Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living

The Powder Works Village
by Barry Brown

Map of the Powder Works Village
Map of the California Powder Works Village
Map Courtesy of The Museum of Art & History @
The McPherson Center, Santa Cruz, CA

This hand-drawn map from 1863 is the earliest known view of the Powder Works Village which was the social and early administrative center of the Powder Works. Close examination of this map shows the first Powder Works Office (see Historical Marker #22) standing in back of the Superintendent's House (now Paradise Park's Office). The Village also included a two-story Boarding House, a Lodging House, a Barn, a Stone Quarry and several Company Houses which were rented to company employees such as the two seen facing the Superintendent's house. The picture below, c.1900, shows the Superintendent's house and one of the old worker’s houses directly across the street. (see Historical Marker #23)

Photograph of the Superintendent's House at the CPW
The Superintendent's House at the CPW
Photograph from the Paradise Park
Masonic Club Collection

Of special interest on the map is the China House. Chinese workers made up almost one-quarter of the workforce at the Powder Works during the 1860s and early 1870s. As was the custom at that time, the Chinese workers were segregated and ate, slept, and socialized separately from the rest of the Powder Works' employees.

Eventually, more houses and support buildings were constructed, including a one-room schoolhouse for the Village children. The community eventually became its own voting precinct, and by 1885, the inhabitants were so numerous that they petitioned the County of Santa Cruz to become incorporated into their own municipality. The County rejected the petition but the community continued to think of itself as separate and unique.

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