History Pages: 58 - The 1890s Santa Cruz beachfront
For a table of contents, see History pages.
The 1890s Santa Cruz beachfront had become the county's major tourist destination, even before Fred Swanton began to create the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. At that time, however, the tourism zone began at the Railroad wharf with the Sea Foam House (photo at right). Beyond and above the roof of the Sea Foam can be seen the zone's flagship - the expansive Sea Beach Hotel. To the right of the Sea Foam, streetcar and railroad tracks can be seen curving around the base of Beach Hill, passing the Liddell bathhouse (no Beach Street yet!). Between tracks and beach is the original pedestrian boardwalk - when it was actually made of boards. Furthest right is the beginning of the railroad wharf, where a rail car can be seen.
Between the Sea Foam and Sea Beach were a pair of older resorts - Seaside Home and Liddell House (left). Liddell House included the long white bathhouse seen down the hill at streetcar/boardwalk level.
With help from Beach Hill neighborhood history authority Rick Hyman, an accurate chronology of the Sea Beach Hotel development was added to The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture (4th ed. 2023). In the 1886 photo above, Douglas House can be seen at far right. The Sea Beach did not achieve its final form until ~1890, with the Douglas House building attached as a rear wing.
To the right of the Sea Beach was the Natatorium (photo right), a huge indoor sea-water swimming pool built by a partnership between two bathhouse competitors, Miller, C. F. and the Leibbrandt brothers. Farther along the beachfront to the right of the Natatorium (just visible in the photo) were the two older bathhouses of Miller (Neptune) and Leibbrandt (Dolphin). Note that in those days - before Beach Street and parking lots - beachgoers drove their buggies right out on the beach.
- For more on the Sea Foam and Sea Beach, see Panorama 4: Steinegger Bird's Eye View of Santa Cruz, 1888-89
- For a better photo of the Sea Beach Hotel and another view of the Natatorium, see History Pages: 50 - Beach Hill: 1870-99
- For a photo of the Dolphin, see History Pages: 29 - How the trains came to Santa Cruz (part 3)
- The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture (4th ed. 2023), chapter one. Sea Beach Hotel: item 37; Seaside Home and Liddell House: item 36.
- For more on Beach Hill's transformation into a tourist destination, see: Frank Perry et al. "Notes on the History of Santa Cruz Wharves", in the MAH Online History Journal