Thursday, October 29, 2020

Railroads: Scott Creek Railway

Some railroads are founded with bold ambitions. Others are a means to an end. The Scott Creek Railway was the latter. By late 1906, the Ocean Shore Railway had reached the south bank of Scott Creek north of Davenport. Ultimately, the railroad would never cross that creek and the history of the main line of the Ocean Shore in Santa Cruz County ends at this relatively barren place with more than twenty miles separating it from the remainder of the line in San Mateo County. But the Ocean Shore was not dead and developments in 1908 ensured that the failing railroad would still serve a purpose in the county, if not what was originally intended.

Women posing beside the tracks above Little Creek, late 1910s.
[Mattei Family Collection, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History — Colorized using DeOldify]

On May 8, 1908, the San Vicente Lumber Company was formed to harvest thousands of acres of timber located within Rancho San Vicente, which was located at the headwaters of Little and Big Creek above the small hamlet of Swanton. The firm had acquired the land from the estate of Fritz Tischer in January and quickly concluded that the Ocean Shore Railway was the best means of getting the timber to its proposed mill on Moore Creek (now Antonelli Pond). Before even formally incorporating, the company entered negotiations with both the Ocean Shore and Southern Pacific to determine which would provide them with better options in the long term.

Ocean Shore Railroad train near Swanton with members of the Mattei family, late 1910s.
 [Mattei Family Collection, MAH — Colorized using DeOldify]

On June 19, 1908, the Ocean Shore Railway Company amended its articles of incorporation to add an extension track from a point just beyond Scott north of Davenport (today, the vicinity of the Swanton Berry Farm) to the hamlet of Swanton at the bottom of Little Creek. At the same time, a group of men affiliated with the Ocean Shore incorporated the Scott Creek Railway, which was tasked with forging a 2.5-mile-long route up Little Creek to reach the sprawling redwood timber tracts that were located within Rancho San Vicente. The new and unlikely company was capitalized at a modest $50,000 by J. Downey Harvey, John B. Rogers, and Bert Corbet.

Members of the Mattei family posing beside a San Vicente locomotive at one of the later lumber camps, possibly Camp No. 5, late 1910s. [Mattei Family Collection, MAH — Colorized using DeOldify]

Some owners along the right-of-way, such as Oliver P. Staub, had few qualms and sold the requested land for a right-of-way to the railway. But Timothy Hopkins, a Southern Pacific Railroad investor and partial owner of the Loma Prieta Lumber Company, sued in early July to stop the nascent railway from condemning 30.5 acres of his land near Swanton. The Ocean Shore and Hopkins had been negotiating a right-of-way since early June but had failed to come to an arrangement. As a result, Ocean Shore founded the Scott Creek Railway to handle the liabilities of the resulting lawsuit. Evidence for this is the simple fact that after the lawsuit was settled, the Scott Creek Railway is never mentioned by name again and seems to have been entirely constructed and operated using Ocean Shore equipment and rolling stock from the start.

Tracks on the Scott Creek Railway above Little Creek, late 1910s.
[Mattei Family Collection, MAH — Colorized using DeOldify]

The Scott Creek Railway vs. Timothy Hopkins trial began on October 20, with the majority of local lumber personalities serving as witnesses in support of Hopkins, largely because they too were partially invested in the Loma Prieta Lumber Company and likely feared competition with the San Vicente Lumber Company. The superintendent of the Loma Prieta mill at Swanton argued that a substantial bridge and fill the Scott Creek Railway intended to build across Hopkins' land would make it very difficult to haul timber out of the area. Making little headway with the jury, the entire court visited the proposed right-of-way on November 6 to survey the area. An illness by one of the jurors that same day prompted the case to be dismissed on November 10 and subsequently settled out of court. The settlement involved the purchase by the San Vicente Lumber Company of all of Hopkins' land along Big Creek, Little Creek, and Boyea Creek, a total of 1,100 acres.

A San Vicente work crew posing at the first switchback above Camp No. 1, c. 1910.
[University of California, Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – Colorized using DeOldify

Although all mention of the railroad disappears from history and newspapers from this point, the railroad itself continued to exist as a wholly subsumed subsidiary of the Ocean Shore Railway. The first report of new trackage to be built by the Ocean Shore came before incorporation—in March 1908—where the proposed length of the track was listed at 7.5 miles, although this seems to have included the branch line to Swanton as well as the track to the Gregory Ranch on the boundary of Rancho San Vicente. A week later, a second notice informed the public that the Ocean Shore would build the track to Swanton itself as a branch line and from there the lumber company would operate using its own rolling stock, including two Shay locomotives, although the reality was a bit more mixed. By April, it was clear that the Ocean Shore intended to build at least some of the route up Little Creek since surveyors for the railroad were actively searching for a viable route.

Members of the Mattei family at one of the later camps, perhaps Camp No. 5, late 1910s.
[Mattei Family Collection, MAH — Colorized using DeOldify]

Around June 15, the Pratchner Company began the task of grading and installing the new track between Scott and Swanton. Over 200 men were employed working on the line, with surveyors and graders already making some inroads along the future route of the Scott Creek Railway line despite the outstanding condemnation suit. Two bridges were planned along the Swanton Branch and more along Little Creek, as well as a switchback just beyond Camp No. 1 at Chandler Creek. On July 1, a special traction locomotive arrived for use by the San Vicente Lumber Company to shuttle logs down the Scott Creek Railway grade for transfer to waiting Ocean Shore trains at Little Creek Junction just south of Swanton, although initially it was used to aid in the construction of the Little Creek line. The route between Scott and Swanton was completed in less than a month, with the final spike driven on July 9. At the same time, over half of the route to the San Vicente timber tract was graded.

A San Vicente locomotive operating over one of the switchbacks above Camp No. 2, c 1915.
[UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – Colorized using DeOldify]

The lumber company wasted no time in using the graded road from its timber tract to Swanton, hauling logs to Santa Cruz where it was cut into crossties, piles, bents, and other materials to construct the remainder of the route. The company likely used a temporary shingle mill at Moore Creek since the actual mill would not be completed until early 1909. Work on the portion of the line through Hopkins' land appears to have stopped until mid-October, when the lawsuit was settled, delaying the opening of the mill until March 1909. By that time, and probably no later than the end of November 1908, the entire Scott Creek Railway line was constructed to Camp No. 2 on the old Gregory Ranch. The Ocean Shore Railway decided at this time that future extensions of the line—and there would be several miles of it—would be the responsibility of the San Vicente Lumber Company.

A San Vicente log train leaving from above Camp No. 2, c. 1909.
[Margaret Koch Collection, MAH – Colorized using DeOldify]

The first load of logs to pass over the Scott Creek Railway and on to the new mill on Moore Creek operated on March 29, 1909. The route included several steep grades, although the steepest grades were reserved for places along the lumber company's private lines. Although the locomotives were designed to operate on steep grades, derailments were common and the first occurred only weeks after the line opened in April. Nonetheless, the Scott Creek Railway endured probably until October 9, 1911, when the Ocean Shore Railway reincorporated as the Ocean Shore Railroad, at which time the little subsidiary was probably either absorbed into its parent or sold to the San Vicente Lumber Company. Regular operations along this stretch of track continued until September 1923, when the area was declared clear of sufficient saleable timber and the mill shut down. The tracks were soon sold for scrap and the right-of-way became a private access road and de facto fire road still in use today.

