County Bank Of Santa Cruz

Wed, Sep 20, 2017

Marla Novo

Marla Novo - Director of Exhibitions & Programs

Artifact of the Month: Banking on History, Photograph of County Bank of Santa Cruz, c. 1900

My name is Kameron Bell and I am an archives intern at the MAH. While at the MAH, I come across some amazing stories and artifacts with Collections Catalyst, Marla Novo. A few weeks ago Marla showed me a large photo of the Santa Cruz County Bank that was donated to the museum. My mission for this particular project was the interesting task of dating the photo. After taking a breath and cracking my fingers, I got to work. While taking a first glance at the photo, I noticed there were two buildings with visible signs on them, the Old County Bank of Santa Cruz and the Saddle Rock Restaurant. After that, I noticed three people in the photo, with one man clearly wearing a suit and a bowler hat. Then I noticed a few horse drawn carriages or horse drawn carriers and power lines running in front of the building.

County Bank Of Santa Cruz

With this information I then went into research mode and began trying to piece together as much information I could. The first clue that I found was about the Old County Bank of Santa Cruz. Prior to becoming a bank, the site originally housed a saloon. After a fire in 1894 burned down the saloon, the Bank of Santa Cruz County then purchased the site and built a brick building that would be known as the County Bank of Santa Cruz (Ahha! Clue #1). So for Clue #1 we now know that the photo can’t be older than 1894, because the bank was erected in that year.

Once I had found information on the bank itself, I turned my attention to the Saddle Rock Restaurant. The Saddle Rock Restaurant turned out to be something of a Santa Cruz institution in the early days of the city. After being first opened by George Dobelich in 1895, the Saddle Rock was then taken over by young chef Peter Carstulovich in 1901, who came to Santa Cruz from the country of Damaltia. Four years later, Peter’s brother George joined him in the café business and the café remained at 73 Pacific Avenue until it moved locations in 1930 (Aha! Clue #2). With this information we now know that the photo can’t be older than 1895 due to the fact that the Saddle Rock Restaurant in the photo was erected in 1895. To further drive home the main clue, I believe the earliest that this photo could be is 1895.

After my excitement at nailing down a starting year, the only question that remained was what is the latest year this photo could have been taken? Well to answer this question, I feel that we need to go over some previously known facts about what is in the photo. 1. One man in the photo is wearing a bowler hat. 2. There is a large powerline running down the street. 3. There are no cars in the photo, only horses. When examining the first fact, I used a book entitled Hats: Status, Style and Glamour to find more information on the bowler hat. In the book, the author Colin McDowell explains that the bowler hat was in style from 1900-1914 (Aha! Clue #3). For the next fact, I did a little research on electricity in Santa Cruz. After gas was established in Santa Cruz in 1867, the city then pushed for electricity in 1884. By the early 1900s, most of the major buildings in Santa Cruz received electricity. Once powerlines were established at the Boardwalk in 1904, other lines were installed down Pacific Avenue to light the St. George Hotel (Aha! Clue #4). For the final fact pertaining to cars and horses, this one was a little harder to pin down. Cars didn’t really come to Santa Cruz around the same time as other places like New York mainly due to the fact that it was just harder to get them here. With that said however, Marla later informed me that well off families in Santa Cruz had cars as early as 1903 based on diaries housed in the MAH archives (Aha! Clue #5).

Before we get to a conclusion here’s a recap of what we know 1. The bank building was built in 1894 2. The Saddle Rock was established in 1895 3. Bowler hats were fashionable from 1900 to roughly 1914. 4. Power Lines down Pacific Avenue, from what I found, were established in 1904. And 5. Cars came to Santa Cruz as early as 1903 based on diary entries. With this information, I believe that the donated photo dates from 1895-1905. This conclusion however can be up to debate of course and I welcome it! It is always fun to learn more about history and the history of Santa Cruz.