The clock tower marks the place downtown Santa Cruz was born, and recalls a business responsible for so many improvements and firsts.
Methodist minister Elihu Anthony crossed the Santa Cruz Mountains Dec. 31, 1847, with his family and Thomas Fallon, celebrating the 1848 New Year in Santa Cruz. Mission Plaza was the town’s center of business, but the best portions of the abandoned mission property were already owned by Spanish and American settlers. So around Feb. 9, Anthony made a claim for the leftover lands, such as the sloping sides of Mission Hill bluff, and a section of San Lorenzo River flood-plain at the foot of the hill. Anthony hoped to create an industrial district, with lots overhanging the river to provide plenty of water for waterwheels and steam power. In partnership with Adna Hecox, Anthony built a blacksmith shop and general store at the foot of the grade (today’s clock-tower site), getting first crack at anyone entering or leaving Mission Hill. Many farmers upgraded from wooden plows to Anthony’s iron plows.
Anthony went to San Francisco to find out if rumors of a gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill in January were true. Anthony knew Sam Brennan, who’d shouted the news through the streets of San Francisco in February or March. But Brennan had waited until he’d bought up every piece of gold mining equipment in the state, making his stores in San Francisco and Sacramento the only places to outfit miners. When Anthony learned that gold miners were using wooden picks, he bought some ship’s bolts and forged them into the first iron picks used in the Gold Rush. Thomas Fallon sold them to miners for 3-ounces of gold apiece ($60 each).
Anthony harvested potatoes from the abandoned mission gardens, and shipped them to San Francisco where they fetched 15 cents a sack. However, freighters at Main Beach were loaded from rowboats through the surf, which meant sacks that got splashed could arrive moldy and worthless. So Anthony partnered with Edwin S. Penfield to build the county’s first wharf off Bay Street in 1849. That winter, Santa Cruz filled up with lucky miners, so Anthony started the county’s first banking service at his store. It consisted of pouches of gold dust with tags attached noting the weight and owner, an impromptu system which none-the-less saw no losses, giving Anthony a reputation for honesty. Anthony served as the first County Treasurer after statehood.
In 1851, Anthony built the log cabin Union House hotel (now VFW site) to entice settlers to stay long enough to buy land in the county’s first subdivisions. His business subdivision was named Main Street (now Front Street), which faced onto the junction of four roads called “The Lower Plaza,” and his residential subdivision on Mission Hill was called “Anthony’s Bluff.” On April 9, 1850, Anthony opened the county’s first U.S. post office at his store, making this the center for information and parcel delivery. Anthony’s employee Alexander McLean became the County’s first Postmaster.
In 1852, Anthony became the first Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors. That year, Santa Cruz potatoes began fetching up to $1 apiece in the gold country, causing a Spud Rush of farmers to the agricultural counties of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. They leased rich bottom-land along the San Lorenzo River for $100 an acre, with tent-frame cabins producing a tent-city along Willow Street (now Pacific Avenue). Anthony provided them with farming equipment, supplies, provisions, mail, banking, and hotel services, but never liquor. For two years the potato boom made farmers rich, then in late 1853, a bumper crop saturated the market, and prices crashed, making potatoes worthless. Many a farmer shingled over his tent-frame shack, creating an instant downtown on the flood plain. With potato exports dead, Anthony sold his wharf to Jordan & Davis, who in 1853 started the first limeworks in the west at today’s entrance to UC Santa Cruz. It is an ingredient in plaster, mortar, concrete and iron.
Selling lots meant nothing if people couldn’t develop their property, so creating basic resources became essential. Anthony expanded his blacksmith shop into the third foundry on the Pacific coast, spurring industrial development. F.A. Hihn opened a lumber yard behind his 1853 flatiron store (today’s Front & Pacific site), then joined Anthony in 1857 to build the first Turnpike highway over the Santa Cruz Mountains, through Soquel Canyon. The two also opened the town’s first waterworks in 1859, with a reservoir on Anthony’s Bluff, using hollowed redwood logs when they ran out of scarce metal piping.
