Panorama 3: Bird's Eye View of Santa Cruz, 1877

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This article is about the third of six Panoramic views of Santa Cruz, 1870-1907. For a table of contents, see History pages.

1877 Birds Eye Santa Cruz.png

The image at right is a screenshot from the OAC online version, which includes a note that the image is a "Clipping from a Swedish-language periodical".

About a year after Leon Trousset painted the panoramic view of Santa Cruz now proudly displayed at Santa Cruz MAH, an anonymous artist created a new “birds eye” view of our town. This 1877 effort, with a viewpoint similar to the 1870 view previously examined in this blog, was published in Europe. Like the earlier “birds eye”, it’s now reproduced for online viewing at Bancroft Library’s OAC website. You can also find it on the back end-covers of Bruce MacGregor’s fine book, The Birth of California Narrow Gauge (2003).

As you might expect, not a whole lot changed in the approximately one year elapsed between the Trousset painting and this newer view, but there are one or two new things for us to find. Also, the “birds eye” perspective shows many features not visible from Trousset’s riverside hilltop. A word of caution, however – this less-meticulous 1877 effort contains many inaccuracies.

Compared to the 1870 view, the most noticeable changes are in the area of today’s Municipal Wharf. In 1870, there were two wharves and no railroad tracks. By 1876, the “railroad” wharf and the Santa Cruz RR tracks were added. One year later, in 1877, there’s a fourth wharf – the curving “cross” wharf that connected the still-new railroad wharf on the left with the older California Powder Works wharf on the right. The "S" shape of the cross wharf can be seen in the detail below. In 1884, both the powder wharf and the cross wharf were removed, so this is the only one of the six panorama views that shows it.

1877-4 wharves.png

Another railroad peculiarity is visible in the 1877 view. To recap the track-laying chronology: 1875 - Santa Cruz and Felton RR built the railroad wharf and tracks leading out onto it, initially traveling down Pacific Avenue. 1876 - Santa Cruz RR completed its own line into town along the beachfront, connecting with the... 1876 - ...rerouted SC&F line on Chestnut Street, coming through the new Mission Hill tunnel. 1877 - You can see that the Santa Cruz RR tracks (left-right) cross the Santa Cruz Felton RR tracks at a right angle, at the entrance to the railroad wharf. Because the SCR route along the beach made it impossible to turn directly onto the wharf, SCR trains traveling west would have had to continue past the wharf to where the two lines merged (also visible), then switch tracks and back up onto the wharf. Another option was to continue up Chestnut Street to the SCR yard, where a turntable was built (first seen on 1883 Sanborn map). 1884+ - A third possibility is that the SCR may not have been allowed to use the SC&F wharf at all – a situation that, if true, probably didn't change until the SC, SC&F and SPC railroads were all acquired by Southern Pacific in the 1880s.

There’s a drawing that clearly shows both the crossing of the rail lines and the curving “cross” wharf, in W. W. Elliott’s Santa Cruz County Illustrations: with Historical Sketch (1879 book). The 1997 indexed edition, published by Santa Cruz MAH, is especially useful. In that edition, the rail/wharf drawing is found on page f70.

A question: the 1877 view shows two separate rail lines going out onto the railroad wharf: one for trains and another for streetcars. The Elliott drawing shows only one rail line: Which one is accurate? I tend to believe that the 1877 view is correct in this detail. The streetcar track would have been the original SC&F line coming down Pacific Avenue, which was taken over by the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad after completion of the railroad tunnel under Mission Hill. A horsecar is shown on that track, not far from the wharf. The separate railroad line shown is the newer one coming from Chestnut. Oddly, though, no rails are shown on the connecting wharf. The whole reason for building the connector was to carry rails over to the California Powder Company wharf.

Other oddities: when adding watercolors to the 1877 print (from a woodcut), the artist got carried away with the blue, making it appear that – after passing the railroad wharf - the SCR tracks run in the bed of Santa Cruz Creek. Also, the woodcut artist failed to notice that the creek comes from Neary Lagoon (the 1870 view shows creek and lagoon more accurately). Nearby, a warehouse apparently sits atop one of the railroad lines, and a horsecar track wanders off into a field and disappears.

1877 Davis & Cowell wharf.png

The detail at right is from the far left of the panorama, and shows the Davis & Cowell wharf - oldest of the four - with its tram line emerging from the warehouse on the bluff above. Although I've seen no photographs of that end of the building, it seems plausible that this is an accurate portrayal of the tram line's upper end. Barrels of lime were brought down Bay Street on huge wagons to be stored temporarily in the warehouse, and from there they were transferred to tram cars for the ride down the steeply-sloping wharf to waiting ships. Since the lime was sensitive to moisture, the barrels would have spent as little time out in the open as possible. The tram line was added sometime between the earlier 1870 view and 1877, and the top section of the wharf realigned to accommodate the tram tracks.

Elihu Anthony’s original 1849 bridge (first bridge in Santa Cruz) was built to convey Bay Street/West Cliff across Santa Cruz Creek from the end of Pacific Ave. to the first wharf (the 1849 “potato chute”, also built by Anthony and replaced by Davis & Jordan/Cowell). The 1877 view shows that a much taller trestle was built in 1875-6 to allow trains to pass under. That span was replaced, in turn, by the current wood truss design in 1918.

One more note: the only still-existing structure shown (although not positioned accurately or drawn very well) in the 1877 view is the two-story S. J. Lynch house, built that year near the west end of the railroad trestle. The handsome early-Victorian house has been preserved as a B&B.

There are two places around town where physical copies of this 1877 view can be seen. One is a large print at Santa Cruz City Hall, on the wall in room 10. The other is an even larger mural on a wall in the courtyard of the Tannery Arts Center. The Tannery mural has an added key, similar to the one included with the 1870 lithograph. The key proudly notes that the oldest of the surviving tannery buildings dates from the Jacob Kron tannery existing on that site in 1877.