Citations & Credits:

  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Press, 2007.
  • Santa Cruz Evening News, 1908-1909.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1908-1909.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Streetcars: East Santa Cruz Street Railroad

The city of Santa Cruz had already been host to two horsecar lines before 1890. One of these—the City Railroad—had gone defunct early on due to poor management and competition with the surviving line, the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad. For a decade, the latter company ruled the local transportation network, but its reach never went beyond the West Side of Santa Cruz, leaving everything east of the San Lorenzo River, which was largely composed of scattered farms and a few village, ripe for expansion. The East Santa Cruz Street Railroad Company heard the call and incorporated on December 12, 1889 to serve the people of Branciforte, Seabright, Live Oak, and Capitola and open those areas to commercial and residential development.

An East Santa Cruz Street Railroad car on Atlantic Avenue between the beach and Woods Lagoon, 1890s.
[University of California, Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – Colorized using DeOldify]

East Santa Cruz, as the area between downtown and Capitola was called in the late nineteenth century, was a mostly rural area composed of marine terraces bisected by several seasonal creeks—Pilkington, Arana, Leona, Rodeo, and Moran—most of which fed into marshy estuaries: Woods, Schwan, Corcoran, and Moran Lagoons. On the terraces were farms, ranches, and small industries that lined the Southern Pacific Railroad's tracks. The area was not known for its seaside resorts, but the long beach between Arana and Leona Creeks—popularly called Twin Lakes due to the two nearby lagoons—and the beach at the mouth of Rodeo Creek were both chosen by religious groups to serve as summer retreats. Meanwhile, the cove at Seabright, which had briefly been serviced by the City Railroad in the late 1870s, was already in the process of becoming a small camping area by 1890. Despite the low population, many Santa Cruz financiers and property speculators saw spectacular growth potential in East Santa Cruz and hoped that a horsecar line into the heart of the area would bring them favorable returns.

Financiers of the East Santa Cruz Street Railroad standing in car no. 1 at the end of track on Soquel Avenue and Doyle Street, 1890.
[UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – Colorized using DeOldify]

The East Santa Cruz Street Railroad was the brainchild of William Ely, a New York native who became a cattle rancher in Santa Cruz before becoming a major investor in several local enterprises. After hosting several public meetings in mid-1889, Ely convinced enough people to invest in his proposed horsecar line, which received county support on December 3 and city support on December 10. His initial plan was for a route to run from the Lower Plaza of downtown Santa Cruz, up Front Street to Minnesota Avenue (Soquel Avenue), across the San Lorenzo River, and then up Soquel Road (also Soquel Avenue) all the way to Arana Creek. In exchange for permission to build and run this line, he promised to run cars daily over the entire length—about two miles—and to use standard-gauge, flat-rail tracks He was allowed to run the streetcar system using horsepower, mules, electric motors, or even cables, but he chose horses as they were still the most economical at the time.

East Santa Cruz Street Railroad car no. 2 parked at the end of track with a woman seated in the car, c 1891.
[UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – Colorized using DeOldify]

The horsecar line was formally incorporated on December 12 with a capital stock of $20,000 funded by five investors: Ely, Oliver H. Bliss, Isaac L. Thurber, Jackson Sylvar, and William D. Haslam. Ely was open to expanding the list of contributors but not eager and planned to invest more of his own money before soliciting additional help. In truth, Ely wanted to control the company completely and became its chief engineer, construction superintendent, and president. He ordered crossties and bridge components from Cunningham & Company, which was reaching its peak at this time. He had all of the rolling stock built in Santa Cruz by Evan Lukens, who owned a wagon and carriage shop on Park Street. The bridges themselves, including a substantial one over the San Lorenzo River, were erected by the San Francisco Bridge Company. Despite his agreement with the city council, Ely installed narrow-gauge tracks on curved T-rails and the city was left to deal with it. Construction of the line began March 10, 1890 and was completed April 5 except for the river bridge.

Sanborn insurance map showing the carbarn and stables of the East Santa Cruz Street Railroad at the intersection of Soquel Avenue and Doyle Street, 1892. [Library of Congress]

The East Side horsecar line officially opened on May Day to great crowds and celebrations, with free runs along the line for the entire day. Three cars were ready at this time, one enclosed and two open, and most of the work along the line was completed. A carbarn and stables were built at the eastern terminus at the junction of Soquel Avenue and Doyle Street. Regular service began May 5 with a 5¢ fare from the Lower Plaza to Cayuga Street. Two relatives, William and George Ely, as well as John Soper ran the three cars the first summer. All signs from that summer suggested the horsecar was a success and Ely planned to expand almost immediately.

The Baptist resort at Twin Lakes beside Schwan Lagoon, 1890s.
[UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – Colorized using DeOldify]

On March 3, 1891, Ely petitioned the Board of Supervisors for permission to extend the track from its current eastern terminus to the end of Cayuga Street, clearly as the first step in a planned extension to Seabright Beach and the Baptist resort grounds at Twin Lakes. Hesitantly, the board approved the request so long as the grade down Front Street was flattened and the track to Arana Creek was completed first. The new extension fully realized would continue down Cayuga, turn at Pilkington Lane (Pine Street), and then go to the end of Railroad (Seabright) Avenue, at which point it would turn down Atlantic Avenue and cross Woods Lagoon to terminate at Twin Lakes on a piece of track at the bottom of Central Street (where East Cliff Drive turns towards 7th Avenue). It would prove to be one of the most crooked streetcar lines on the West Coast and the extension encompassed 1.5 miles of additional track. It opened in late August to muted fanfare but was used heavily used and immediately began boosting the value of homes in the vicinity of Seabright and Twin Lakes. The shorter extension to Arana Creek was also completed by late summer.

The East Santa Cruz Street Railroad's only enclosed car, 1890s.
[UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – Colorized using DeOldify]

The East Santa Cruz Street Railroad reached it peak in the summer of 1892. Waiting benches were installed across the line and three more formalized stations were erected at Woods Lagoon, Soquel and Cayuga, and at the Lower Plaza. To alert people that a horsecar was arriving at a stop, bells were affixed to the horses. Even as the Pacific Avenue horsecar line was replaced with an electric streetcar in April 1893, Ely's East Santa Cruz horsecar line continued operating without a hiccup. By 1892, fourteen cars operated across the line, driven by fifteen horses, and revenues were up. Plans were approved for extension tracks to the Oddfellows cemetery on Ocean Street and a route that would cross the mouth of the San Lorenzo River to access the bathhouses. Just as work was set to begin, however, the stock market crashed in February 1893 and the economy stagnated for the next four years. With a lack of investors, Ely was forced to maintain his horsecar network as it was without substantial changes or improvements.

East Santa Cruz Street Railroad tracks passing in front of the Peters Block near the intersection of Ocean Street and Soquel Avenue, 1890s. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – Colorized using DeOldify]

A reprieve came in 1895, though, when Ely obtained permission to replace horsepower along the line with a steam engine, which he named Wm. Ely after himself. It first went into use on July 6 but quickly came to annoy most of the people who lived along the streetcar's route. In November, Ely was forced to reduce the hours that the steam engine operated to only twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening, and only between Twin Lakes and Soquel Road, at which point horses were required to take passengers into downtown. For all this trouble, Ely had agreed to level and realign the tracks down Front Street and pave the road, a process that was not completed until summer 1897, nearly two years since the steam venture had proved to be a failure. The horsecar line began bleeding money and service to Twin Lakes was reduced to first one roundtrip daily and then none in 1899.

Two boys playing on a parked East Santa Cruz Street Railroad car, early 1890s.
[UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – Colorized using DeOldify]

In 1900, the Board of Supervisors pushed Ely to restore and expand service. After only a year, though, he gave up and put the East Santa Cruz Street Railroad up for public sale. Eager to sell it but also hopeful for its future, Ely offered it at an affordable price in the hope that somebody with money and vision would expand it to De Laveaga Heights and the further along the coast. This hope was realized in August 1902 when a group of local investors purchased the line and shortly reincorporated as the Santa Cruz, Capitola & Watsonville Railway Company with plans to convert the line to electric and extend it further than Ely had ever dreamed. Within months, the old horsecar line was gone and a new era of electrified streetcars in Santa Cruz had begun.

