E. Paschall when it first opened in May 1886. The twenty-room hotel was notable for its creeping vines and ivy that flowed off the second story balcony toward the ground. Management passed through several hands over the years, including to Mrs. Jerome Goerecke (1890) and Mrs. Kenneth Ferguson (1891). Paschall sold the hotel in 1896 to Mrs. M. C. Cumming (née Roundtree) of Fresno, who continued to operate the hotel for several more years. Little is reported on the hotel for the next decade. In 1905, after years of neglect, the hotel was taken over by Julia A. Glenn, who refurbished it completely and added new rooms. She hired Mae Chambers as the manager, who took over in early 1906.

Wildwood Home, sans its iconic vines, c. 1900. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Ownership passed to Mrs. Emma E. Hutchings in the early 1920s and, during this time, several films crews and celebrities stayed at the hotel while filming movies in the vicinity of Big Basin. In 1930, she handed day-to-day management to A. H. Lindsey, his wife, and their three sons, all of Kettleman, California. But the hotel declined while under their care. Hutchings returned in 1932 with plans to either sell or improve the building when a fire struck early in the morning of May 14, 1932. The hotel did not have any guests at the time, owing to the renovation, and there were no injuries, but the building was destroyed outright and never rebuilt.

Alpine House (1890 – c. 1915)
What began life as the Morgan House first opened its doors around 1890 under the ownership of Dr. Sam D. Morgan. The Sentinel describes the hotel in 1894 as "conducted in first-class style, the dining-room and cuisine department being under the able supervision of Mrs. Morgan, whose reputation as a hostess is already well established. The table is supplied with the best the market affords, and everything about the hotel has an air of cleanliness, every detail tending to the comfort of the guests being attended to. Mr. Morgan is considering the enlargement of his hotel, in order to accommodate increasing business." In 1893, L. E. Paschall of Wildwood Home was bought on to manage daily operations at the hotel. When the Alpine House first opened in 1895, it was founded as a separate hotel from the Morgan House, but the two were intricately entwined from the beginning with Sam Morgan in charge of both. As he oversaw the new Alpine House, he hired William Branch to run the Morgan House. Whether the two merged together after 1896 or the Morgan House was demolished is unclear and Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps of the time do not provide clarity, but the Morgan House is never mentioned again by the Sentinel after 1896.

The Alpine House sat prominently at the corner of Central Avenue and Big Basin Way (State Route 236), c. 1900.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
In 1899, Otto Ausman became a partner in the business, but sold his share to a relative, Emma L. Ausman, in 1904. That same year, W. S. G. Todd became the manager, but he was replaced in 1905 by Frederick G. Troy, a nephew of the McAbee Brothers who owned a mill on Two Bar Creek. However, scandal hit Troy in 1907 when he was found allowing a minor to gamble in the hotel. The hotel shut down for the remainder of the year. In 1908, the hotel was purchased by the Koepkes, who installed the final stretch of cement sidewalks in town. All record of the hotel disappears around 1910. It was located across State Route 236 from Johnnie's Supermarket where the Boulder Creek American Gas is today.

Basham House and Baldwin Lodging House (1891 – c. 1920s)
The real Basham House, not to be confused with the former Rex Hotel now called the Basham House, was built around 1891 by William Basham. For the first several years of its existence, it served as a boarding house for seasonal lumbermen. As such, it was rather small, with only eight upstairs rooms for guests, while the downstairs was used as a restaurant and store. Basham soon sold the boarding house to Andrew J. Baldwin and the latter renamed it the Baldwin Boarding House. Baldwin, in turn, sold it or transferred it to his relative, Rachel F. Baldwin, in 1896. She only kept the hotel for a few years, selling it to Lizzie Brickmore in 1902. Brickmore followed suit and the hotel passed to William F. Pierce in 1905. He was responsible for adding the second-story covered veranda and remodeling the boarding house into a proper hotel with twenty guest rooms in 1911. A few years later, Jacob Hartman purchased the hotel and ran it until 1920, when it was sold to Annie Dexter. After this date, the hotel is never mentioned again in newspapers. It sat midway between the Rex Hotel and the Alpine House, roughly where the alleyway between Boulder Creek Liquors and the Brandy Station is located today.

