Before it was subdivided in the 1940s, the broad street now known as “Chrystal Terrace” was just narrow “Christal Lane” running from Mission Street to a farm house surrounded by orchards, redwoods, California buckeye, a goldfish pond, a tank house, and a windmill. The house and farm were first built by pioneer Julian Trescony. Later it belonged to his daughter and her husband, Dr. J. F. Christal, a pharmacist who owned Horsnyder’s. The family name was changed to the “y” spelling when subdivided.
Santa Cruzans still have vivid pictures of early Santa Cruz because of the reminiscences of Ernest Otto, a Sentinel reporter who grew up here in the 1870s. For many years he wrote a column in the paper, based on extraordinarily detailed boyhood memories. This is how Otto described “The Christal Place:”
“Within the city limits close to town is a secluded yet beautiful section, now known as Chrystal Terrace. It is likely it has never been seen by more than 500 of the present residents, but in the boyhood days of the writer the old Trescony place was known by every resident of the city and was considered one of the beautiful show places.
This place has lost none of the old time charm and on each side of the hill on which the house stands are wooded gulches. The one on the south side is in its primitive state with the native California trees.
The farm had the usual windmill and there was plenty of pastureland for the cows which were a part of the ranch life. This is now known as one of the newer and choicer subdivisions, Chrystal Terrace, upon which the first houses are now being constructed.”
Ancient Trees Were Treasured
When it was first subdivided in the 1940s, the Chrystal Terrace neighborhood was advertised to Santa Cruzans who could afford to buy a lot and build their own custom home. It was therefore built one house at a time, not as a single development. The last house on the street wasn’t built until 1971, and buyer of that lot removed an ancient magnolia and a redwood that had been there since the Christal Farm days. In a letter published in the Sentinel, a resident wrote: “a tree that has grown for many years in a vacant lot really becomes the ‘property’ of the neighborhood for it persists in the memories of the boys and girls who grow and move away and yet retain forever the remembrance of childhood climbing and playing in the branches of an old friend.” The writer suggests that the entire city would benefit if people other than property owners had influence on when trees were removed. It was sentiments like these that lead to the Santa Cruz Heritage Tree ordinance that has protected so many of our beloved trees.
Eclectic Towne Place
Next to the Christal Place was another farm, the “Towne Place,” established by pioneer John Towne. Lots along “Towne Lane” were sold and built on throughout the 1880s to early 1900s without any coordinating plan. This is evident in the small 19th-century lots and eclectic architecture on this narrow street. It’s completely different than the Chrystal Terrace neighborhood with its larger post-1940s lots.
Like the Cristal’s farm, the area around the Towne farm was also known for its natural beauty, and particularly famous for the variety of birds that nested there. In 1910, Josephine Clifford McCrackin, a Sentinel reporter, complained about a gang of local boys killing the birds:
“At present, Mission street, and the streets running into it, from Union street toward Laurel, including Towne street, especially are intolerably infested by a gang of young hoodlums in store-clothes, whose parents should know of the mischief they are up to.
I have visited Towne street before, and will go there again, for the grounds running from there into the Christal grounds have always been the home of innumerable birds, and therefore a favorite haunt of the boy with the slung-shot. … The boy who will kill or maim a bird, a dog or a cat, just for fun, will end his days behind the prison bars or on the gallows….I call upon all parents to take notice of this warning, and those who live within the precincts mentioned, to take some interest in the pastimes their sons most indulge in. … These hoodlums are law-breakers, and they know it.”
McCrackin then invited “right-minded citizens” and members of the Humane Society to arrest the boys if seen killing birds. She signed the column with the title “President, Ladies Forest and Song Bird Protective Association.”
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
This piece is part of the Mission Hill Staircase Tour made possible by local history researcher Linda Rosewood. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond.
- Some Call It Progress, Santa Cruz Sentinel, May 23, 1971.
- Injunction Bans Elderly Home from Chrystal Terrace Site,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jan 29, 1956.
- Secluded Chrystal Terrace Home Still Keeps Woodsy Charm of Early Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 30, 1940.
- Old Santa Cruz, Ernest Otto, Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 16, 1945.
- Montana Man Buys Famous Old Homesite, Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 30, 1934.
- Local Boys Who Kill Birds; No Slung-shorts or Air-Guns Must be Used, Santa Cruz Sentinel, November 9, 1910.