Thursday, January 25, 2024

Maps: Santa Cruz to City Limits

Mapping industrial areas can be a difficult task even when all the factors are known, and it is much more difficult when there remain unknowns. Santa Cruz's West Side industrial area remains poorly documented, partially because many people today have forgotten that it ever existed. When the Ocean Shore Railway and Coast Line Railway (a Southern Pacific subsidiary) first passed through the West Side in 1905 on their way to Davenport, the West Side was a land of fields with scattered homes along West Cliff Drive but little in the interior west of The Circles. And little changed for decades.

Ocean Shore maintenance shops near the Garfield Park subdivision,  ca 1910s. [Courtesy UC Santa Cruz – colorized using MyHeritage]

The first commercial development using the railroad on the West Side was the Ocean Shore Railway itself. In a section of an undeveloped subdivision east of The Circles and north of the Santa Cruz Lighthouse, the railroad established its Southern Division's maintenance shop, wye, and engine shed. The buildings, spurs, sidings, and wye covered seven blocks, from Gharkey to Oregon Street, and from Centennial to beyond Laguna Street. This facility was flanked on either side by passenger stops. To the north was the main Santa Cruz Bay Street station, where the ticket office for the Ocean Shore Railway was located, though this structure was always only intended to be temporary. After passing through a cut under Bay Street, the line terminated at the Bay Street (now West Cliff Drive) truss bridge, where a passenger shelter was located above the Southern Pacific Railroad's Union Depot. Passengers could walk up the short pathway from the depot to the shelter to switch trains. In the opposite direction of the maintenance yard was the Garfield Avenue shelter, which provided a transfer point with the Union Traction Company's electric streetcars as well as a drop off for visitors to the Vue de l'Eau Casino and the Christian Church Tabernacle at the center of The Circles.

Map showing railroad stations and rights-of-way, streetcar routes, and major roads and waterways through the Santa Cruz West Side to just beyond the city limits, 1906-1980. [Click to enlarge]

On the Coast Line Railroad, there were some parallels through the West Side in the early years. The track departed the Santa Cruz Union Depot via a track that climbed up the hill on the west side of Neary Lagoon. At California Street, it turned southwest to more or less parallel Mission Street. California Street was the first flag-stop of the Coast Line and featured a small shelter in the V formed from the intersection of Bay and California Streets. Another stop, presumably with a small shelter, was at Younglove Avenue, which, like the Ocean Shore's Garfield Avenue stop, catered to people transferring onto a Union Traction streetcar or departing for the tabernacle or casino.

Aerial photograph showing Rapetti and Orby stations and the San Vicente Lumber Company mill, August 8, 1919. [Courtesy UCSC – colorized using MyHeritage].

Just east of Moore Creek, both railroads set up their final stations within the city limits. The Coast Line Railroad was first with Orby near Swift Street, probably named after a racehorse. What its original intended customer base was is unclear, but it may have been established to help passengers access Swanton's Beach, today's Natural Bridges. The Ocean Shore Railway only established a stop beside Moore Creek in 1911 to provide railroad service to San Vicente Lumber Company's mill. The mill, established that year, had dammed Moore Creek, creating what later became known as Antonelli's Pond, and erected a large lumber mill beside it. The railroad extended a looping spur along the east side of the mill, with a second spur that went toward the millpond. The Coast Line soon took advantage of this new customer, as well, and extended its own spur until the two looping spurs of the railroads met in front of the mill. The Coast Line installed two parallel spurs north of the mill to pick up lumber shipments.

Fire damage at the Walti, Schilling & Company slaughterhouse, December 1, 1931. [Courtesy UCSC – colorized MyHeritage]

In 1920, the San Vicente Lumber Company leased the Ocean Shore's southern division and continued to use it until 1923, when its mill shut down. This left the entire West Side industrial area to the Southern Pacific Railroad, which only gradually added customers. Southern Pacific's first customer was the City of Santa Cruz's light and sewer pumping station at Neary Lagoon. In 1909, a short spur was installed above the lagoon where an oil tanker could park to provide fuel to the plant. On the opposite end of the West Side, across a substantial trestle bridge that spans Moore Creek, Walti, Schilling & Company built a slaughterhouse that opened in 1923, having relocated from a slaughterhouse at Twin Lakes. This facility operated off of a spur associated with Orby for decades, only closing in 1977.

Advertisement for Pfyffer Bros. Brussels sprouts, ca 1940s. [ebay]

The industrial district centered around Orby and Swift Street grew slowly over the ensuing decades. The Union Ice Company was the first to transfer there, erecting an artichoke and peas packing plant on behalf of J. L. De Benedette in late 1936. Construction required the area to be rezoned for industrial use, which was granted, opening the entire area up to further development. The next business to join was the Coast Box & Drum Company, an alternative name for the Half Moon Bay Box & Drum Company, which moved onto a spur beside Swift Street in 1937. It focused on making packaging materials for local artichoke, sprout, and apple growers. At the same time, the Santa Cruz Artichoke Growers Association moved into an attached packing house, operating off the same spur. Three years later, the Davenport Artichoke Growers Association relocated into a large packing house next door to Union Ice and was renamed Pfyffer Bros., run by Fred and Joseph Pfyffer.

The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company's plant on the West Side shortly after opening, ca 1954. [Courtesy UCSC]

The largest and best-known industry on the West Side was the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company's gum factory, opened in 1954. Construction of the plant began in 1951 and required the shifting of the Union Ice Company's packing house and the installation of a new spur. Wrigley, meanwhile, was given a long spur that ran behind the plant. This was likely when the so-called Swift Street siding was installed, as well, which once ran from Natural Bridges Drive to Swift Street. As the Wrigley plant was under construction, Birds Eye, another produce company, opened a packing house to the east on Fair Avenue in 1951. A decade later, around 1961, the E. V. Moceo Company opened its own packing house across the tracks from it.

The Thomas J. Lipton Company plant on the West Side, ca 1970. [UCSC]

The prominence of Wrigley and the growing collection of packing houses around Swift Street attracted new industries to the area. The construction firm of Borchers Brothers moved to Fair Avenue in 1964 and established the easternmost spur on the West Side. They did not stay for long, though, and in 1968 the warehouse was taken over by Peerless Portable Metal Buildings, moving from a warehouse on Delaware Avenue. However, it seems this company did not use the spur since it was designated vacant in 1977. More importantly, though, was the construction of the largest plant on the West Side: the Thomas J. Lipton Company's factory, also on Delaware Avenue. This massive complex, which opened in 1969, was below the railroad grade, so a forked pair of spurs curved down from near Swift Street, across a field, and to two separate loading bays on the east side of the plant. In 1970, Mondo Bros. Distributing Company relocated from Amat Street to a warehouse and office on a spur just beside Swift Street, wholesaling beer and wine. This was likely the last new industry to operate off of an industrial spur on the West Side.

The former Davenport Branch with the detached Mondo Bros. spur in the foreground and the Swift Street siding in the distance, November 28, 2017. [Derek Whaley]

From the mid-1970s through to the mid-1990s, patronage of industrial spurs on the West Side plummeted. When the Union Pacific Railroad continuously welded the track in the early 2000s, only the Swift Street siding remained intact. The spurs that once catered to Mondo Bros., Wrigley, and Moceo all remain in place, suggesting they were the last businesses to stop using their spurs, but they have been disconnected from the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line. This entire stretch of rail can be followed along the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail.

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