Los Gatos-Santa Cruz Local History Tidbit: Old Hotels

I think my current fascination with old hotels probably had its roots in my childhood.

Growing up in Los Gatos, I distinctly remember the Lyndon Hotel on the corner of

Santa Cruz & Main Streets. When I began high school, the hotel was mysteriously demolished. I had no idea why this occurred & still don’t know. In researching history in the Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Santa Cruz Mountains, I am amazed how many truly grand hotels & resorts there once were.

Strangely, many old hotels were reported to have burned down. I am curious why that would be the case. Most old houses did not burn down (evidenced by the fact they are still standing!), but most hotels did. Why?

Another unanswered question I have has to do with the reporting of these events. The literature I have read usually states that a particular hotel burned down in 1910 or whatever, & never gives a cause of the fire, nor mentions how the parcel of land subsequently became city owned (in the case of the Capitola Hotel, once privately owned, now apparently City of Capitola turf). I would much prefer a beautiful, elegant hotel to what is on the parcel now (a lawn, some stairs, & some miscellaneous privately owned businesses), although I did read recently that something more interesting is being considered for the site, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what. debryman.com

Los Gatos-Santa Cruz Local History Tidbit: Highway 17

Just by coincidence, I recently met Richard Beal, the author of Highway 17 (1991, The Pacific Group, Aptos, CA). When I got back to my office, I pulled the book off the shelf and began thumbing through it. What a gold mine of local history! I saw that the year I graduated high school (no hints) there were 36 fatalities on “17!” (I don’t think my parents knew that, otherwise, why would they allow a crazy teenager to regularly drive over the hill?). According to Beal, Harvey West was responsible for installing “gory billboards” up on 17 – complete with red day-glo images of skeletons & coffins, as a way to discourage unsafe drivers. It seems to have worked!

I get nostalgic every time I read about the towns of Alma and Lexington being flooded to create Lexington Reservoir (discussed in Beal’s book). I seriously wish history had unfolded differently. I miss those towns I never knew!

It’s also interesting to look at the old maps & pictures of the Santa Cruz Mountains & the various routes from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz & imagine how it once was from the days of Mountain Charlie to crazy Riker’s Holy City . . . debryman.com