History Pages: 58 - The 1890s Santa Cruz beachfront

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1890 Sea-Foam-hotel.png

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.

1886 Seaside-Liddell-Douglas.png

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.

1893 natatorium.png

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, C. F. Miller 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.


Next: History Pages: 59 - 1895 Venetian Water Carnival