Citations & Credits:

  • McCaleb, Charles S. Surf, Sand & Streetcars: A Mobile History of Santa Cruz, CA. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum of Art & History, 2005

Friday, October 16, 2020

Sources: Sanborn Map Company

The Sanborn Map Company held a near total monopoly of fire insurance maps in the United States from the 1870s through to the 1970s. The maps were used by fire insurance company underwriters to assess the cost of coverage and the risks. As cities grew in size throughout the nineteenth century, it became harder for individual insurance companies to visit places personally to make such assessments, so mapping companies were formed to produce reliable, detailed surveys of risks instead.

Banner for the 1892 Sanborn-Perris Map Company map for Santa Cruz and Camp Capitola.
[Library of Congress]

Most of the Sanborn company's maps were hand-drawn at a scale of 1:600 or 50 feet per inch on 21" by 25" paper. They were also color coded in various ways to differentiate lower risk features (yellow), areas of high interest (red), and areas of extreme risk (teal), as well as sources of water (blue). As the maps became more advanced, other important features were added such as the routes of water mains and electrical lines. The company focused primarily on cities and towns, so many smaller settlements were skipped. That being said, if a specific business was large enough, it would sometimes feature as an addendum to the nearest settlement with a map. As cities and towns grew, the number of maps representing that settlement were expanded with the largest cities encompassing hundreds of pages by the end.

The company was named after Daniel Alfred Sanborn, who began drawing fire insurance maps in 1866 in Tennessee. In 1867, he moved to New York City and founded the D. A. Sanborn National Insurance Diagram Bureau and drew maps for Boston and other towns in New England. Over the next fifty years, Sanborn began buying out all of his competition, culminating in a monopoly of the industry after the last rival was bought out in 1916. By the mid-1920s, the company employed 300 field surveyors and 400 other staff to produce, print, and sell the maps. Yet it was this monopoly that led to the company's ultimate failure. Unable to keep up with demand and charging high prices for its services, Sanborn became the target of government and corporate attempts to rein the company in. The Great Depression did the job for them, though, and survey work dropped by two-thirds. By the 1950s, many insurance companies began bypassing Sanborn using a system called line carding, which had already been used for structures that did not appear on maps. Basically, individual structures each had a card with a summary of its risks, thereby not requiring a map to access it. This combined with improved building codes, construction methods, and fire protection equipment meant that maps were just not needed anymore. The last new map was produced in 1961 and the last updated map in 1977.

Ways of using this source:
Sanborn maps became an imperfect tool for envisioning the past layout of American cities in a poorly-photographed era. As early as the 1960s, historical societies began collecting maps for local history uses and by the 1980s, it became one of the key resources uses in identifying the history of certain areas. And there are good reasons for that! Original Sanborn maps were extraordinarily detailed and contained unique information not easily found elsewhere.

The first step in using these maps is to find the key or index for the year you are researching. Until the 1920s, most of the maps had an Index map as its first page. It would highlight areas of the city with numbers that correspond to pages of the map series. For smaller settlements, the first page also usually contained a portion of the actual map. In later years, a separate index page with the names of settlements and major businesses was included. These would also reflect changes between versions of the map. 

Excerpt of a Sanborn Map of the lower plaza of Santa Cruz, 1883. [Library of Congress]

Each map had a wide range of features useful to researchers. For example, this 1883 map of Santa Cruz shows most of the major structures in downtown, as well as early street names and even physical dimensions of features such as the widths of lots and streets. Vacant or abandoned buildings are usually marked as such, while homes—marked "dwg" for dwelling—are scattered across the map. The high risk structures in teal include a paint shops, blacksmith shop, carpentry shop, wagon shop, and candyshop. Buildings with fire protection in red include the St. Charles Hotel, the Pacific Ocean House, the Masonic Hall and adjacent public hall, and a dwelling off Mission Street. And sources of water in blue include hydrants on Locus Street, Park Street, Cherry Street, Vine Street, and Pacific Avenue, and an elevated water tower behind the Pacific Ocean House. Large and important businesses have their names on them, as well, providing good reference information for researchers.

Railroad historians benefit from the fact that mainline tracks are included on Sanborn maps and nearly all railroad (but not streetcar) trackage appears on maps prior to 1900. Other railroad-related features such as stations, depots, tunnels, sheds, car and engine houses, turntables, and water towers also appear. In the map above, almost all of the South Pacific Coast Railroad and Southern Pacific Railroad depots on Cherry and Park Streets are shown, and these largely match photographic evidence from the same period. Sanborn maps also often show or suggest businesses that used the railroad. 

Excerpt of a 1905 Sanborn Map showing the Santa Cruz Union Depot yard, 1905.
[Library of Congress]

This map of the Union Depot yard in 1905 shows several customers of the railroad as well as several other important items. Williamson & Garrett had a warehouse at the end of a spur shared by the Standard Oil Company. Beside these was a large lumber yard owned by the Santa Cruz Planning Mill, which had a warehouse just to the south. Another mill was across Washington Street from this while a third was across Chestnut Street, owned by Sinkinson. Although railroad tracks are not showing going to any of these, their location beside the tracks suggests strongly that they used the railroad and, furthermore, increases the likelihood that private railroad spurs catered to them. This is even implied by the platform listed beside the Santa Cruz Planing Mill warehouse on Washington Street. Southern Pacific-owned spurs, such as that catering to Williamson & Garrett, were usually included on maps, but private ones were inconsistently included. 

Other interesting details can also be gleaned from this map. Williamson & Garrett had a 5-foot-deep platform that ran between its warehouse and the spur and it mostly stored lime, cement, and grain feed in the warehouse. Standard Oil kept two oil tank cars on bricks beside the tracks. Sinkinson's mill produced lumber, novelty goods, and shingles, and Sinkinson himself lived on the property. Meanwhile, the Santa Cruz Planing Mill owned several large structures and produced mouldings, sashes, doors, dressed lumber, and standard lumber, and it kept a night watchman on site. The surrounding lumber yard could support approximately 1,000,000 board feet of lumber!

Layout of streets and railroad rights-of-way derived largely from the 1877 Sanborn Map superimposed atop a modern Google Map. [Derek R. Whaley]

Perhaps the most important feature of Sanborn Maps, however, is that they document change—sometimes substantial—in a community. By comparing several years of maps with later, more modern sources of information, entirely new outlooks on city planning and development can be discovered. The map above was composed by comparing the layout of streets near the Santa Cruz waterfront from 1877 and today. It shows several streets that have been renamed or shifted, and several other streets that did not exist yet in 1877. It also shows the impact of the railroad on the area now known as Blackburn Terrace.

Downsides and problems with this source:
Precision was never a goal of Sanborn maps. The maps often demonstrated a mildly idealized version of a city rather than reality. Roads often did not stick precisely to the outlined alignment and distortions at the edges of the maps were very common, although these usually can only be discovered when they are placed next to other maps or overlaid on a modern map of the same area. Many smaller or insubstantial structures were also left off, as well as streetcar tracks and railroad sidings and spurs (except in the pre-1890 maps). In addition, geographic features were usually not specified unless they presented a risk or were a source of water, which means elevations and other topographical features were left off maps.

