Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living



The Steam Mills
by Barry Brown

Photograph from the Covered Bridge Showing Steam Mill #1
View of Steam Mill #1 from the Covered Bridge
Photograph Courtesy of Special Collections
UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA


The California Powder Works had two Steam Mills which powered various operations on both sides of the San Lorenzo River. Steam was always used at the Powder Works to provide ancillary power when water from the flume wasn’t available; it also delivered heat to several of the manufacturing sites. Large pipes, used to distribute the steam, ran through the Covered Bridge leaving holes in the front and back just below the roof line. Steam Mill #1, constructed in the early 1860s, was the first steam mill to be built at the Powder Works. In this old photograph to the right, looking through the Covered Bridge into Section 4, you can just see the edge of the old Mill on the right (where the house at 615 St. Augustine sits today). Note the hole for the steam-pipe.

Photograph of the Covered Bridge and Steam Mill #2
The Covered Bridge and Steam Mill #2
Photograph from the Paradise Park
Masonic Club Collection



Steam Mill #2 was located on the west side of the San Lorenzo River in Section 1 where Paradise Park's Shuffleboard Courts are now. The large concrete slab furthest from the road is where the boilers once stood. It is believed that the second mill was constructed, in part, to supply steam power to drive the new electric generator that provided lighting for nighttime operations. The boilers were originally heated with wood fires but were later converted to oil-fired heating as petroleum became available in Santa Cruz. The picture below, taken around the turn of the 20th century, shows five horses pulling a tank car delivering oil to one of the steam mills.


Photograph of Horses Delivering Oil to a Steam Mill
Horses Delivering Oil to a Steam Mill
Photograph from the William Wulf Collection


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View similarly tagged articles:

dynamite, powder works, San Lorenzo River

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