A trio of hotels on Central Avenue, c. 1912. In the foreground is the Rex Hotel, next to it sits the original Basham House, and in the distance is the palatial Alpine House. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Commercial Hotel and Alpine Inn (1897 – 1956)
The structure that would later be known as the Big Basin Hotel was appropriately founded by the original owner of Big Basin, Henry L. Middleton. Middleton built the Commercial Hotel at the corner of Central Avenue and the future State Route 236 in 1897. He hired as manager George Denison, who once ran the Boulder Creek House and whose brother, Albert, ran it for several years. The structure was a long boarding house with a mid-sized restaurant on the first floor and fifteen rooms for guests.


Commercial Hotel on Central Avenue in Boulder Creek, 1901. Photo by Andrew Hill. [History San José]
A dozen years after the opening of California Redwood Park—now Big Basin Redwoods State Park—the hotel was run by Middleton's California Timber Company, the successor to many of the local lumber firms that ran out of usable timber at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1914, the company was looking for new sources of revenue since their operations on Waterman and Newell Creeks were running out of usable timber. Their hotel in downtown Boulder Creek held some potential, at least for the short term, so they tried to capitalize on the Big Basin name by renaming the hostelry the Big Basin Hotel. The gambit failed. After a few seasons, the hotel shut down. It was reopened in February 1919 as the George Hotel under the management of George Honold, but the new name didn't stick and the Honold only ran the hotel for a single season.

A big change occurred in 1920, when Adelaide T. Gibbs purchased the hotel and rebranded it the New Alpine Hotel, undoubtedly in reference to the Alpine House. Her death later that year passed ownership to her son, A. W. J. Gibbs. For several years, little was said of the hotel in newspapers and it may have served more as a private home for Gibbs and his family, who also owned Gibbs Ranch Resort above Zayante. The hotel did not become a popular destination until Doris Martin purchased the property in 1925 and tweaked the name into the Alpine Inn. The Martins were popular with the citizens of Boulder Creek and hosted several sold-out dances during the first year that they ran the hotel. They famously installed the first neon lighting on the side of their building in April 1925, signalling a technological change for the rural town. Within a few months, the hotel was completely electrified and well-lighted. However, the Martins did not remain patrons of the hotel for long. In early 1926, Howard W. West took over, but by June, M. S. Griffin was in charge. The next year, West's brother-in-law, Charles Jones, was brought on as manager and remained in that capacity for three seasons. The Martins finallysold the hotel in December 1929 to Ida Lietzow-Chamberlain, who saw its potential as a tourist hub with the impending completion of Skyline Boulevard.

The Alpine Inn situated prominently on Central Avenue, late 1930s. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Lietzow immediately began remodeling the hotel and hired her daughter, J. W. Pfeifer, as manager.  In 1931, she brought in a new manager, Lewis Williams, who continued the renovations and improved the restaurant. Like most hotels in the area, the Alpine Inn suffered from prohibition raids, but its next manager, Louis Wenger, was arrested when a large quantity of alcohol was discovered at the hotel in 1932. Lietzow returned in 1934 to manage the hotel and continue renovations. By this point, Lietzow was living in Los Angeles most of the time and the hotel was becoming a hassle. She hired Lynn Upton and Emma West to run the hotel in 1935, giving them the option to buy. They converted the entire hotel into what would today be termed a bed-and-breakfast. Still, Upton and West were not interested in buying so Lietzow brought on J. A. White in 1936. Finally, in November 1936, Lietzow was able to sell the hotel to C. E. Cadigan, a San Francisco hosteller and property investor. Cadigan immediately installed a cocktail lounge downstairs and convinced Greyhound to establish him as the local agent and the Alpine Inn the bus station. And yet Cadigan's ownership lasted less than two years.

One of the last photographs of the Alpine Inn, taken in February 1956 just months before the building was demolished to make way for Johnnie's Supermarket. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
In July 1938, the Locatelli family—Poldina, Gery, Peter, and Emilia—took over the hotel. They split the downstairs into a restaurant and liquor store while retaining the upstairs as a hotel. Around 1943, they sold the hotel to Robert and Bessie Burns, who in turn sold it to John R. and Lena Montanari and Marceau and Marie Louise Paulian in 1948. The next year, the Paulians left the partnership and were replaced by William H. and Carmen Sohr. The Sohrs oversaw the conversion of the restaurant into a Chinese Village Dining Room, specializing in Chinese food. The final owner of the hotel was Gene Engle, who purchased the hotel around 1953. After running the business for three years, Engle sold the hotel back to John Montanari in April 1956, who demolished it and built Johnnie's Supermarket in its place. Johnnie's opened on June 7.