Most problematic, though, was the technique of "pasting-up" old maps in order to update them. Until around 1910, almost all maps produced by Sanborn were originals, as in they were redrawn fresh for every new survey. However, the company began cutting corners in the 1910s and instead of producing new maps, updated old maps using pasted-on revisions that hired pasters would apply to maps purchased by people. Often new maps would be created at the same time to cover areas that had substantial changes or had not been surveyed before, but pasted-up maps became the norm from the 1910s onward and this caused a lot of problems for researchers because demolished buildings would often be left on maps and railroad trackage was not altered to reflect changes in alignments. Business names also were not always changed. The end result is that pasted-up maps are not nearly as useful for historians as original maps and must be treated with caution.

Excerpt of a 1917 Sanborn Map showing the area around the former railroad depots in Santa Cruz.
[University of California, Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections]

The map above is a 1905 map that was "pasted-up" for a 1917 update. The useful aspects of the map are the new structures that have been added, including several new buildings on Vine and Division Streets and an ice house and storage shed beside the tracks off Rincon Street. But there are several issues, too. The tracks still show narrow-gauge and broad-gauge because they reflect the trackage before the lines were standardized in 1908. As such, the ice house sits directly atop a track on the map and it is unclear if any track still followed that route at all. The tunnel, too, does not reflect its actual dimensions since it was also enlarged. Another odd aspect of these paste-ups is that building angles are not always applied perfectly, especially when there's nothing adjacent to the paste-up. For example, you can see a corner of Santa Cruz High School in the 1883 map above at the top edge of the map. Its entry stairway is almost perfectly parallel with the page. The angle of the page doesn't change in the 1917 version, but the school is now rotated about 30 degrees in the photograph. Is this a new school? Was the old school rotated? Why was a paste-up required for a building of largely the same dimensions? These types of questions cannot be answered by Sanborn maps.

Local History Resources:
Library of Congress, Sanborn Maps Collection
The collection held by the Library of Congress is extensive, full color, and spans much of the country. But due to copyrights, it also doesn't have everything available online so you will have to visit Washington, D.C. to see the whole collection. The good news is that there are many free maps available for download at good resolutions.

  • Alviso: 1908
  • Aptos: 1888, 1892, 1908
  • Ben Lomond: 1908
  • Boulder Creek: 1892, 1897, 1908
  • Campbell: 1899, 1905, 1908, 1920
  • Castroville: 1892, 1910, 1929
  • Cupertino: 1920
  • Felton: 1895, 1908
  • Gilroy: 1886, 1892, 1906
  • Gonzales: 1886, 1892, 1903, 1910
  • Hollister: 1886, 1892, 1902, 1910
  • King City: 1888, 1890, 1892, 1903, 1910, 1919
  • Los Gatos: 1884, 1888, 1891, 1895, 1904, 1908
  • Mayfield: 1884, 1888, 1894, 1904
  • Milpitas: 1893, 1908
  • Monterey: 1885, 1888, 1892, 1905, 1912, 1912
  • Morgan Hill: 1908
  • Mountain View: 1888, 1891, 1897, 1904, 1908, 1921
  • Pacific Grove: 1888, 1892, 1897, 1905, 1914
  • Palo Alto: 1895, 1897, 1901, 1904, 1908
  • Salinas: 1886, 1892, 1900, 1913
  • San Jose: 1884, 1891, 1915, 1950
  • San Juan Bautista: 1908, 1926, 1929
  • Santa Clara: 1887
  • Santa Cruz: 1886, 1888, 1892, 1905
  • Saratoga: 1918
  • Soledad: 1888, 1892, 1910
  • Soquel: 1888, 1892, 1908
  • Spreckels: 1919
  • Sunnyvale: 1908, 1911, 1930
  • Tres Pinos: 1888, 1892, 1895, 1910, 1930
  • Watsonville: 1888, 1892, 1902, 1908, 1920, 1962

University of California, Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections
For many years, the UCSC collection of maps was the go-to place for local historians, but the collection pales in comparison to the Library of Congress site and the October 2020 refresh of the Legacy Digital Collections website removed the ability to download maps, making the site even less useful. Still, there are several maps and versions of maps that aren't available online from the Library of Congress and the website navigation is still relatively easy. Furthermore, high resolution versions can be viewed on the website.

  • Aptos: 1888, 1892, 1908
  • Ben Lomond: 1908
  • Boulder Creek: 1892, 1897, 1901, 1908
  • Campbell: 1899, 1905
  • Castroville: 1892, 1910, 1913
  • Felton: 1895, 1908, 1918
  • Gilroy: 1886, 1892, 1906
  • Gonzales: 1886, 1892, 1903
  • King City: 1888, 1890, 1892, 1903
  • Los Gatos: 1888, 1891, 1895, 1904
  • Mayfield (Palo Alto): 1888, 1894, 1904
  • Milpitas: 1893
  • Mountain View: 1888, 1891, 1897, 1904
  • Palo Alto: 1895, 1897, 1901, 1904
  • San Jose: 1884, 1891
  • Santa Clara: 1887, 
  • Santa Cruz (including Capitola): 1877, 1883, 1886, 1888, 1892, 1905, 1917
  • Soquel: 1888, 1892, 1908, 1911
  • Watsonville (including Pajaro): 1873, 1886, 1888, 1892, 1902, 1904, 1908, 1911, 1920
The library in Los Gatos keeps a small binder of Sanborn Maps in its local history collection and this can be browsed onsite or requested if it is not on display. These are reproductions, though, and the originals from the two website above are likely easier to read. That being said, sometimes nothing beats looking directly at a map in your hands rather than on a screen.

ProQuest Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867–1970
For those privileged with special access from select businesses and universities, another great source of maps is the ProQuest database, which is sponsored by the company that still owns the in-copyright Sanborn maps. The maps from this database can be downloaded at high resolution, but are not in color for some unexplained reason.

Environmental Data Resources (EDR) 
This is the company that owns the copyrights to all maps still in copyright and access outside of ProQuest is on a per-map basis. Basically, people can request professional copies of original maps for research, publishing, or legal uses but even creating a paid account on the website requires contacting the firm. This place should only be used as a last resort and is still not guaranteed to satisfy since so many of the later Sanborn maps are paste-ups rather than new maps.

This list will be expanded as more sources of maps become available to the public.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Railroads: Love Creek Railroad

Logging activity in the Santa Cruz Mountains was on the rise in the 1880s. Redwood mills from south of Felton to north of Boulder Creek and along many of the San Lorenzo River's feeder creeks rapidly expanded following the construction of the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Transportation Company's v-flume that ran down the valley. It alongside its subsidiary Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad brought millions of board feet of lumber to market via the Railroad and Powder Works Wharves at the Santa Cruz Main Beach. James Pieronett Pierce, a Santa Clara entrepreneur and speculator, wanted in on the local action and approached the task from several angles. Already the founder and president of the Bank of Santa Clara, Pierce used his wealth to embed himself within Santa Cruz County community and industries. He purchased the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad line in 1877 as well as the Santa Cruz Opera House. He became a director in both the railroad and flume projects. But more importantly to Santa Cruz history, he bought the land of Harry Love midway between Felton and Boulder Creek in order to harvest thousands of acres of redwood timber.

A waterfall below a narrow wooden bridge on Love Creek, c. 1900.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries – colorized using DeOldify]
Captain Harry Love, 1860s.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries –
colorized using DeOldify]
The California Ranger Harry Love was famous for having tracked down and killed the outlaw Joaquín Murrieta Carrillo on July 25, 1853. In the late 1850s and 1860s, Love lived on a ranch three miles north of Felton along a creek later named after him. At some point in the mid-1860s, Love fell on hard times and sold portions of his ranch to several individuals, including a Captain Staple, who grew Christmas trees on a section and otherwise worked for George Treat's sawmill south of Felton, and Charley Brown, who ran a mid-sized lumber mill somewhere along Love Creek. James Pierce bought Staple's property around 1876. The original tract encompassed the entire west bank of the Love Creek basin, which at the time was estimated to contain between thirty and fifty million board feet of redwood timber. Across from the confluence of Love Creek and the San Lorenzo River, Pierce built his baronial summer residence on a slight rise from where he could view the entire surrounding valley. This property would later evolve into Hotel Rowardennan in the 1890s, but in the meantime, Pierce grew hay for the livestock used in his logging operations.

