Before Capitola became the bustling seaside hamlet we know today, it was sought out for its convenient location on the coast. However, it didn’t take long for word of idyllic weather and soft sandy beaches to reach eager vacationers inland.
In 1850, California officially became the 31st state, and Santa Cruz followed suit that same year, becoming an official county. Frederick Hihn immigrated from Germany, chasing the Californian dream: gold. After Hihn acquired the land and no gold was found, it became a hub for agriculture and logging industries. Its convenient location at the mouth of the Soquel Creek sets it apart from other spots on the coastline. Soon, a wharf (called Capitola Wharf today) was built at this industrial port in 1857.
Alongside the industry, vacationers came to the coast on a quest for white sandy beaches and cool ocean breezes. Camp Capitola was established in 1874 and offered Santa Clara Valley breeze-seekers a reprieve from valley heat waves. Just two years later, the Watsonville Railroad was constructed and started trucking passengers in by carload. You can still see the same train tracks today, with the trestle spanning Soquel Creek.
Originally, the railroad was built to transport apples from surrounding orchards. As more and more valley residents escaped to the coast, Hihn recognized another industry the railroad could support: tourism. He began selling plots of land to those who wanted to build vacation homes. He also took Camp Capitola from seaside tents to a 160 room hotel, complete with hot saltwater baths, an electric streetcar, and a livery. Droves of people came to enjoy a vacation by the sea – and they didn’t stop coming!
Another developer named Henry Allen Rispin caught onto the hot – errr – cool spot that had been attracting vacationers for years. He infused some European influences into the seaside town and built the Venetian Courts in 1925. This is the same Venetian Hotel that still stands today, a Capitola icon.
Today, Capitola is still a resort town that draws thousands of tourists each year, but it is also an incredible place to live. Its alluring weather and beautiful views definitely captivated our very own Ben Strock! Whether you’re visiting for the day, for the week, or plan to stay awhile, Capitola is an incredible place to be.