How Places in Santa Cruz Got Their Names: The Quiet Years

Big changes were approaching Santa Cruz, but the first half of the 1870s were relatively quiet.


The first half of the 1870s were relatively quiet in Santa Cruz. Big changes in transportation were approaching, but the geography of our end of Monterey Bay once again slowed the process. The first San Francisco-to-San Jose railroad was completed in 1864. The first transcontinental rail line was completed in 1869. The Southern Pacific line advanced right up to the county line at Pajaro in 1871. But there it stopped, due in part to a collapse of silver prices and railroad investments, resulting in a general economic slowdown known as the Panic of 1873, or the Long Depression.

Since Santa Cruz had neither silver nor railroads, the depression’s effects were not too severe and life went on. While waiting for the train to arrive, Santa Cruzans continued to travel and ship freight by road and ship. Regular stagecoaches and freight wagons ran “over the hill” to San Jose, both from Santa Cruz through Scotts Valley and also out of Soquel.

Then as now, driving over the Santa Cruz Mountains can be a challenge. Some of those early stagecoach drivers became semi-legendary figures, like cross-dressing Charley Parkhurst, who drove the Mt. Madonna route to San Juan Bautista. Wharves were in operation up and down the county coastline, including the new California Powder Company wharf at the base of Beach Hill.

A few new names on the signs date from this period. Up on Mission Hill, Azores-native Jackson Sylvar opened a saloon in 1872 (with residence upstairs) on the corner of High Street and what is now Sylvar Street. At that time, there was no street in front – just an open rectangle. Sylvar was one of the early immigrants to our area from the Azores Islands, which belong to Portugal. Nearly all of the Portuguese families in the county came originally from the Azores.

Sylvar’s saloon was later moved around the corner onto High Street, where it still stands (extensively remodeled) but, in its original corner location, a near neighbor was Francisco Alzina.

The Alzina house was built c.1850, and is believed to be the oldest wood-frame house in Santa Cruz. Alzina was another islander, from Minorca – a Mediterranean possession of Spain. Arriving in Monterey by sea in 1846, Alzina was one of the many who eventually found their ways to the north end of the bay.

Alzina’s father-in-law Juan Gonzales was one of the original residents of Mission Santa Cruz. Alas, I searched in vain for the name Gonzales on a sign in Santa Cruz (the street in Watsonville is probably named for a different Gonzales).

The Westside was growing, too. At what’s now the corner of Mission and King, the Pope House was becoming a popular haven for out-of-town visitors.

I’m guessing, however, that its popularity increased greatly after 1875, when the old tannery behind it (formerly owned by Richard Kirby) finally shut down. At the furthest reaches of “town”, dairyman L. K. Baldwin built a new house in 1873. Today’s Baldwin Street, a couple of blocks west of Bay, runs along the former eastern edge of that property.

You can see from the picture that Baldwin didn't have a lot of neighbors out there at that time. The location was not too far from downtown and also close to his dairy ranch, but probably smelled a lot better.


  • Chase, John L. Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture (3rd ed. 2005)
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names (2nd ed. 2008)
  • Elliott, W. W. Santa CruzCounty Illustrations 1879 (indexed ed. 1997)
  • Rowland, Leon. Santa Cruz: The Early Years (1980)

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