Santa Cruz County History - Architecture

Early History of the Carmilita Cottages: The Owners, Part 2
by Rick Hyman

The Owners, part 2

Timothy Dame

Roberts' ownership tenure of the Cottages property was extremely brief, selling it and Lot 7 behind it to fellow sea captain Timothy Dame on March 5, 1859, for $145. A month later Dame swapped the inner parcel (Lot 7) for the one adjacent to the Cottages lot to the south (Lot 4). The evenup exchange ($50 per parcel) was made with Dr. Kittredge, who had a large holding on Beach Hill where the current Hotel McCray was later constructed. This exchange resulted in Dame owning the entire half block south of the Roberts' holdings fronting Jefferson Street.

Dame was born in 1823 (or as late as 1827 according to some sources) in New Hampshire. He was an early '49er, arriving in California in November 1848 in search of gold. Shortly, he returned to the sea, captaining the schooners Mount Vernon and Queen of the West along the Central Coast. (11) In 1857, Dame ushered in a new era in Santa Cruz as captain of the new steamer Santa Cruz . Purchased by his employer, lime magnates Davis and Jordan, this ship reduced travel time between Santa Cruz and San Francisco from what could be thirty or more hours to seven or eight. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel,

Passengers can leave this place [i.e., Santa Cruz] at nine o'clock on Wednesday evening - take breakfast in the city, have all day to transact business and be home on Friday, at Two o'clock P.M. - thus consuming only 32 hours of day time, at a cost of $10.00 passage there and back. The same journey per stage will consume 60 hours working time, and the fare, including road expenses at Hotels, will be $28.00 ...

Not a more careful commander, or one better acquainted with the coast than Captain Dame can scarcely be found on the Pacific - consequently we have no hesitation in saying that a person is in no more danger on board the Santa Cruz than [in] a bed in his own bedroom. (12)

Invited on the maiden voyage was a reporter named Livingston from San Francisco's Alta California who wrote glowing accounts of both Santa Cruzes, the ship and the "village."(13) From the wharf at the foot of Washington Street the vessel embarked across the Bay to Monterey with group of soon sea-sick local dignitaries. Regular trips continued to be made among San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Monterey carrying a bounty of raw materials to export, including produce, lumber, leather, and of course lime, as well as passengers. Dame continued to pilot this run through the rest of the year.

But operating the steamer proved expensive, and Davis and Jordan traded it for land near Felton. Dame went on to captain Davis and Jordan's schooner, the Alfred Adams, brother-in-law John Chace's brig, the Wolcott, and the schooners Anna Anderson and Equity. Ready to depart Santa Cruz in March 1858, Dame noticed that lime in the Alfred Adams' hold had set fire to some cargo. Faced with a certain major conflagration if an attempt was made to unload the ship, exposing the smouldering cargo to air, Dame decided to head for his San Francisco destination. After two days at sea, keeping the hatches air tight, and one unsuccessful unloading attempt at the Sanf Francisco docks, the cargo was able to be discharged with minimal damage. The Alta California reported that "a remarkable instance of intrepidity and decision of character" (13a) as well as skill was displayed by the Captain in bringing this incident to a favorable end.

Dame's first marriage was to fourteen-year old Mary Isabella Liddell on June 1, 1856. (The marriage certificate claimed that she was sixteen.) Mary was the daughter of George and Elizabeth Liddell, born in Stafford, England on March 6, 1842, and one of ten children. Circa 1851 Elizabeth, Mary, and seven siblings followed George to San Francisco, taking six months to sail around the Horn. Mrs. Liddell became very ill on the trip. Mr. Liddell shortly moved to the north coast of Santa Cruz, where he established a lumber mill on what is now Liddell Creek. Later the widowed Mrs. Liddell operated a bath house on the bluff above the main Santa Cruz beach, where Terrace Court is today.