In 1877, Pierce bought the Enterprise Mill on Love Creek from John Mill, presumably a relative of Harry's. Two years later, he incorporated the Pacific Manufacturing Company. By 1881, he had bought out a former business partner, H. W. McKoy, and took control of his mill as well and shipped this new machinery up the San Lorenzo River. At the confluence of Love Creek and the river, he erected a mid-sized lumber mill, which grew quickly as Pierce added more machinery and expanded the size of the affiliated settlement, initially known as Pacific Mills. During the next few years, he joined many other lumber firms in using the flume that passed through the village to transport lumber to market. When the Felton & Pescadero Railroad snaked through the area in mid-1884 to replace the flume, Pierce jumped at the opportunity to expand his reach up Marshall and Love Creeks, areas which had only lightly been harvested thus far.

County survey map showing parcels for sale in Ben Lomond with all of the Southern Pacific and Pacific Manufacturing Company's trackage in town, September 1887. [Santa Cruz County Records]
From the time that the new railroad passed through his mill town, Pierce planned to install private narrow-gauge railroad tracks to his timber tracts. Other local lumber firms had already done so including the Santa Clara Mill & Lumber Company, the Union Mill, and the F. A. Hihn Company, so its feasibility had already been proven. A September 1887 survey of the town of Ben Lomond shows tracks heading up Hubbard Gulch (then called Paterson Gulch) to the west, another track across the San Lorenzo River beside the vehicular bridge to the south, and a third track up Love Creek to the north, in addition to the mainline track and many spurs that ran through the village. The route up Hubbard Gulch crossed the San Lorenzo River to the west in roughly the same location as the Highway 9 bridge today. It then turned up Hubbard Gulch Road and continued for an unknown length. Pierce hoped that it would eventually run for three miles until reaching the logging community at Pine Flat at the top of Ben Lomond, but this never appears to have happened and the track probably did not extend more than a quarter mile up modern-day Hubbard Gulch Road. The southern track was certainly the shortest and probably catered to Pierce's personal residence just across the river.

The Pacific Manufacturing Company planing mill in Santa Clara, 1898.
[Alice Iola Hare Collection, Santa Clara City Library – colorized using DeOldify]
The third and longest track was installed along Love Creek and this route is much better documented both on maps and in newspapers. From the available evidence, it was in operation from December 1887 until at least 1893. The line's only known track joined the mill company's internal mainline near the junction of Fillmore Avenue and Mill Street in Ben Lomond and then proceeded north, crossing the Southern Pacific Railroad's Felton Branch east of Main Street and continuing until merging with modern-day Love Creek Road at Central Avenue. Beyond Sunnyside Avenue, the crudely-built narrow-gauge railroad entered the redwood wilderness of the Love Creek basin. From this point, there is a good description of the route given in the Surf in 1889:
The cream of the day's enjoyment was a trip on this pocket edition of a railway up the picturesque Love creek canyon to the logging camp. Seated in comfortable chairs upon the flat car, steaming along through the mild spring air, stopping to pick up a few ferns, or remove a fallen branch from the track, crossing Love creek thirteen times in a mile and a half and watching the mountains as they rose height beyond height, this was certainly an ideal way of penetrating the everlasting hills. The "man at the wheel," like the mate of the Nancy Bell, was captain and crew and all, and evidently made a pet of his tiny engine.

A glimpse into the canyon where the great body of timber begins enables one to feebly realize the vastness of Mr. Pierce's four thousand acre tract of timber, which extends nearly to the town of Boulder, and which will be tributary to the mill at Ben Lomond.

The train mentioned in this description was a small locomotive and six flatcars that Pierce purchased in early 1888 for use on his private lines. No photographs of the rolling stock have been found and even the style of the locomotive is unknown.

County survey map of Love Creek properties and the Love Creek Railroad, c 1887.
[Santa Cruz County Records]
The actual length of Pierce's trackage in the area of Ben Lomond is inconsistently reported by newspapers of the time. The article above implies that the Love Creek track was at least a mile and a half and the article elsewhere states that Pierce owned a total of 2.5 miles of trackage in the area. The figures for the tracks in town amount to just short of one mile of additional track, so that may be the maximum extent for the rest of the area. However, logging companies often installed and uninstalled track as needed and it is possible that as much as seven miles of track ran up Love Creek at one point, and more frequently three miles is given for the length of this route. The latter seems more likely since the Love Creek basin in total is only four miles in length. The evidence for where precisely the route went beyond Smith Creek is unclear, although it did continue further along Love Creek for at least a short distance. The logging camp mentioned by the reporter was almost certainly at the confluence of Love and Fritch Creeks, which was the last flat area before continuing up increasingly steep grades.

A waterfall on Love Creek, c 1900. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
When precisely the Love Creek Railroad shut down is unknown. Partners Duffey and Simmons began running a mill two miles up Love Creek in October 1890, however, and continued to run the mill on behalf of Pierce until it was destroyed in a boiler explosion in May 1891. Duffey alone rebuilt and shut down for the season in December. It seems likely that this mill continued to use the Love Creek Railroad to get its lumber to Ben Lomond since a December 1892 newspaper report stated that the old locomotive had jumped the track at the southernmost crossing over Love Creek, spilling its lumber into the creek bed. This means that the railroad was still in operation a year later. Following the derailment, horses were used to haul the machinery back onto the grade and the railroad resumed service. 

There are no further mentions of the railroad after December 1892 and it likely was removed before or after the summer 1893 season. By this point, Pierce had incorporated the Ben Lomond Land & Lumber Company in order to consolidate his twin goals of selling his property to interested developers and cutting his remaining timber. The mill in Ben Lomond was also gone and most of the trackage in the town had been consolidated. Whether Pierce even owned the Love Creek Railroad route by 1893 is unclear, but it certainly did not last much beyond that time. In May 1893, the Bank of Santa Clara failed, leaving Pierce short on funds. It was likely this that led to the dissolution of his company and the sale of the remaining land he owned in the region, the remainder of which were sold following his death in 1897. Today, traces of the railroad are occasionally found on the west bank of Love Creek near Smith and Fritch Creeks, where significant bridges were once located. But nothing much remains and that which does is found by chance, usually on private property.

Citations & Credits:
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2007.
  • Pepper, George. Personal correspondence.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1885–1892.
  • Santa Cruz Surf, 1885–1892.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Zayante Publishing, forthcoming.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Curiosities: The Sea Beach Hotel

At the turn of the twentieth century, every seaside town on the Pacific Coast had a Victorian-style palatial hotel to lure tourists to the beach. Monterey had the Hotel Del Monte. San Diego had the Hotel del Coronado. Capitola had the Hotel Capitola. And Santa Cruz had the Sea Beach Hotel. For nearly forty years, the hotel grew from a small structure on Main Street on the Santa Cruz Main Beach into one of the most renowned resorts on the Central Coast. Celebrities and politicians from across the country came to stay in the hotel while they visited the nearby bathhouses and played on the beach. But the hotel began not as a palace but as just another hostelry in an industrialized area that had struggled for two decades to attract residents or tourists.

