In the early 1900s, the area from Lighthouse Point to Bay Street was often called Millionaire’s Row because of its many fine mansions. Most of the mansions were in fact vacation homes for wealthy businessmen who benefitted from the boom years of the 1880s. Lighthouse Field was part of the James Phelan Estate and Mr. Phelan is often credited with bringing these wealthy folk to Santa Cruz.
In the 1880’s, each block on Millionaire’s Row was its own estate. There was no road on the bluff top. Homes were accessed via Lighthouse Avenue. Many of the homes from this period survive today, though the large parcels of land have been subdivided considerably.
This mansion is a mix of Mission Revival and Prairie styles. It was built in 1912 by Francis Davis and the architect was Chester Miller. Before Davis built it he moved the existing mansion, an 1887 J. A. Mc Guire Victorian style home, to the corner of Lighthouse and Gharkey Streets — it is probably the house at 135 Gharkey Street.
This 1893 mansion was designed by Edward Van Cleek for Mr. and Mrs. James McNeil. Most of the mansions of the day were Queen Anne in style but this one is classified by The Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey as Colonial Revival with vestiges of Queen Anne. James was a wealthy businessman and trolley car magnate from Pennsylvania who moved to California in 1891. He eventually owned the Santa Cruz Electric Light and Power Works. Rutherglen is the name of a town in Scotland. The name means red valley in Gaelic (an ruadh-ghleann). Scottish motifs are incorporated throughout the mansion.
In 1892 James married his second wife Louise. Unfortunately, he had been married previously, to a woman named Margaret. When James died in 1906, Margaret, believe it or not, tried to have their 14-year old divorce annulled so she could claim the estate. After a lengthy and scandalous court case in the Santa Cruz judiciary system, she lost. The McNeil gardens were said to be spectacular, exemplifying all the glory that could be achieved in the Santa Cruz climate. His second wife Louise probably needed their solace during the court case!
William Dingee, “The Cement King”, made himself very rich in the early 1900s by building cement plants. He built one in Pennsylvania and two in California, one in Napa and one in Davenport (though his first choice location for the latter was the Westside of Santa Cruz).
With his cement money, he bought land all over the country. He planned to build a huge landscaped park between Rutherglen Terrace and Manor Avenue with a moorish manor at its center. The park was to contain rare plants housed and propagated in glass green houses. He apparently built the greenhouses and gardener’s quarters along Lighthouse Avenue. He also had huge full-size palm trees delivered to the park by railroad car.
A recession hit the cement business in 1908. The Cement King was already over-extended with his land purchases and fled to Paris to avoid his debtors. He was dragged back by William H. Crocker, a banker, and was forced to divest himself of his properties. By 1921 he was bankrupt and worth less than $120.
This is a typical house of the well-to-do of the late 1920s. Like the Davis House, it is in the Mission Revival style but also has a Mediterranean feel. It was built circa 1928.
The block between Monterey and Santa Cruz Streets was purchased in 1891 by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, mother of the famous newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. She was a well-known patron of the arts, a founder of the Parent Teachers Association, and a benefactor of the University of California. The plan was to build a villa, but the only thing that ever came of it was the “Hearst Grove” of Monterey Pines. She died in 1919 and other plans to turn the property into a Spanish-Style luxury hotel never materialized.
This mansion was built in 1887 by railroad executive C.C. Wheeler. A year later it was sold and bought as a vacation home by Mrs. Elizabeth Iliff Warren, who initially married a Colorado Cattle baron. After his death, she managed the inheritance so well that by the time she married Henry Warren (a Methodist bishop), she was one of the wealthiest women west of the Mississippi.
The Warrens bought the property to be a summer home that could also host church conferences, retreats, and youth camps. They remodeled the original home in the style of Hotel Del Monte, and, like the Phelans, hired Rudolph Ulrich to design the landscaping. They named the estate after the birthplace of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist church and was born in Epworth, England. Apparently the family also came to call it The Breakers.
The Darling House
This concrete mission revival house was built in 1911 by Mrs. Warren’s stepson. It sits on a corner of the original Epworth-by-the-Sea estate. It was designed by William Henry Weeks, who designed many California homes and public buildings of the time. In 1984 it became a bed and breakfast inn and the name was changed from Rockcrest to the Darling House. For reservations call (831) 458-1958.
This period revival bungalow was built circa 1907 as a summer home for William S. Goodfellow, a successful attorney whose practice and main home were in Oakland. Mr. Goodfellow died in 1913. Sometimes incorrectly listed as 240 Gharkey Street, the correct address according to the assessors records is 240 West Cliff Drive.
135 Gharkey Street
You have to walk inland a short block on Gharkey Street to see this house, built circa 1880. It may be the 1887 J. A. Mc Guire Victorian originally built at 560 West Cliff Drive (the site of the current Davis House). We know for sure this house was located on West Cliff Drive at some point — as the current owner has a picture showing it there. Unfortunately, the exact location cannot be determined from the photo. Additionally, newspapers stuffed in the walls for insulation are dated 1907, indicating the house may have been moved around that time — which fits with the Davis House being built in 1912.
The house is in the Eastlake style, which was very common in the late 19th century. The historical placard says it was built for David Gharky. David Gharky built the Gharky Wharf at the foot of Main street in 1857. Recent work by Frank Perry and colleagues, going back to primary sources, has found that “Gharky” is the correct spelling. Apparently, at least six different spellings can be found; Gharky, Gharkey, Ghearkey, Ghirky, Gherky, or Yerkey. The definitive document seems to be his last will and testament, which he signed as “David Gharky” in 1863. Note that the street the house is on is spelled “Gharkey”.
West Cliff Inn
This large Italianate mansion was built in 1877 for Sedgewick Lynch, a well-to-do contractor. The architect was John Morrow. It is now a bed and breakfast. For reservations call (800) 979-0910.
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
This piece is part of the West Cliff Drive Tour. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond.
- Davenport and Its Cement Plant: the Early Years, 1903-1910. Alverda Orlando. Santa Cruz County History Journal S.C.C. Historical Trust, Inc. 1994;(1):49–60.
- Lighthouse Point: Illuminating Santa Cruz. Frank A. Perry. Santa Cruz, California: Otter B Books; 2002.
- Millionaires’ Row. Ross Eric Gibson. Santa Cruz Public Library Website.
- Mission Santa Cruz. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Accessed December 1, 2014.
- Notes on the History of Wharves in Santa Cruz California. Frank Perry, Barry Brown, Rick Hyman, Stanley D. Stevens. Lime Kiln Legacies Website. 2012.
- Personal communication with Catherine Beiers, former Santa Cruz City Council Member. November 1, 2012.
- Personal Communication with Jackie Pascoe, Technical Writer and Native of Scotland, Santa Cruz County, February 2013.
- Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey: Volume 1. Charles Hall Page and Associates Inc. 1976.