Mary and Timothy Dame lived on Jefferson Street in a what was termed a "cabin." Later deeds and court records all suggest that this Dame residence was on Lot 4, at the corner of what is now Second and Main Streets, and below Lot 8 (the Cottages property). But further evidence is necessary to completely rule out the possibility that the Dames lived on Lot 8, perhaps in a building still standing today. Even if the family did not then live on the Cottages property, Dame, as will be seen, was the original inhabitant of one of the current Carmelita Cottages. The Dames had two sons; Charles Elliot on April 1, 1859, and Alfred Herbert on March 30, 1861.

In 1863, Timothy Dame experienced legal problems, both marital and financial. Mrs. Dame complained, in a lawsuit filed on June 18, 1863, that her husband had committed adultery in February. Furthermore, she alleged that he contracted a loathsome venereal disease, and so she stopped cohabitating with him. (14) She requested an annulment, custody of the children, and the homestead and furniture. Dame denied the charges and also claimed that the complaint was defective and ambiguous because it did not say with whom he committed adultery or when. Mrs. Dame did not file an amended complaint as Judge McKee required, and the case was dismissed on October 17,1863.

Hugo Hihn

Meanwhile, on July 29,1863, John Arcan won a case against Dame in Judge W. Pope's court. Sheriff Charles Kemp was authorized to seize Dame's land to pay off the judgement. (15) The Cottages parcel (Lot 8) was sold at a Sheriffs auction on August 24, 1863, to Hugo F. Hihn for $164, the highest bid. Hihn received final title to Lot 8 on February 26, 1864, when the six months given to Dame to redeem his land lapsed. Hihn, brother to famous entrepreneur Frederick Hihn, is known for the Flatiron Building at Pacific Avenue and Front Street (site of the Plaza Bakery and the Teacup Restaurant, razed after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake), which he acquired from his brother in 1860.

Despite the divorce not being granted, Dame abandoned Mary and at least one son. As a sea captain, Dame alternately bedded down on board ship, in San Francisco, and in Santa Cruz. Where he lived in Santa Cruz immediately after early 1863 is unknown, but it was not at the family residence on Jefferson Street. This information is contained in Mrs. Dame's second filing for divorce on May 2, 1865. She alleged, supported by her mother's testimony, that Dame deserted her on March 12, 1863, and she had supported herself and the boys since then with the help of other family and friends. It may be that by the time of this new complaint the Dames had settled their affairs, since all she requested was a divorce and custody of the younger Alfred. A day earlier, the Dames, appearing together, had sold their land to Charles Williams, the local Wells Fargo agent and husband of Mary's sister Anne Elliot, for $50. (16) The case was referred to the Court Commissioner to take testimony and report back. Although Judge McKee denied the divorce again, it appears that the marriage remained in name only.

Mary's subsequent whereabouts and what became of the house are not exactly known. A year later, on June 2, 1866, Williams sold Lot 4 back to Captain Dame (solely) for $50. Perhaps Mary went elsewhere to obtain her divorce, because soon she apparently remarried. Her new partner was a fellow Englishman, Captain George John Fake of San Francisco, born in 1834. He purchased the Main Street lot below Thomas Johnson's Beach House in Santa Cruz on January 2, 1869. The couple had a daughter, Lucy, in 1868, who was evidently raised by her grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Liddell, after Mary died shortly thereafter. Captain Fake went on to marry Lena Seegar in 1872 in San Francisco. Lucy eventually married Alexander Cuthill and lived in Duncan Mills on the Russian River for many years. She died in Santa Rosa on November 22, 1959.

Alexander McDonald

On April 5, 1866, Hugo Hihn sold the Cottages parcel (Lot 8) to Alexander McDonald for $158. McDonald was a carpenter who immigrated to the United States from Canada. Later that year, Dame once again sold the adjoining parcel to the South (Lot 4), also to McDonald, for $50. The 1866 Foreman and Wright Official Map of Santa Cruz reflects McDonald's consolidated ownership of the lower half-block. It reveals new street names, which remain to this day: Jefferson Street became Main Street, and Water Street became Second Street. The Cottages parcel, together with the former "Lot 4", then became identified as No. 4 in Block 24. Measurements shifted from varas (1 vara = 33 inches) to chains (1 chain = 66 feet), with the combined lots' dimensions shown as 4.22 by 2.12 chains for an area of .898 acres.

