There's a postcard on auction right now of the first rollor-coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach.
The 1908 Scenic Railway! According to Beal and Beal's "Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: The Early Years -- Never a Dull Moment:"
In June 1908 L. A. Thompson's Scenic Railway was opened, the longest roller-coaster in the United States at the time. L. A. Thompson was known as "The Father of Gravity" for inventing the roller-coaster in 1884. A Philadelphia Sunday school teachers, he was looking for more wholesome teen entertainment than the popular beer gardens. His idea came after visiting an abandoned coal mine where people paied five cents to coast down the shft in gravity-powered coal cars. Thompson also built "The Switchback" at coney Islan, making $500 a day at five cents a head. It was so successful that competitors built two more coasters on Coney Island and another in San Franicso. Frederick Ingersoll, the largest manufactuer of park amusements, assisted Thompson in building the Boardwalk railway at a cost of $35,000. The attraction consisted of a four-minute, 25 mph "diving and climbing" ride with undulating wooden hills, and two trains that paralleled each other with an engineer at the back. Each car held 30 people. The trains rolled on wooden tracks that paralleled the beach at the south end of the Boardwalk.
The Scenic Railway was removed in 1924 to make way for the Giant Dipper.
A few years before the installation of the Scenic Railway, Fred Swanton opened the Neptune Casino. It burned down the next summer. This card shows the rear of that first casino and the tent city for tourists.
In later years, tents were upscaled to permanent cottages, and you can still see a few of them on Riverside a few blocks up from Beach St. This particular lot was the site of the Del Rey Hotel.
What was everyone doing? Most of them were laying about on the beach.
Look, no wharf, just the short railroad wharf at the end of Bay St. The beach was much smaller before the yacht harbor's jetty was built in the 1960s. And park of James Phelan was completely wooded.
Phelan's other country estate is now known as Villa Montalvo.
In 1887, Lighthouse Field was Phelan Park, with Eastlake cottages scattered throughout its forested grounds amid grazing deer.
James Duval Phelan ran his estate as a bohemian retreat for California artists and writers such as Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, Gertrude Atherton, Joaquin Miller and Isadora Duncan.
Phelan was called the "California Medici" for his support of the arts.
|Comments made before...|