Santa Cruz County History - Places

West Cliff -- Millionaires' Row
by Ross Eric Gibson

Large Estates Once Lined Water's Edge

At the turn of the century, Santa Cruz was called the "Newport of the Pacific," because the row of mansions along West Cliff Drive resembled Newport, R.I.

West Cliff Drive between the 1893 railroad depot and the lighthouse was once known as Millionaires' Row. Each block was a private estate stretching to the cliff. Cliff Drive was only a footpath in the 1880s, with Lighthouse Avenue serving as the main road.

For a walking tour of Millionaires' Row, start at the Ramada Inn, on the hill above the old depot. This was Blackburn Terrace, purchased in 1893 by widow Eleanor S. Jarboe of San Francisco. She built a large home with rambling porches and named it Concha Del Mar, or Shell of the Sea. She stayed there with son Paul, a San Francisco attorney, and daughter Kate Eleanor, who wrote several books in Santa Cruz. Paul established Jarboe Links as the county's first golf course; it was bounded by Lighthouse, Bay, and National streets.

Heading south, across Howe Strut Bridge, is a two-story villa built by contractor and wharf builder Sedgewick Lynch in 1877. His $12,000 mansion was designed locally by John Morrow and features four enameled cast iron mantels.

The first construction on West Cliff was the 1849 wharf at the end of Bay Street, which became the Limeworks Wharf in 1853. The limeworks warehouse stretched along Bay Street to the cliff, blocking direct access to West Cliff Drive. In 1940, the warehouse was shortened, and West Cliff was extended. Today the limeworks site is occupied by an elegant Queen Anne/Shingle Style apartment complex.

The block between Gharkey and Santa Cruz streets was the 1887 estate of Henry Warren, a Methodist bishop whose wife, Elizabeth Iliff, was heir to a Colorado cattle fortune. Bishop Warren saw this as a summer home capable of hosting church conferences, socials, and youth retreats.

He named the estate "Epworth-By-The-Sea," after the birthplace of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The house was fashioned after Hotel Del Monte, with grounds by the Del Monte's renowned landscape architect, Rudolph Ulrich.

The estate was divided between Warren's two children in 1905, and son William built a solid concrete Mission Revival Style home, designed by William Weeks, next door. It is known today as the Darling House.

The block between Santa Cruz and Monterey streets was purchased by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the mother of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, after her husband's death in 1891. Phoebe Hearst was well known as an international patron of the arts, as the founder of the Parent Teachers Association, and a benefactor of the University of California. Her planned villa never developed beyond a "Hearst Grove" of Monterey pines. After her death in 1919, two plans for a Spanish-style luxury hotel were pursued without success.

Three blocks on both sides of Manor Street once made up William Dingee's Cliff Manor estate. He was the "Cement King" who in 1905 established the plant in Davenport. Greenhouses and gardener's quarters were built along Lighthouse Avenue, and he brought mature plantings from his San Mateo estate to turn the site into a park. His Moorish manor was never built, but the Spanish Little Villa is at the corner of Monterey and Manor streets.

South of the park is the 1893 Queen Anne mansion designed by Edward Van Cleeck for trolley car magnate James McNeil. Its name, Rutherglen Terrace, means roaring cliff in Scottish, and Scottish motifs are found throughout the mansion's design.

Next to it once stood the 1887 J.A. McGuire Victorian, where Dingee lived while waiting for Cliff Manor to be built. When Francis Davis bought the house in 1912, he had it moved to the corner of Gharkey and Lighthouse Avenue. In its place he built a Mediterranean style villa designed by Chester Miller.

Next is the shrine for the Oblates of Saint Joseph, which also owns Villa Davis and Rutherglen Terrace.

In 1887, Lighthouse Field was Phelan Park, with Eastlake cottages scattered throughout its forested grounds amid grazing deer. James Duval Phelan ran his estate as a bohemian retreat for California artists and writers such as Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, Gertrude Atherton, Joaquin Miller and Isadora Duncan. Phelan was called the "California Medici" for his support of the arts.

This article originally appeared in the San Jose Mercury News, August 2, 1994, p. 1B. Copyright 1994 Ross Eric Gibson. Reprinted with the permission of Ross Eric Gibson.

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