Santa Cruz County, nestled in California’s central coast, is home to beautiful beaches, towering redwoods, and a rich history reflected in its stunning architecture. Among these architectural treasures are several historic mansions, each with its own unique story and ghostly legends. This article delves into the fascinating history and architectural splendor of a number of Historic Mansions of Santa Cruz County.
Mangels House: A Victorian Summer Marvel
The Mangels House, a Victorian summer mansion located in the Aptos hills, was constructed between 1872 and 1888 by Claus Mangels. Born in 1832 in the kingdom of Hanover before Germany became a country, Mangels migrated to the U.S. in his teenage years1. He established the Bay Sugar Refining Company in San Francisco along with his brother-in-law Claus Spreckels and Peter Spreckels. The three families prospered, constructing grand houses and founding several businesses.
The Mangels summer ranch house, built in 1888, is a clear example of Carpenter’s Gothic architectural style1. Constructed from clear heart redwood from the Loma Prieta Mill, the two-story mansion features 15 rooms, including 10 bedrooms, two parlors, a dining room, a card room, a kitchen, and a butler’s pantry. The house is still intact today, with minor alterations over the years.
Golden Gate Villa: Queen Anne’s Legacy
The Golden Gate Villa on Beach Hill in Santa Cruz above the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, is a Queen Anne style house. It was built in 1891 for Major Frank McLaughlin, a mining engineer and California politician. The house was designed by San Francisco architect Thomas J. Welsh. This historic mansion has hosted notable guests, including Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Edison.
The Golden Gate Villa epitomizes the Queen Anne style with its intricate details and grandeur. This architectural style, popular in the late Victorian era, is characterized by asymmetry, rich ornamentation, and a variety of textures and materials.
A.J. Hinds House: A Victorian Gem
The Hinds House, a historic building in Downtown Santa Cruz, was constructed in 1888 and 1889 by Alfred J. Hinds and his wife Sarah. Known as Colonel Alfred J. Hinds, he was a successful businessman, active in the California Republican Party, and one of the first trustees of the Santa Cruz Public Library.
The Hinds House is a remarkable example of the Stick-Eastlake architectural style, a popular Victorian design characterized by decorative wooden trims over plain surfaces3. The house has been preserved in its original style and is now known as the largest surviving Stick-Eastlake house in Santa Cruz County.
Tuttle Mansion: The Enigmatic Victorian Beauty
The Tuttle Mansion, a prominent red Victorian home on East Lake Avenue in Watsonville, was built in 1899 for Morris B. Tuttle, a prominent local figure4. Over the years, the mansion has served various functions, from being an apartment complex to housing different businesses4.
The mansion designed by renowned architect William Weeks is a striking example of Victorian architecture, characterized by intricate detailing, decorative trims, and asymmetrical facades4.
Rispin Mansion: The Haunted Spanish Revival
The Rispin Mansion, a historic property located in Capitola, was constructed in 1921 by San Franciscan Henry Allen Rispin. Over the years, the mansion has been the subject of fascination among locals and paranormal investigators.
The Rispin Mansion is a stunning example of the Mission/Spanish Revival architectural style, marked by the use of terracotta tiles, stucco walls, and ornamental details.
Thomas Weeks Mansion: Celebrating Victorian Grandeur
The Thomas Weeks Mansion is a quintessential example of the Eastlake Victorian style. Built in 1888, this mansion in the Westside of Santa Cruz boasts a stunning interior with over 3,632 square feet of living space that exudes a harmonious blend of history and modernity.
The mansion features five bedrooms, three full baths, and a half bath. The interior offers an array of amenities such as a gourmet kitchen, library, living room, and utility room. The master bedroom is located upstairs, enhancing its privacy and exclusivity.
The house is equipped with modern conveniences such as central air conditioning, gas heating, a security system, and city water supply. Yet, it retains its historic charm with original wood windows, a grand staircase, fireplaces with gas logs, and high ceilings.
The mansion’s exterior is as impressive as its interior. It features a tastefully restored façade, a wrap-around porch, and a second staircase. The mansion sits on a double large lot, providing ample outdoor space.
The mansion is a National Historic treasure, having undergone over two million dollars of restoration and reconstruction. This Victorian gem seamlessly blends the charm of “yesteryear” with the conveniences of today, creating a property that is truly “one of a kind.”
Bockius-Orr House: A Landmark in Italianate Victorian Style
The Bockius-Orr House, also known as the Godfrey M. Bockius House, is another historic mansion that commands attention. This Italianate Victorian style house, built in 1870, is located in Watsonville, California. It was initially inhabited by Judge Godfrey M. Bockius, one of the prominent early leaders in the Pajaro Valley’s agricultural development.
Judge Bockius served Santa Cruz County from 1858 to 1862 and was the chairman of Watsonville’s first Board of Trustees after its incorporation in 1868. The house was later occupied by Frank F. Orr, a descendant of Bockius, who served as the editor of the Register-Pajaronian newspaper.
Today, the Bockius-Orr House is a part of a historic district and houses the headquarters of the Pajaro Valley Historical Association. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, preserving its significance for future generations.
Branciforte Adobe: The Oldest Single-Family Dwelling
Branciforte Adobe, also known as the Craig-Lorenzana Adobe, is the only surviving dwelling from the Villa de Branciforte, established in 1797. This adobe house has been continuously inhabited since its construction and is one of the only two adobe structures left in Santa Cruz. This home is located in the famed Banana Belt.
The Branciforte Adobe features 2-foot-thick adobe mud plastered walls, a tile roof typical of the Spanish era, and a veranda on the front. Over the years, the house underwent several modifications, including the addition of doors, hinges, wallpaper, and molding.
The house underwent meticulous restoration in the 1970s, preserving its historic charm while ensuring its structural integrity. Today, it stands as a private residence, giving us a glimpse into the past.
Julius Lee House: A Queen Anne Masterpiece
Also designed by architect William Weeks, the Julius Lee House is an exquisite example of a Queen Anne residence. Built in 1894, this house features ornate gable and tower crestings, decorative friezes, and slender wood turnings.
Julius Lee, the original owner of the house, was a prominent figure in Watsonville’s history. He served two successive terms as district attorney before declining a nomination for superior judge to continue his law practice in Watsonville.
Redman Hirahara Farmstead: A Symbol of Resilience
The Redman Hirahara Farmstead is a historic complex that includes a house designed by William Weeks in 1897 and a vernacular barn. This farmstead holds a unique place in history as it was maintained by local citizens and later returned to its Japanese American owners post World War II.House and Barn Features
The Victorian house showcases the classic Queen Anne style with a rounded corner tower, meticulously carved panels, Palladian windows, and dentil molding. The barn, built around 1900, was expanded postwar to house other returning Japanese families.
Unfortunately, this home has been left to rot and is in an extreme state of disrepair along the side of Highway 1. Its future remains in doubt and it is unknown if it might one day be salvaged.
Santa Cruz County’s historic mansions provide a fascinating glimpse into the past, celebrating architectural grandeur and cultural heritage. These structures, each unique in their own right, contribute to the region’s rich tapestry, standing as timeless reminders of Santa Cruz’s vibrant history.
From the Carpenter’s Gothic style of the Mangels House to the Spanish Revival architecture of the Rispin Mansion, the historic mansions of Santa Cruz County offer a fascinating peek into the area’s architectural and historical richness. These grand structures, each with its own unique story and architectural charm, remain timeless landmarks in the county’s landscape.
Santa Cruz County, located on California’s central coast, is home to several historic mansions that have stood the test of time. These architectural marvels serve as a testament to the region’s rich and diverse history, embodying the essence of various architectural styles.