Locatelli's Inn and Scopazzi's (1906 – Present)
The early history of the Locatelli Inn—today's Scopazzi's Restaurant—on State Route 236 is not entirely clear. As early as 1906, an Italia Hotel run by Alessandro Musitelli was operating in Boulder Creek, as reported by the Sentinel when Musitelli was caught selling liquor without a license. But whether this Italia Hotel was the same as the latter Locatelli Inn is unknown, although a Sentinel article published in 1955 certainly connects the two. Giuseppe M. "Joseph" Locatelli did not enter the industry until 1915, when he applied for and was granted a liquor license, signalling the start of his business. Interesting, the license he received only allowed liquor to be sold with meals, so this also marks the start of his restaurant. Unfortunately, he was arrested in 1917 for selling liquor without a license (the laws had changed in the meantime) and was forced to simply sell food without liquor, which became a national law when Prohibition arrived in 1920.

Locatelli's Inn, with the hotel barely visible at the far left, c. 1950.
Locatelli made an important addition to his hotel in 1924 when he added the well-known dining room beside the hotel. Soon afterwards, he renamed the hotel and restaurant Locatelli's Inn. Indeed, the 1920s transformed the workmen's hostelry into a prime locale for the Hollywood glitterati, who used the location on Big Basin Way as a base station for several movies that were filmed in and around Big Basin, especially at Poverty Flat. Unlike so many other businesses in the area, Locatelli's Inn survived the Great Depression and World War II, and the whole time remained under the ownership and management of the Locatelli family, even after Joseph's death in 1951. Catherine L. Locatelli took over and ran the restaurant throughout the first half of the 1950s, although the hotel seem to have shut down by this time. She finally sold the hotel and restaurant to John, Albino, and Guido Scopazzi on May 4, 1956. Within a few years, the Scopazzis built a connecting hall between the restaurant and hotel, using the old hotel for extra seating, an expanded kitchen, and office space. Scopazzi's remains in business as one of the oldest and most popular restaurants in Santa Cruz County.

Piedmont Hotel (1913 – 1920)
As the lumber industry north of Boulder Creek collapsed, the town became more of a tourist destination. As a result, several hotels appeared in the 1910s that catered to outdoors adventures and picnickers, such as the Piedmont Hotel at the corner of Mountain Street and Central Avenue. Built by Peter Ricca in 1913, the hotel fell into disrepute only a year later when Ricca was charged with the sale of liquor in the temperance-friendly town. Although he dodged the charges, Ricca's business lost its liquor license in 1918 due to a failure to renew it. Ricca threw up his arms and abandoned the business the next year, selling to Ugo Giomi and W. D. Alexander, who renamed it the Big Basin Inn. Giomi and Alexander renovated the hotel in early 1920 and opened it in April. The hotel featured a dining hall with am expansive dance floor and a grand fireplace. The outdoors were re-arranged into gardens with scenic pathways meandering through them. After only three months, Alexander left the partnership leaving it entirely to Giomi. Perhaps to avoid confusion with the small hotel at Big Basin, Giomi renamed his venue Ugo's Tavern in 1921, at which time the hostelry functions of the business began winding down. The restaurant closed in the early 1930s due to the Great Depression but reopened under the management of Faith Garibaldi in December 1940 as the Boulder Creek Lodge. The main structure of the Piedmont Hotel still sits at its original location, now branded as White House, across from the Boulder Creek Veterinary Clinic.

Citations & Credits:
  • McCarthy, Nancy F. Where Grizzlies Roamed the Canyons. Palo Alto, CA: Garden Court Press, 1994.
  • Robinson, Lisa A. Images of America: The San Lorenzo Valley. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Evening Sentinel, Weekly Sentinel, and Evening News, 1870-1940.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Those wrap-around verandas were popular in the Victorian era for people who wanted to refresh, revitalize, or recuperate from illness. Marketed toward the over-stressed city dweller, I expect that travel to Boulder Creek would have been made easy and that the stays were extended into weeks and months. How successful these establishment were, both here and up in Glenwood, I cannot guess; there was a lot of copying where money could be had.

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