One of many colorized postcards showing the Sea Beach Hotel in all its glory, 1911. [HipPostcard]
The Santa Cruz Main Beach in the mid-1870s was at its industrial height. The Santa Cruz Railroad had tracks running down the beach while the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad ran its own trains out onto a pair of piers at the ends of Pacific Avenue and Main Street. Steamships and tall ships from San Francisco and elsewhere stopped in daily at the piers, and wagonloads of lumber, leather, lime, and gunpowder were hauled up and over Beach Hill for transfer onto the waiting ships. The Powder Works Wharf at the end of Main Street was the older of the piers and only received railroad tracks in 1877. For several years, the California Powder Works carted powder from its warehouse near the top of the hill on 2nd Street to the pier, but the arrival of the railroad reduced the pier and warehouse's usefulness. By about 1880, the brick-lined warehouse was abandoned.

The Ocean View House (the large white building) on Main Street above the Powder Works Wharf
as viewed from a color lithograph of the Santa Cruz waterfront, c 1877.
Two blocks away, at the bottom of Cliff Street, the Leibbrandt Brothers and others had opened bath houses that attracted visitors from around the world. But most visitors spent the summers in tents set up across from the bath houses or otherwise in hotels downtown or across the San Lorenzo River. The few lodges near the beach were intended for more industrious persons, such as sailors, manual laborers, and other workers involved in shipping. Midway up Main Street, William Hardy had run a saloon since 1849, but the building sat vacant for several years. Samuel A. Hall saw an opportunity and made a bold gamble.

The Ocean View House towering over Beach Hill, c 1880.
[Harold van Gorder, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Hall was originally a boatbuilder but he spent much of the 1860s and early 1870s developing Soquel and Capitola alongside Frederick A. Hihn. Why his focus shifted to Santa Cruz is unknown, but he clearly sensed a shift occurring that would ultimately move the center of industry to the Railroad Wharf on Pacific Avenue. He hoped to fill a much-needed niche. Midway up Main Street on the west side of the road, Hall opened a two-story hotel and restaurant on May 22, 1875 which he named the Ocean View House after a racetrack located on the West Side of Santa Cruz. Built by William Liddell, it was an unassuming, white-washed rectangular structure with windows lining the side facing the ocean. The first proprietors hired to run the hotel were P. Gardner and Charles Cummings, but Cummings left the partnership after only two months.

The Douglas House on Beach Hill after the Powder Works Wharf was removed, c 1883.
[Harold van Gorder, Santa Cruz MAH]
Success came quickly for the Ocean View House, despite its surroundings. By June, the proprietors had decided upon building a large dance hall beside the hotel. This was a single-story structure situated perpendicular to the main building on the west side, which functioned otherwise as a restaurant. A  kitchen was located further to the west, where it could be supplied from Drift Way, which functioned as a service road for the hotel. It is clear from an advertisement posted in September 1875 that the hotel's year-round clientele was tourists arriving by steamship. It read: "Its close proximity to the steamer landing saves its guests the necessity of standing for hours in the morning, shivering in the fog, waiting the approach of steamers. Unlike those stopping at up-town hotels, they can sleep if they desire until vessels touch the wharf, and have ample time to rise, dress and get aboard." By this point, the City Railroad horsecar line had also began operating on the Santa Cruz Railroad's tracks, which meant service to the Lower Plaza was quick and easy. The hotel was further expanded and a third story added in May 1877, allowing the hotel to support twenty-two guest rooms, while expanded service by the Pacific Avenue Streetcar Company brought more horsecar traffic to the beach.

Governor R. W. Waterman outside the Sea Beach Hotel, 1886. [Bancroft Library – Colorized using DeOldify]
Change came quickly for the hotel. In 1882, it was sold to A. H. Douglas who replaced all the furniture and renovated the interior. When it reopened in April 1883, it was renamed the Douglas House. Douglas  benefited from the removal of the Powder Works Wharf in 1882 in that his hotel now fronted an unimpeded view of the Monterey Bay. Although Gardner had led the expansion of the hotel, Douglas began the process of turning it into a destination. He started with simple amenities such as a bar and billiard tables. He also increased accessibility to horsecars and the beach by installing steps down Main Street.

The Douglas House in its final year under that name, 1886. [Bancroft Library – Colorized using DeOldify]
Douglas repainted the hotel and made extensive improvements each year prior to opening for the summer season. In 1884, he added tents, chairs and tables to the space outside the hotel and began displaying his art within the foyer. The next year, he added his artworks to other rooms of the hotel and installed a wide porch on the ocean side for more comfortable view of the bay. This same year, the Powder Works finished converting its lands at the waterfront by installing a plank walkway between the Douglas House and the Neptune Baths, which extended the original boardwalk between Pacific Avenue and Main Street. In 1886, the first floor bar was converted into a parlor with large windows that looked out over the bay, with the bar moved to the other side of the building. Japanese lanterns were hung outside the veranda following a recent trend. He also commissioned the construction of a platform for trains and horsecars on Beach Street, the first such structure in the area.

1888 Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the Sea Beach Hotel in its last year
prior to its major renovation. [Library of Congress]
Perhaps realizing the marketing mistake of naming his business after himself, Douglas rebranded the hostelry the Sea Beach House in June 1883, but the name didn't stick. He eventually sold the business to D. K. Abeel in March 1887, who took over on May 15. John T. Sullivan was promptly hired as manager of the hostelry and it was he who permanently renamed the building the Sea Beach Hotel on April 1. Abeel and Sullivan looked to more substantially expand the hotel within the next few years and, in anticipation of that, Abeel purchased the former Powder Works lot at the corner of 2nd and Main Streets, initially to be used as a playground. Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Sullivan thoroughly repainted and re-wallpapered the hotel. But other changes also began under his tenure. New chimneys were installed, much of the furniture was replaced, the buildings were recarpeted, and Mrs. Sullivan planted an extensive garden on the slope in front of the hotel.
Advertisement by John Sullivan for the Sea Beach Hotel, c 1890.
Over the next two years, several substantial changes were made to the Sea Beach Hotel that converted it from a plain 'dry-goods box' style building, as the Santa Cruz Surf described it, to the elegant Victorian palace it was later known as. The idea for this expansion came in the 1887 season when the rooms were packed to capacity all summer long. The new construction was designed and overseen by famed architect G. W. Page and built in the style of the Hotel del Coronado. The old Douglas House was shifted to the back of the property, closer to 2nd Street, along with the kitchen and dining room. In their place was added a massive three-story wing with attic that stretched nearly to Beach Street. It featured dormer windows and steeply-sloped roofs, and the older buildings were modified to match this style, as well. This new wing was not just for guest rooms, it included a reading room, a ladies' parlor, and a large rotunda containing a club room that overlooked the ocean and the bath houses. Still, guest rooms were an important component and the new hotel featured 170 of them. Many of the guest rooms included en suite restroom facilities, fireplaces, telephones, and parlors. On the ocean side, a wide veranda swept around the eastern side of the building, allowing space for seating. The renovated hotel reopened the week of May 25, 1890.

A view of the gardens and Monterey Bay from the front of the Sea Beach Hotel, c 1900.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries – Colorized using DeOldify]
An important feature of the new hotel and one favored by Mrs. Sullivan was the gardens and landscape on the southeast side of the property along Beach Street and Main Street. Rudolph Ulrich, a local who had achieved fame at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, was hired to arrange the gardens of the hotel using clippings from his own gardens. Over 40 varieties of roses were planted including three local variants: the Sea Beach Beauty, the Pride of Santa Cruz, and the Loma Prieta. Seeds from these plants became popular souvenirs. The gardens were primarily composed of flowers and shrubs as to not block the view of the ocean.