George Tait

McDonald did not own the Cottages property very long. In November 1866, he agreed to sell to George Tait the northernmost 25-foot wide portion that bordered Roberts' property. The transaction was delayed for over a year. Finally, on March 3, 1868, Tait took title to a 50-foot wide lot adjacent to Roberts' for $100. This date marks the first time that the land which now contains the entire Carmelita Cottage complex (133-foot frontage) was partitioned.

Tait was born in Scotland sometime between 1831 and 1835 and was naturalized in Santa Cruz on October 5,1868. He was also a seaman. The day after purchasing the property, he mortgaged it to Josiah Green in return for borrowing $230 at one-half percent interest per month. He then built his house on what is now 321 Main Street (the site of the front two-story Carmelita Cottage). According to the Census, on June 17, 1870, he was residing there with his wife Elizabeth and their four children. Also, shown at the same address is another sea captain and his family: Levi Hannah, his wife (Agnes) Margaret, and two-year old son. (17) Margaret was Mary Dame's sister.

On July 27, 1870, the house completely burned down. Discovered at one a.m, the fire originated from a candle left burning on a serving table. The house was covered by insurance and so the mortgage was paid back. A subscription was immediately taken up and over $200 raised for the benefit of the homeless Tait family. (18)

Thomas V. Johnson

Soon afterward, Tait sold the charred property to Thomas Varley Johnson. The transaction was initially recorded on November 22, 1870, and rerecorded on January 4, 1871. The price was $800, $700 more than Tait paid, possibly indicating that some structure remained or was rebuilt on the lot after the fire. Johnson took out a mortgage on the property for $300 from the Santa Cruz Bank of Savings and Loan on that date and repaid it six months later.

Johnson, was born some fifty years earlier in England (reported dates of birth range from 1822 to 1826). He arrived in Santa Cruz with his son Charles W. and daughter Evalena in the late 1860s and worked as a tavern keeper at the San Lorenzo Saloon on Pacific Avenue. It advertised the choicest kinds of liquors, good billiard tables, and a "house for gentlemen." (19) In early 1873, Johnson sold the business to Mr. C.H. Bury, but was again listed as proprietor when it reopened as the Grand Central Saloon. Also, in 1869 Johnson purchased a building in which he apparently resided from Abel Mann for $1,225. It was located on a very small parcel on Main Street above the beach and Captain Fake's lot, adjacent to the Liddell House and opposite what is now First Street. The following year his daughter Evalena married Abel's son Albert. During their brief marriage, a son Charles was born. In August 1872, Johnson began running an advertisement to sell his well-known "Beach House" at a reasonable price as "the proprietor wishes to engage in other business." (20) On January 22, 1873, Johnson briefly sold this property to Mary Peck for $3,000, $500 of which he loaned her by taking a mortgage on it. He soon repurchased it for $2,800 on September 10, 1873. The Beach House burned down shortly thereafter in December 1873. According to the Sentinel,

The building was entirely burned. Mr. Johnson estimates his loss in building, furniture and fixtures at $2,500. The property had been insured up to a few days before the fire, when the policy was allowed to lapse. Mr. William Elliot, who had kept a liquor saloon in the building, suspended business the day before the fire. The place had been robbed several times recently and the fire is justly believed to be the work of incendiaries and thieves. (21)

The building was rebuilt as the Ocean View Hotel, which apparently closed down around 1880. (22) On October 15, 1881, the Johnsons mortgaged the property for $2,345 to Michael Leonard. On January 9, 1883, Johnson sold the structure to Alfred Henry Douglas, an artist from San Francisco, for $3,100 and paid off the mortgage. The Hotel became known as the Douglas House. It was later slightly moved and incorporated into the grand Sea Beach Hotel, which then burned down in 1912.

