Friday, May 29, 2020

Freight Stops: Lower Chestnut Street Spur

Just to the south of the intersection of Chestnut and Laurel Streets in Santa Cruz, the Southern Pacific Railroad intended to erect a unified depot for its standard- and narrow-gauge railroad lines. However, not yet knowing the full scope of its plans and where it wished to locate the passenger and freight depots, the railroad purchased a large parcel of land between Chestnut and Washington Streets. At the beginning of 1893, the new depot opened at the southernmost end of this, where Pacific Avenue turns toward the beach, leaving the entire section to the north open for development. The first company to jump at this opportunity was Standard Oil, which was expanding rapidly across the United States as a primary provider of oil and petroleum.

View of the Lower Plaza from Mission Hill showing Hugo Hihn's flatiron building and the Williamson & Garrett building, 1905. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History – Colorized using DeOldify]
In 1895, Standard Oil erected two large oil tanks to the north of the depot. Southern Pacific installed a narrow-gauge spur with a southward exit beside the tanks and Standard Oil expanded its presence with the addition of a small warehouse to the north of the tanks. This small depot provided Santa Cruz with its first regular access to automotive oil. The tracks were upgraded in 1908 to standard gauge but it was not until 1912 that Southern Pacific requested Standard Oil to relocate in order to use its space for railroad facilities. Standard Oil moved them to a spur in the Mission Orchard area north of Mission Hill, where they remained for several years. By the late 1940s, new tanks were installed on a new site across from the Union Depot near the end of Center Street.

The Williamson & Garrett building at 1547 Pacific Avenue. Constructed in 1899, the second story housed the Santa Cruz Library from 1900 to 1904. From 1970 to the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989, the building was home to Bookshop Santa Cruz, but was demolished after the temblor due to substantial damage.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries – Colorized using DeOldify]
Further north at the end of the spur, Williamson & Garrett, a local grocery firm run by James Williamson and Edwin H. Garrett, erected a warehouse to receive supplies of cement, grain, and feed for their grocery store located near the northern end of Pacific Avenue. This structure was installed no later than 1904. Williamson and Garrett had entered the local grocery market in 1876 when they purchased a store owned by J. H. O'Hara. City politics forced the company to relocate in 1899 to a new store, which was one of the city's more prominent buildings for several decades. Shortly after constructing the store, the firm bought the warehouse at the tracks and opened a wholesale store at the corner of Mission and Vine (Cedar) Streets near downtown. After fifty years in the industry, the business was taken over by W. J. Espindola in 1926, who converted it into exclusively a wholesale company. The business survived the Great Depression but was sold to the grocery chain Pure Foods in 1940. Pure Foods had already switched to using trucks by this time so leased its newly-acquired warehouse at the Santa Cruz Union Depot to the Herb Moore Produce Company.

The Lower Chestnut Street area with the Herb Moore Produce warehouse at left, 1953.
Photograph by L. L. Bonney. [Jim Vail – Colorized using DeOldify]
Herbert Moore was also a grocery wholesale distributor and continued the warehouse's tradition of being used to receive produce and supplies via rail. The facility on Chestnut Street was upgraded in 1947 once sheet metal was once again obtainable following the end of World War II. For several years, the company also ran one of the most discussed softball teams in the region. Moore continued in regular use throughout the 1940s until 1957 but then all mention of him and his company disappears from local newspapers. The company's later history and whether its warehouse at the Union Depot remained in use after this date is unknown. The spur was removed no later than 1973.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9678N, 122.0288W

The former Standard Oil and Herb Moore spur ran along the east side of the mainline track through what is now a parking lot for a mixed apartment and business complex at the corner of Laurel and Chestnut Streets. This parking lot continues behind several homes and businesses that line Washington Street. No trace of the spur survives—the current spur near this site is a team track that was added to the Union Depot in the 1950s.

Citations & Credits:

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