Advertisement for the Sea Beach Hotel, May 17, 1895. [Santa Cruz Surf]
The restaurant was also expanded in size and scope with chefs from the Hotel del Monte and Chicago's Palmer House brought in. The dining hall looked out over the bay while the kitchen was recessed into Beach Hill with a short tramway running to nearby storage rooms for the quick delivery of supplies. During special events, nine-course meals were prepared. Behind the hotel, an elegant dance hall was built with a sprawling staircase descending from the lobby upstairs. The George W. Parkman orchestra was employed in 1895 to play popular songs while dance lessons were given during the day in preparation for the night's festivities.

Colorized postcard of the Sea Beach Hotel with a streetcar out front, c 1905. [Fine Art America]
The hotel quickly became the primary destination for all forms of celebrities, from Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt, to capitalists like William Randolph Hearst and Andrew Carnegie, and other important peoples such as John Muir and Luther Burbank. The hotel became the focus of color postcards, which were just coming into vogue at the time, and it remains one of the best photographed pre-1900 structures in Santa Cruz County, with well over fifty known images and likely many more.

The Sea Beach Hotel soon after its upgrade, with a horsecar at the bottom of Main Street, c 1892.
[Pat Hathaway]
Sullivan jointly served as the manager of the Pacific Ocean House for a few years in the 1890s but relinquished his duties there to John R. Chace in mid-1894. It was a sign of changing times. On December 1, 1895, Chace purchased Sullivan's stake in the Sea Beach Hotel and took over its management. This was likely done under the gaze of Frederick Hihn, who was close friends and business partners with Chace and saw the potential in a hotel monopoly since Chace retained the proprietorship of the Pacific Ocean House as well.

Early photograph of the Sea Beach Hotel following its major upgrade, c 1895.
[Covello & Covello – Colorized using DeOldify]
Chace wasted little time before upgrading the Sea Beach Hotel again. In early 1896, he added a new stairway from Beach Street to the club rooms of the hotel and completely renovated the hotel's two dining rooms. On Main Street, he enlarged the hotel's office and foyer and expanded electricity to the attic and other places. To protect against fire, fire hydrants were placed throughout the complex and fire escapes installed for the upper stories. And to replace the artwork that Sullivan took with him when he left, Chace bought new art via a contact who worked at the Santa Cruz Surf. Otherwise, life at the Sea Beach under Chace's management continued much the same, with a busy summer and frequent dances and balls held all season long, although Chace lacked the energy of Sullivan.

The Santa Cruz waterfront with the Sea Beach Hotel in the center, c 1895.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries – Colorized using DeOldify]
Success eluded Chace in the end and he was forced to sell his stake in the hotel at the end of 1896, culminating in January 1897 with a large sale of the hotel's furniture, which Abeel bought back. Abeel then turned around and leased the furniture back to John Sullivan, who had bought it originally, and Sullivan was promptly hired again as manager for the 1897 season. Sullivan changed the game by incorporating the Sea Beach Hotel Company on March 8 alongside his wife, two daughters, and J. Terry Brooks. To mark the change in management, Sullivan decided to give the hotel a bold new paint job, possibly the now-iconic whitewash that it was known for in later years.

The Sea Beach Hotel from the beach, showing the original plank boardwalk along the railroad tracks, c 1895.
[Covello & Covello – Colorized using DeOldify]
Tragedy struck the Sullivan family in late May, however, when one of John's daughters died of an illness and it appears he temporarily passed management of the hotel over to a mysterious man named Bat Queenan. By late June, Sullivan too was ill and appears to have not been involved in day-to-day operations. Although he began to recover in August, Sullivan forfeited his position to Abeel in October and the next month, Abeel hired James B. Peakes as the proprietor for 1898. Peakes had run the Kittridge House on Beach Hill for several years followed by several hotels in San Francisco, San José, Sacramento, Stockton, and elsewhere. Peakes was not a heavy promoter and did not take out advertisements or make substantial renovations to the hotel. In fact, he closed the hotel from mid-October 1898 to mid-February 1899 and again from mid-September 1899 to early April 1900, although he resigned his position before the hotel reopened that year.

The St. James Hotel at the bottom of the Railroad Wharf with the Sea Beach Hotel to the east, 1890s.
[Sourisseau Academy – Colorized using DeOldify]
Abeel then turned to John S. Matheson as proprietor and the pair installed gas lighting throughout the hotel complex in the short window that they had before the summer season began. Matheson resumed the practice of taking out daily newspaper advertisements in July. He advertised that the hotel could accommodate 400 guests and provided modern conveniences and improved sanitation. He also advertised its private telegraph office, perfect table service, and first-class orchestra. Matheson did not close down in the winter as Peakes had done and indeed hosted several gala events during the off season. Still, by 1901 the hotel was appearing somewhat shabby, with one newspaper article stating "it is not old fashioned enough to be antique, and not modern enough to meet the requirements of would-be guests." After public discourse throughout the 1901 seasons, Abeel and Matheson had had enough and Abeel sold the hotel to James J. C. Leonard with the assistance and advice of Fred Wilder Swanton on August 30, 1901.

Streetcar running down Beach Street in front of the Sea Beach Hotel, c 1905.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries – Colorized using DeOldify]
Swanton, who soon founded the Santa Cruz Beach and Tent City Corporation, and Leonard ran the popular Hotel St. George and Pacific Ocean House and continued to do so for the remainder of the 1901 season alongside their new acquisition. Under their management, the ballroom was enlarged even further into a banquet hall and an even larger ballroom was built at the back of the hotel on 2nd Street. The dining room was divided into guest rooms and a new dining room carved out of the old hotel building at back. Electricity was installed throughout the hotel alongside elevators. By 1902, tennis and golf links were also advertised, although it is unclear where these were located. Further major improvements were planned for early 1903, though it seems Swanton was no longer involved by this point.

The most famous and heavily replicated photograph of the Sea Beach Hotel, c 1903. [Randolph Brandt]
It was at this time that the most famous photograph of the Sea Beach Hotel was captured. It shows a Santa Cruz Electric Railroad streetcar parked beside a Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Watsonville Railway streetcar parked on opposite tracks near the end of Main Street with the hotel towering overhead and a family relaxing on the beach. The photograph was colorized at least five different times and was sold as a postcard by many different companies from about 1905 to 1915. It was used on souvenir dishes, as backdrops for portrait studios, and on the covers of music books. Fortunately, although the precise date of this photograph is unknown, it had to have been between late 1902 when the latter tramway finished its tracks at the beach and early 1904 when the Union Traction Company consolidated both streetcar lines. Yet the the photographer and the subject matter of the photo remains a mystery.

A colorized postcard of the above photograph, c 1900.
An alternative colorization of the above postcard with the children in the foreground cropped out, c 1900.
One investigator argues convincingly that the man in the photograph is in fact Theodore Roosevelt with four of his children and his wife, Edith, enjoying the beach during their visit to Santa Cruz in May 1903. As further evidence, Roosevelt loved terriers and sure enough, a man at the right is playing with a terrier. This theory would explain the excess of men in suits standing above and it is further given credence by the fact that this photograph actually only shows two-thirds of the original image. The panoramic version includes ten more men plus a fifth child and this added part can be seen below. Here it is clear that some of the men are Santa Cruz Police officers and the others may be Secret Service members. While it cannot be confirmed with certainty that this is Roosevelt, it does seem plausible that the president stopped for a photoshoot at the beach, possibly on his way to San José after giving his speech at the depot and visiting Big Trees.