May Anne (Hutchinson) Johnson

T. V. Johnson married the much younger Mary Anne Hutchinson, (who later became a relation to Captain Dame). The wedding occurred at Thomas Week's residence on May 6, 1873, officiated by Reverend P. Y. Cool. This celebration followed a month after daughter Evalena's second marriage, to John M. Matthews. The Matthews had three boys; the youngest was named Varley.

Mary was born in Monstreven, Ireland, in 1839 (or as late as 1846 depending on source). In her youth she was a choir singer. She came to Santa Cruz with her brother Thomas Hutchinson. According to her obituary, she was a woman of strong character and personality and frankness. (23) In the l880 Census she was listed as a dressmaker. Either she was not much of a writer, mail got lost, or T.V. kept tight reins over her because he received a frantic letter from her sister inquiring about Mary's well-being. Written on July 12, 1878, from Margaret Barton of Boonton, New Jersey, the letter refers to Mary's poor health. It queries whether she was even still alive, because Mary had not written since New Year's. (24) Obviously, Mary recovered nicely as she lived another forty-two years at the Cottages. She did suffer an accident on December 2, 1890, when she fell from a step of her house. She sustained a very painful shoulder dislocation, which was ably attended to by Dr. F. E. Morgan, assisted by Dr. C. L. Anderson. (25)

Photo of cottage at 321 Main Street
Current view of 321 Main Street.
Note oval Landmark Award plaque at left of door.

In 1872 or 1873 Johnson built the 22 (now 321) Main Street home that still stands. It was offered for sale in 1874, "cheap, for cash," but was not purchased. By 1888 (the year that the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps first covered Beach Hill) the house had been doubled to its present size of approximately 960 square feet. On April 28, 1877, Mary Anne had claimed the property as her homestead, citing a value of $3,500. The document also suggested that there could have been more than one dwelling unit on the property, as the term "dwelling houses" was used. (26) On December 3, 1878, the Johnsons mortgaged the property to a Mrs. Perkins in order to borrow $400. Terms were one-and-a-quarter percent interest per month for five years, but the money was repaid by November 19, 1879. Then shortly thereafter, on January 16, 1880, they borrowed $200 from Martha Wilson, again secured by the cottages property. Also at one-and-a-quarter percent interest, the loan was repaid on January 11, 1883, right after the hotel was sold.

T.V. Johnson continued on as a barkeeper, working for Michael Leonard, who owned a liquor store on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Cooper Street, across from the Courthouse. By 1896, T. V. had likely retired, being listed by the Voting Registrar simply as a "Gentleman." He died on January 2, 1903. He was reported to have gone outside of his home to the outhouse when he fell to the ground, "striken by death." (27) He is buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery (Santa Cruz).

Upon her husband's passing, Mary Anne gained sole title to the property at 22 Main Street by virtue of her homestead. She lived in their house until her death in 1920. She inherited half of T.V.'s estate, worth $1305.16, with his son Charles and his by-then-deceased daughter's four sons and husband sharing the other $652.58.

Timothy Dame (Retired and remarried)

Meanwhile, returning to Timothy Dame's story, accounts indicate that he retired from the sea in the 1860s. On July 15, 1868, he purchased the remainder of McDonald's holdings on Main Street for $208. On March 21, 1870, he borrowed $200 from Jose Beltancourt by mortgaging the property. At year's end, Dame sold the portion of his property at the corner of Second and Main Streets for the third and final time (what had been mapped as Lot 4 on the old Snyder survey). John Ingalls paid him $500 for the property and homestead considerations, and Dame in turn paid off his loan from Beltancourt. In selling off only the corner lot, Dame retained possession of the entire remainder of the property that would house the Carmelita Cottages.

