At the base of the University of California, Santa Cruz lies the Cowell Lime Works Historic District. Along High Street, right before the main campus entrance are the granary and stonehouse, that were part of Cowell Ranch. These small buildings beside harken back to the days of ranch self-sufficiency. Grain grown on the ranch was stored in sacks in the Granary. The Stonehouse was where the workers were paid and where there was a commissary.
Only Paid Once a Year!
Amazingly, back in the 1870s Henry Cowell only paid his men once a year (on January 1). The gold coins were brought down from the company headquarters in San Francisco. Pay was a dollar a day (equivalent to $13.66 today), with deductions for days missed. By the early 1900s, the workers were paid by check once a month, and earned considerably more.
Both of Henry Cowell’s sons, Ernest and S.H., valued worker loyalty. In the early 1900s, although pay was low, the company covered the cost for treatment of any injuries received during work. S.H. Cowell also aided worker families facing unexpected expenses due to the sickness or death of a family member, though this was not written into any contract. During the Great Depression, when millions of Americans lost their jobs, S.H. Cowell never laid off a regular employee.
In the 1950s the Stonehouse had an office with a desk and safe. On the south side was a scale for trucks. After the University took over, the building housed the campus newspaper, City On A Hill, until the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake made the building unsafe. For many years, the University used the Granary as a child care center.
History Fair at the Lime Works
On October 24th from noon to 4:00pm, Friends of the Cowell Lime Works is hosting a history fair at the newly constructed Hay Barn at UCSC. Titled “A History Fair: Cowell Ranch and the land before UCSC” will feature six short talks that focus on the pre-UCSC use of campus lands. A number of local organizations (including Mobile Ranger) will also present displays and activities that focus on local history, especially the effects of past human activity on the land. To learn more about the event including the list of speakers and informational topics, click here.
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
This piece is part of UCSC Lime Kilns Tour by Frank Perry on behalf of The Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond.
The content for this blogpost and the AppTour was prepared by The Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District, University of California, Santa Cruz, and is © 2015 by The Friends. Much of the information is from the book, Lime Kiln Legacies: The History of the Lime Industry in Santa Cruz County. The book can be purchased at the Museum of Art and History in person or on-line. It’s also available through Amazon.com.
If you take the AppTour tour you will see that some of the historic buildings have been put to modern uses by the University. Others remain unused but are gradually being restored with private gifts of funding and materials. For more information on how to help, contact the Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District. This UCSC friends group is dedicated to researching, preserving, and teaching about the history of this historic site.
- Frank Perry. Lime Kiln Legacies: The History of the Lime Industry in Santa Cruz County. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum of Art and History, 2007.
- The Inflation Calculator by Morgan Freeman.