Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living



The William C. Peyton Mansion
by Barry Brown

Photograph of the William C. Peyton Mansion
The William C. Peyton Mansion
Courtesy of Special Collections, UC Santa Cruz

The mansion to the left, was built by William Charles Peyton, third son of Bernard and Estelle Peyton. William, born in 1868, graduated from U. C. Berkeley in 1887. He then returned to the Powder Works to work for his father as Assistant Superintendent. While here, he invented "Peyton Powder," a version of smokeless powder for small arms, along with an hydraulic machine which produced smokeless cannon powder of remarkable quality and consistency.

He married Anna Ridgley du Pont, one of the daughters of the du Pont explosives dynasty of Wilmington, Delaware, in July of 1894. The Peytons and du Ponts had been associates as early as 1868 when the DuPont Corporation purchased a financial interest in the California Powder Works.

The mansion was built in the Queen Ann style so popular in the United States between 1880 and 1910 and represented the full exuberance and wealth of the Victorian Age. The house was painted with multiple complementary colors in accordance with the fashion of the day and contrasted sharply with its all-white neighbor. By 1914 when the Powder Works closed, the mansions had been abandoned.

Photograph of the Peyton Mansions
The Peyton Mansions
Courtesy of Special Collections, UC Santa Cruz
Photograph of the William C. Peyton Mansion
The William C. Peyton Mansion
Photograph from the Paradise Park
Masonic Club Collection

When the Freemasons bought the property ten years later in 1924, the buildings were still there, forlorn and empty. Groups of young people from the Park would walk up to the old ruins in the evening to explore, telling ghost stories along the way. As can be seen from the picture to the left, abandoned Queen Anns made perfect haunted houses. Sadly, both mansions became hazards and had to be torn down in the early 1930's. Interestingly, most of the timber was recycled and used to build other homes nearby.



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dynamite, powder works, San Lorenzo River

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