Photo of Dame Cottage
Garden party goers posing at the Dame Cottage, 315 Main.
(Photograph courtesy of Jack Howe)

He soon built the one-story, 625 square foot house that still stands at 315 Main Street. Newspapers found during renovation pasted to the inside of the single rough redwood walls have early 1872 dates. However, assuming Dame had once more been living on the corner lot (#4), the precise date of his relocation next door to the Carmelita Cottages property remains unknown. (28) Also undiscovered is when the rear house on the property (the Pine Cottage) was constructed, but a structure was there by 1888. The summer 1870 Census shows Dame with son Charles residing at an unspecified location on Beach Hill and possessing $150 worth of real estate. The former captain was employed loading and unloading cargo at the Powder Mill wharf at the foot of Main Street. Also, for a period in early 1875, Dame lived at Año Nuevo working as a "wharfinger" (wharf manager). He also worked in the 1870s and 1880s at the IXL lime quarry in Felton, living there on a "ranch" part, but not all, of the time until his death. (29)

Dame made a memorable appearance at Lehmkuhl's bath house on the Santa Cruz beach on June 25, 1875. Imagine sixty or so people feasting on 150 pounds of fish chowder listening to tales of four grizzled sea captains. Dame recounted skippering the first vessel to dock at Cowell's wharf and stories of shipwrecks on the beach twenty years earlier. (30)

In 1877, Dame was once again faced with the possibility of losing the Cottages property. On April 27,1875, he had borrowed $150 plus interest from the local chapter (Madrona Grove #21) of the United Ancient Order of Druids. This loan was due in one year and secured by the Cottages property. When he failed to repay, the Madrona Grove trustees filed suit. However, he then paid and the case was dismissed.

Ellen (Hutchinson Thomson) Dame and daughter Lottie

On July 25,1881, Dame remarried. His new wife was Mrs. Johnson's sister -- Ellen (Hutchinson) Thomson, also a widow and a mother. Ellen, too, was born in Monstrevan, Ireland, in 1837 (or as late as 1845 according to various sources). She immigrated to the United States when she was about fifteen years old, settled in New York, and married Thomas Thomson. In 1871, they had an only child, Lottie. After her husband's death, sometime around 1877, Ellen moved to Santa Cruz with her young daughter. Aunt Margaret Barton's July 1878 letter mentioned above contained a "Happy Birthday" greeting to young Lottie. Lottie attended Mission Hill School in Santa Cruz. In the 1880 Census, niece Lottie, but not Ellen, is shown as living at the Johnsons'.

On their wedding day, Ellen Thomson Dame purchased from her new husband his Main Street property for $1,000. The marriage lasted only five years. Captain Dame passed away on May 19, 1886 of apoplexy at the IXL lime works in Felton. The funeral proceeded from the Beach Hill cottage to the burial plot in the Odd Fellows Cemetery (Santa Cruz).

On July 28,1886, a deed was recorded on behalf of Mrs. Dame in which the City of Santa Cruz quit-claimed title to her a portion of the Cottages property. Thus, twenty years after the Congressional authorization mentioned above, any lingering doubt about the property's title due to the history of transactions dating back to the pre-Statehood era was cleared up. Mother and daughter continued to live at 28 Main Street, presumably in the front house. On September 21, 1889, Ellen deeded to her daughter Lottie a one-half-interest in the property. This transaction marked the beginning of the longest single ownership tenure of the Carmelita Cottages. Between 1888 and 1892 an addition was built on the back unit .

This article is a revision of the article originally published in Every Structure Tells a Story: How to Research the History of a Property in Santa Cruz County. Santa Cruz, CA, Santa Cruz County Historical Trust, 1990. Copyright 1990 Santa Cruz County Historical Trust. Revised material copyright 1996 Rick Hyman. Reproduced by permission of the Santa Cruz County Historical Trust and the author.

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