Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living

A Powder Works Home
by Barry Brown

Photograph of a Powder Works Home
A Powder Works Home
Photograph from the Watson Family Collection


Photograph of a Typical Parlor in a Powder Works Home
A Typical Parlor in a Powder Works Home
Photograph from the Paradise Park
Masonic Club Collection

When the California Powder Works began construction on the flats of the lower San Lorenzo Valley in 1863, the need for worker housing quickly became apparent. Employees found traveling to the Powder Works from Santa Cruz and Branciforte difficult in winter, so the CPW decided to build rental housing for the more essential employees. Along with these men came their families, and with the addition of single men in the Boarding house and the Chinese in their own dwelling, there developed a large and diverse community. The photograph above, displays one of two identical homes built in the 1860s, one of which still stands at 214 Keystone Way. (see Historical Marker #23) All these houses had wood stoves for cooking and hand-pumped water in the kitchen. Kerosene lamps would have been used for light and fireplaces for heating. The wires in the top picture date this photo to the mid 1890s when electricity came to the Works. Take note of the white picket fence separating the house from the road. Heavy wagon traffic made it dangerous for the children who lived in the Village, so fences were needed for their safety. (A replica of that fence has been installed next to the Park Office and performs the same protective function for children today.)

The photograph below shows the two Watson children, Gladys (4) and Ethel (3), who lived in this house. These children would have been typical of the children who lived and attended the one-room schoolhouse located where the Paradise Park Social Hall now stands. The school was in operation for 35 years but was forced to close a year after the great explosion of 1898. The County declared the Powder Works Village unsafe and required that all still living there move out.

Photograph of Gladys and Ethel Watson
Gladys and Ethel Watson
Photograph from the Watson Family Collection

>>Return to Home Page of The California Powder Works

>>Forward to The Powder Works Village

View similarly tagged articles:

dynamite, powder works, San Lorenzo River


It is our continuing goal to make available a selection of articles on various subjects and places in Santa Cruz County. Certain topics, however, have yet to be researched. In other cases, we were not granted permission to use articles. The content of the articles is the responsibility of the individual author. It is the Library's intent to provide accurate local history information. However, it is not possible for the Library to completely verify the accuracy of individual articles obtained from a variety of sources. If you believe that factual statements in a local history article are incorrect and can provide documentation, please contact the Webmaster.