History Pages: 17 - Lime and Wine

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Although the Franciscan padres were long gone by the 1850s, the Mission began many agricultural and industrial activities which evolved into industries. We’ve already learned a bit about the grist mill and tannery. Another was lime-making. The padres found plenty of limestone around Santa Cruz and knew how to build the special ovens, called kilns, to extract lime from the raw stone. Lime was a valuable product with many uses. Leather tanning and soap-making were two of the earliest, but demand increased sharply when Californians began to build with brick. Lime was the essential ingredient in the mortar which held the bricks together and in the plaster that often covered the interior walls. Lime was also used to make whitewash, a much cheaper (at that time) alternative to paint.

The first commercial-scale manufacturer of lime in Santa Cruz was the Davis & Jordan Lime and Cement Company. Partners Isaac Davis and Albion Jordan shipped their first barrels of lime in 1853, from their lime works located at what is today the main entrance to UCSC.

UCSC main entrance passes lime works structures

Davis & Jordan built a new road directly south to the coast, originally known appropriately as Lime Kiln Road, which became today’s Bay Street. The company also bought and improved Anthony’s wharf.

The original wharf was more like a chute, sloping sharply down from the bluff. On old maps, the beach below was much narrower than it is today and the chute/wharf extended out over the water. Jordan stayed in Santa Cruz long enough to have a Westside street named for him, but in 1865 sold his share of the business to Henry Cowell. Cowell took over sole ownership from Davis in 1889. Davis Street was later joined to Escalona Drive and took its name.

Cardiff House on the UCSC campus

Only a year before selling out to Cowell, Jordan and his wife built a home on the company property, near the lime works. That home also passed to Cowell and survives on the UCSC campus, known today as Cardiff House.

In those olden days before grocery stores, most area residents were involved in agriculture, at least with a kitchen garden out back. The first attempt at commercial-scale agriculture was the cattle-raising of the Mission and, later, the ranchos. The geography of Santa Cruz, however, didn’t lend itself well to that activity. The padres also began the growing of wheat to make flour in their mill on Arroyo Santa Cruz. Some of the early immigrants we've already met, like Joseph Majors, took up wheat growing and/or milling. Other types of grain were grown, not just for food, but as raw material for early whisky distillers like Isaac Graham.

"Ben Lomond Mountain" on a USGS map

In the 1850s, another Mission crop became important – grapes for making wine. Scotland is not the first country that comes to mind in a discussion of wine, but one of our county’s first commercial vintners was a Scot named John Burns. Burns, with a partner named I.C. Willson, found some suitable land on the western slopes of the coastal mountain ridge he named Ben Lomond. The Scottish word "ben" means "mountain", so today's name "Ben Lomond Mountain" is redundant.

The name of the mountain community where Burns grew his grapes, Bonny Doon, is also attributed by some sources to Burns, but it appears to be a later invention from the 1880s, when the community name Ben Lomond was transferred to the lumber town on the San Lorenzo River formerly known as Pacific Mills. A drive through the area shows that some of the later street-namers picked up on the Scottish flavor. Other vintners soon discovered the sunny mountain slopes, and the local wine industry begun by Burns continues today.

Next: History Pages: 17 - Antebellum