A second photograph from the same scene as above showing police officers and men in suits along with another man holding an umbrella beside a young child, c 1900.
The opening of the Neptune Casino, Neptune Plunge, and Tent City by Swanton in 1904 led to a massive increase in patronage for the hotel, which benefited from its successful neighbors. K. D. Zandt was hired as manager and began running hops each weekend in the summer to attract customers away from the Tent City, but it was all friendly competition with many of the higher income guests staying at the hotel while lower income households spent the summer in the tent cottages across from the new buildings. A depiction of this grand vision can be seen in the postcard below. While many considered the hotel a part of the new complex, Frederick Hihn hoped for a newer, modern hotel to sit between Westbrook and Cliff Streets, bridging the two but also supplanting the Sea Beach. Zandt and Leonard, however, had their own plans to expand and purchased another property across Main and 2nd Streets from the hotel in July 1904, converting the property into a laundry, stable, and carriage shed.

Color lithographic postcard showing the Sea Beach Hotel beside the Neptune Casino and Plunge, the Tent City, the Electric Pier and diving platform, early Boardwalk rides, beach bath houses, and the San Lorenzo River with its pavilion, c 1904.
Leonard and Zandt found great success in the 1904 and 1905 summer seasons, opening early in the season and running through September. They attracted theatre celebrities, famous authors and reporters, and even hosted political conventions. Streetcars stopped at the base of the hotel on Beach Street daily, and special excursion trains stopped periodically as well. It became a venue for weddings, with its beautiful gardens frequently the backdrop for photographs, and it attracted all sorts of mystics, religious leaders, and psychics. In many ways, the hotel and Santa Cruz became one-in-the-same to visitors.

The Neptune Casino with the Sea Beach Hotel in the distance, 1904. Photo by I. W. Taber. [WorthPoint]
There was every reason to believe that 1906 was going to be as successful as the previous two years for Leonard and Zandt. The hotel opened in early March and quickly filled up with guests and events. But then a double assault by nature and bad luck struck. On April 18, the San Francisco Earthquake ripped through Santa Cruz and left a substantial mark on the hotel. All but one of its chimneys were destroyed, sending bricks through roofs, gables, and porches alike. The Surf reported that "the plastering on the first story, lobby, dining rooms, parlors, etc., has either fallen or is so badly cracked that it will have to be replaced." Fortunately, the structure itself survived and Leonard wasted no time in hiring repairmen and supplies to fix the building. But disaster tourism sells and people from around the country flocked to Santa Cruz by May and June. The hotel was well on its way to recovery when it was hit by a second disaster on June 22. The still new Neptune Casino and Plunge—the tourist magnet only a block away—burned to the ground leaving only the skating rink, tent city, and a large salt-water basin standing. Yet the people still came in record numbers to visit the beach and enjoy the hotel's amenities and entertainments.

Colorized postcard of the Sea Beach Hotel beside the second Casino, 1908.
In the aftermath of the Casino fire, Swanton got to planning and quickly started to rebuild once the summer season ended. Into this flurry of discourse came a strong rumor that the Sea Beach Hotel would be moved to the Tent City lot and a new hotel erected in its place. However, this idea came to nothing and by 1907, a new Cottage City sat beside an even grander Casino and Plunge designed by William Henry Weeks in a Mission revival style. That year proved to be well-attended but unremarkable for the Sea Beach Hotel. At the end in December, the Council of Education held a large conference there, justifying Leonard and Zandt's decision to remain open until the beginning of January.

Cars parked outside the Main Street entrance to the Sea Beach Hotel with the new Casino in the distance, 1908.
[Sourisseau Academy]
The final years of the Sea Beach Hotel are less recorded in newspapers, with focus split between the various venues of an ever-growing tourist trade. Nonetheless, the Sea Beach Hotel did not sit idle. Its now 130 guest rooms—some had been repurposed over the years—were outfitted with telephones in April 1908 and a private phone exchange was located in the complex run by two operators. A few retail stores also opened in the hotel, including a small market, a barber shop, and a medical clinic. The year 1909 was even less remarkable but the Evening News reported that the hotel had another successful season when it closed in September. As in previous years, the hotel remained available in the off season for special events and as a dining and dance venue.

The new Casino as viewed from the gardens of the Sea Beach Hotel, c 1910.
1910  heralded more of the same, with regular and new conventions, conferences, and political meetings hosted alongside weddings, galas, and reunions. The hotel had evolved from a destination in itself to a venue at the beach where the excitement and focus were directed elsewhere. It reflected a changing time with tourists shifting from summer-long vacations to weekend and week-long getaways. From all accounts, the Sea Beach neither suffered nor thrived during its twilight years.  What it didn't do, however, was change. Most of the major improvements were done by 1905 and only smaller changes happened thereafter.

The Sea Beach Hotel with the Railroad Wharf in the background, c 1910.
[Covello & Covello – Colorized using DeOldify]
After several years of threats that a new hotel would open in the large lot to the east of the Sea Beach Hotel, one finally did arise on the lot of the Cottage City across from the Casino. The Casa del Rey,  the last major project overseen by Swanton, opened its doors on May 1, 1911. A rivalry immediately began between the two hotels, although the details are lacking. As a former business partner of Swanton, Leonard could only have felt personally betrayed. Yet rather than improving the Sea Beach Hotel, Leonard focused his efforts on improvements to the St. George Hotel. Despite the rivalry, the Sea Beach still did good business for the year and attracted many of its usual customers. The hotel even stayed open through the winter to make up for the closed St. George while it underwent renovations.

The Sea Beach Hotel fire as photographed in the morning of June 12, 1912. As can be seen, the front wing caught fire first and it slowly spread to the rest of the complex. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The two hotels faced off against each other across a largely vacant lot for less than a year before disaster at last struck once more, this time for good. At 3:30 in the morning on June 12, 1912, the Sea Beach Hotel caught fire in one of the rooms of the southern tower. The specific cause of the fire was never discovered and the first person to notice it was a fisherman in a boat offshore since the hotel had not yet opened for the season. Over the next four hours, the fire methodically moved through the building until finally reaching the back wall of the old Douglas House, which remained standing as a final monument to the structure. Only the detached ballroom built by Swanton and the laundry survived mostly unscathed. It was truly the end of an era. Leonard had $40,000 in insurance on the property, but the hotel was valued at $90,000.

A highly doctored postcard of the Sea Beach Hotel fire on June 12, 1912, adapting the 1903 photograph but adding people strolling on the beach and a decided lack of concern for the burning hotel.
From its humble beginnings almost forty years earlier, the Sea Beach Hotel had grown with the city and the beach resorts and adapted each time. Its end only a year after the opening of the Casa del Rey seems in retrospect to be appropriate—a Victorian palace had little place in a Modernist world. Salvaged artworks eventually found their way into the De Young Museum but the hotel itself was not replaced and for many decades only small structures of incomparable quality took its place on the shore of the Monterey Bay.

36.9644N, 122.0235W
515 Second Street, Santa Cruz

The final iteration of the Sea Beach Hotel was truly a monstrous structure that spanned the entirety of the section of land from Beach Street to Second Street and from Main Street to Drift Way. The heart of the old Douglas House was near 2nd Street while the rotunda of the Sea Beach sat ominously over the beach just east of Ideal Bar & Grill. The only remnant of the structure that survives is the hotel's south and east retaining walls, which run between the lower Beach Street entrance of the Casablanca Inn and the upper building, with the part visible to the public running up Main Street behind the Sawasdee By The Sea restaurant.

Citations & Credits: 
  • Beal, Richard A. and Chandra Moira. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: The Early Years—Never a Dull Moment. Pacific Group, 2003.
  • Gibson, Ross Eric. "Sea Beach Hotel and Its Gardens were Equal Landmarks." Santa Cruz Public Libraries—Local History Collection.
  • Santa Cruz Evening News.
  • Santa Cruz Surf.
  • Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel and Sentinel.