Seabright Beach used to be called Castle Beach because of the castle shaped bath house that was there between 1900 and 1967. The bath house cum castle was originally built by James Pilkington in 1899-1900. In 1918, Conrad Scholl and his son became managers and changed the name to the Scholl-Mar Castle. In the 1940’s, it was a restaurant called the Casa del Mar and then became an art gallery in the 1950s. It was demolished in 1967. As time has passed since the castle was around, the name Castle Beach has largely faded into history.
During most of its existence the castle was battered by winter storms. This changed with the building of the west jetty to create the Santa Cruz Harbor in the early 1960s. You can see the west jetty at the down-coast end of Seabright Beach. The wall of huge cement “tetrapods” with the lighthouse at its end is the west jetty.
In Santa Cruz, as along most of the California coast, waves from the northwest drive the flow of sediment and sand southward. This process is known as littoral drift. It can be thought of as a river of sand, just off-shore, moving south. Anytime you put a blockage, such as a jetty, in the river, you are going to block sand.The west jetty changed the sand balance of the beaches up- and down-coast of it. Previously, this beach was roughly “in balance” with respect to sand coming ashore each summer and being taken away each winter by storm waves. Once built, the west jetty trapped the sediment moving southward off shore. Now Seabright Beach is an an extremely wide sandy beach year-round.
The water edge in the circa 1920 photo above, is about where the line of people and fire pits are in the 2014 photo. If you look at the circa 1950s photo of the Scholl-Mar Castle, you can also see that the waves were much closer to the cliffs.
- Lighthouse Point: Illuminating Santa Cruz. Frank Perry. 2002 OtterB Books. Available at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, and Natural Bridges State Beach Visitor Center.
- Living With the Changing California Coast. Gary B. Griggs, Kiki Patsch, Lauret E. Savoy. University of California Press; 2005.