The House of Lime
Today’s Cardiff House has had many occupants over its 151 year history. Except for the University, they all have had one thing in common – they were running or managing the surrounding lands for lime production. Early on, it housed the families of the most important players in local lime: Albion Jordan and Henry Cowell. Later, it housed the managers for the Cowell’s lime operations. It’s in fact the name of the last family that lived there for many years (Cardiff) that is used for the house today.
In the 1860s, this modest farmhouse was out in the country. Lime-maker Albion Paris Jordan had the house built for him, his wife, and family in 1864. Jordan was a native of Maine who had come to California during the Gold Rush. He and his business partner, Issac Elphinstone Davis, made lime in the San Francisco Bay area before moving their operations to Santa Cruz in 1853. Jordan supervised the manufacturing process in Santa Cruz, while Davis ran the warehouse and sales department in San Francisco.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel, May 14, 1865, described the construction of the house: “Mr. A. P. Jordan is building a new residence in that most delightful situation overlooking the town and the Bay of Monterey, long since selected as a sight [sic] for the building, near the lime-works of Davis and Jordan.”
The house was most likely constructed by John B. Perry, Jordan’s father-in-law. Based on tree-ring analysis, the large cypress trees along the driveway leading down to High Street were planted around the same time the house was built.
Sadly, Jordan contracted tuberculosis and lived in the house only about a year before selling and returning to Maine. He subsequently recovered, commissioned the construction of a three-masted schooner—named the A.P. Jordan— and then died on its inaugural voyage to San Francisco. He is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Santa Cruz.
Henry Cowell took over Jordan’s half of the business around July 1, 1865, and soon settled in the house with his family. The Cowells lived in Santa Cruz for about 15 years, and their children attended nearby Bay View School. The Cowells returned to San Francisco in 1879, but stayed here on visits to Santa Cruz, sometimes for extended periods.
Later this was home to Frank and Evelyn George and then George and Violet Cardiff. Both men worked as ranch managers. Mrs. Cardiff was still cooking with a wood stove into the 1950s.
The house was a provost’s residence in the early years of the University and is now the University Women’s Center.
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.
- Lime Kiln Legacies: The History of the Lime Industry in Santa Cruz County, by Frank A. Perry, Robert W. Piwarzyk, Michael D. Luther, Alverda Orlando, Allan Molho, and Sierra L. Perry. Published by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History; 2007.
- Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District Website.
- The Jordans: Family with a Limerock Foundation, Judy Steen, Lime Kiln Chronicles, Fall/Winter 2009/2010.
- San Francisco Bulletin, Feb. 2, 1967 (details concerning the death of A.P. Jordan)