Anthony expanded his foundry business to a new building at today’s North Pacific Avenue and River Street, while the old location (now the corner of Water & Knight streets) became the business office. Meanwhile, the Civil War uprising made long distant communications vital, so Pacific Telegraph set up the county’s first telegraph service in 1861 at Anthony’s Store. When the war concluded, Anthony sold a lot south of his foundry in 1867 to build the tenth gasworks in the state. The foundry’s molding department expanded into a two-story building on Bulkhead Street, where Wm. Martin and S.W. Kirby specialized in cast iron stoves and fireproof iron facades.
In 1870, Anthony turned the Santa Cruz Foundry over to his younger brother George Anthony, who’d been principal-in-chief for years. Elihu Anthony tore down his 1848 store, and replaced it with a grand, two-story Italianate building selling cast-iron goods, with a public hall and auction house upstairs. George Anthony sold the business to English-born Thomas Amner in 1872, a Union soldier who married the sister of foundry-worker Frank Bartlett in 1873.
F.A. Hihn helped get the county’s first railroad established in 1876, linking Santa Cruz to Watsonville, with tracks leading up Pacific Avenue, to a depot in the St. Charles Hotel (now SCOPE Park). Yet the train running down the middle of a Pacific Avenue filled with horses and pedestrians was not ideal, so it was moved the following year to Chestnut Street, and a tunnel dug under Mission Hill. The abandoned Pacific Avenue tracks were then repurposed as our first horse-trolley line.
The “Uptown Depot” was built between today’s Union and Chestnut Extension, in a former picnic ground filled with Cherry trees. The F.A. Hihn Company’s lumber and realty empire had offices at the Depot, with Hihn’s “Santa Cruz Pioneer Society” hall on the second floor. As the Santa Cruz Foundry was already doing on-site repairs, castings and upgrades for the depot’s railroad machinery, they decided to build a foundry branch at the depot. It was built around 1882-83, at the north end of Depot Lane, and named Enterprise Iron Works. Frank Bartlett, a member of the Alert Hose Company, oversaw the construction of Enterprise using corrugated sheet-metal behind a wooden facade. It was built by Kaye, Knapp & Co., the same architects of Anthony’s 1870 store.
Enterprise began receiving orders that normally would go to San Francisco’s Union Iron Works. Union was the first foundry on the west coast, started in 1849 by the Donahue brothers, who also established the state’s first gasworks in 1854, and electric plant in 1879. These utilities were reorganized as Pacific Gas and Electric Company in 1906. Union Iron Works progressed from locomotives to steamships, building the west coast’s first steel-hulled ship in 1885, then Congress commissioned two battleships in 1887, so their normal business was farmed out to local foundries. (In 1905, the Union Iron Works became part of Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp.)
The Santa Cruz Gasworks needed to expand, so in the summer of 1887, the south wing of the neighboring foundry building was demolished, and replaced with a new gas holding tank 48-feet in diameter. In 188, Pringle had a modern foundry built on Pacific Avenue (now the bus depot site) under the supervision of inventor and patent-holder Billy Woods. This facility produced an engine for the electric light works in 1890. But in 1892, Pringle moved the Santa Cruz Foundry business to Chestnut Extension, west of Enterprise Iron Works, while Bartlett expanded his machine shop, to serve the growing trade in automobile repair.
With the opening of the 1893 broad-gauge depot near the beach, Uptown Station closed, although some rail activity continued in the rail yards, such as excursions or repairs. Elihu Anthony died Aug. 15, 1905. In 1911, Anthony’s 63-year-old Santa Cruz Foundry business was absorbed into Enterprise Iron Works, which ceased using its pioneer name. John Pedemonte Jr. became an Enterprise partner in 1914, relocating in 1915 to a spacious new building at the corner of Water Street and River Street Extension, closing when Pedemonte retired in 1940.
Today, the 1883 Enterprise Iron Works is home to artist Michael Leeds, who has continued Anthony’s legacy of innovation and community improvements, while preserving this link to the downtown’s origins.
Ross Eric Gibson is a former history columnist for the San Jose Mercury News and Santa Cruz Sentinel.