Thursday, September 23, 2021

Stations: Walti

No railroad station in Santa Cruz County had a more ephemeral existence than Walti on the Santa Cruz Branch. Established at some point in 1914, it was located at approximately the same place as Twin Lakes station on 7th Avenue in Live Oak, even though the latter continued to exist throughout this time. Southern Pacific's Agencies Book for 1915 notes that it was located 119 miles from San Francisco via Watsonville Junction and functioned as a B-class freight station, but no other information is provided. Only one Coast Division Employee Timetable (No. 102, April 20, 1916) included the stop 80.9 from San Francisco via the Mayfield Cutoff (the two locations are the same but the reference points differ). The stop included a spur of unspecified length but had no trains scheduled to stop there. Curiously, Walti was absent from the 1916 Agencies Book and when the next employee timetable was released on May 28, it was likewise gone. So what's the story of the elusive, short-lived station?

Walti & Schilling's El Dorado Market on Pacific Avenue, ca 1900. [University of California, Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

The station was named after Frederick "Fred" Rudolph Walti, a Swiss immigrant who established himself in Santa Cruz in 1886. He began his career in the city as co-owner of the Santa Cruz Brewery alongside August Peter. Together they operated as the Vienna Brewery from early 1887. On February 24, 1892, Walti married as his second wife Fredericka "Frieda" M. Schilling. Shortly afterwards, Peter and Walti's partnership seems to have dissolved because Walti was becoming interested in the meat industry. For the previous two years, Walti had periodically helped his brother, E. D. Walti, in Nevada with horse and cattle wrangling. He had a knack for it and began shipping cattle to Santa Cruz via train. He worked with local butchers, but at some point around 1893, they collectively tried to pull a fast one on him and reduce the price they were willing to pay. Rather than compromise, Walti fought back.

Ike Kent, Fred Walti, Pete Sonognini, Katie Bourcq, and Peter Bourcq inside the El Dorado Market, ca 1895. [Santa Cruz Sentinel – colorized using DeOldify]

In February 1895, it was announced that a new butcher shop was being constructed by Joseph Bourcq, owner of the East Santa Cruz Market, and Fred Walti. Their new El Dorado Market opened on April 3, 1895 in the Simpson building at 47 Pacific Avenue. The store specialized in fresh and salted meats and offered free deliveries across the city. In September 1897, Walti bought out Bourcq's share in the firm for $3,400. Not long afterwards, Walti asked his father-in-law, Henry Schilling, originally from Glückstadt, Germany, to come on as partner and they formed Walti & Schilling in August 1898. For the next few years, they focused on the El Dorado Market and East Santa Cruz Market, but they quietly expanded their cattle pens and retail reach beyond the bounds of Santa Cruz.

Advertisement for Walti & Schilling's El Dorado Market on Pacific Avenue, April 25, 1899. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]

This is where Walti station comes into the story. Bourcq & Walti owned stockyards at the bottom of Arana Gulch and along the east side of Woods Lagoon. It is unclear whether Bourcq owned these originally as a part of his East Santa Cruz Market or if it was a purchase made shortly after Bourcq partnered with Walti, but they owned the property by late 1895. They were probably purchased from Francisco Rodriguez, who owned 42.7 acres in the same location in 1891. Newspapers later reported that Walti owned 45 acres, but this may have just been lazy rounding on the part of the reporter. The property began at the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks and continued north toward Capitola Road, stopping in the vicinity of Taylor Lane. It was bounded by 7th Avenue on the east.

Subdivision of Manuel Rodriguez's property, showing Francisco Rodriguez's lot beside the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, August 1891. [Santa Cruz GIS]

On this property, Walti kept his slaughterhouse beside a large paddock where animals were held immediately prior to butchering. Several notices published in local newspapers from 1895 to 1922 warned hunters to stay away from the property, presumably because it put livestock at risk. Most of the stock was kept long-term at yards either in San José or San Juan Bautista, while most of the animals came from E. D. Walti's property in Fallon, Nevada. The yard beside Woods Lagoon was certainly the reason for the station on the railroad's timetable and in its agencies book. When precisely the property had a spur installed is not stated in newspapers, but the stock yard appears to have received stock by train as early as 1900, so a spur into the property must have been placed around this time, if not earlier.

View of Woods Lagoon from Seabright with the Walti-Schilling stock yard visible to the right of the railroad bridge, ca 1910. Photo by George Webb. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

As the 1900s continued, business expanded out of Santa Cruz to elsewhere in the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas. At the same time, Walti-Schilling sausages, cured meats, and salted meats were shipped around the world. The successes of the firm led to the incorporation of Walti, Schilling & Company on December 24, 1904. Although the company continued to grow and expand over the ensuing decades, nothing is really said in newspapers and other sources of the slaughterhouse in Twin Lakes. Why it briefly appeared in a Southern Pacific agency book and an employee timetable in 1915 and 1916 is unknown since the situation at the location appears unchanged in those years.

View of Woods Lagoon from just south of the Walti-Schilling stock yard, 1920s. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

In November 1922, Walti-Schilling purchased a new, larger property just north of the city limits on the former Tolle estate. This led to the abandonment of the Twin Lakes property in September 1923. All operations shifted to Orby station on the Davenport Branch, which functioned as a private station for the company until other businesses moved into the area. Walti, Schilling & Company closed its West Side slaughterhouse on July 1, 1977 and dissolved as a corporation on January 15, 1979, by which time the Walti and Schilling families had long been unassociated with the firm and the business's headquarters had moved to Los Banos.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9688N, 121.9992W
615 7th Avenue

The former Walti spur in Twin Lakes remained in place for several more decades, although it is unclear if later property owners actually used it. The property served as a county corporate yard for around three decades before it was sold to Coast Counties Gas & Electric in the early 1950s. Evidence suggests that the spur remained intact through the 1950s, but was removed at some point in the 1960s since it does not appear on later Southern Pacific records. Curiously, one of the reasons the property was originally sold was because suburban development in the area was encroaching on the stock yard, but no substantial development occurred until after World War II, and even then, only the PG&E Services Center (the successor to Coast Counties), three small housing subdivisions, and the Harbour Inn have moved into the area. All of the property is now privately owned, but it can be viewed along 7th Avenue and Brommer Street.

Citations & Credits:

  • Santa Cruz Evening News, various articles.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, various articles.
  • Santa Cruz Surf, various articles.
  • Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Corporate records. Sacramento, CA: California State Railroad Museum.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.