“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

University Town Center

A Site History

— 1856 – 1999 —

University Town Center Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, January 3, 2013
1. University Town Center Marker
1856 Architects Row
Farms and orchards surrounded the site’s original buildings. These were the 1856 home and office of architect Thomas Beck and 1861 home and office of architects John Morrow and John Williams north of Beck’s. Churches Morrow and Williams built were the 1863 Methodist, 1864 Episcopal, 1867 Baptist and 1867 Presbyterian. Beck designed the 1857 Catholic Church and 1866 county Court House, helped get the town’s first newspaper (the Sentinel and Journal) and first public library. He moved to Watsonville in 1866, invented the “Beck Fruit Dryer,” and served as California Secretary of State under Governor Pacheco.
1880 Wilkens House Inn
The tourist boom at the 1880 completion of the county railroad, prompted Peter Wilkins to expand the Beck home into a hotel known for its flowers. Across the street, his farm and apple orchard extended to the river, providing the hotel’s dairy, eggs, meat, and produce.
1893 Grand Central Hotel
In 1893 the hotel was aligned with the street and remodeled as the Grand Central Hotel. The name became synonymous
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with this part of town, and was used by surrounding businesses. It was replaced with a five story Grand Central Station and offices for the uncompleted Ocean Shore Railroad, but the 1906 earthquake led to the line’s demise.
1908 Hotel Metrapole
Morrow moved his cottage to Laurel St. in 1893, and the Hotel Metrapole was built in 1908, north of the Grand Central building. It’s shops included the City of Paris store beginning in 1909, the National Dollar Store in 1934, followed by Plaza Books from 1973-1989.
1941 Department Store
The Grand Central was demolished in 1941 when Cathcart Street was extended west to Pacific Avenue. In 1946, an art deco department store by Pasatiempo architect William Wurster housed J.C. Penny’s and later the Chas. Ford Store. It was destroyed in the 1989 earthquake, when a wall of the Metrapole building fell through the roof, causing the death of 75-year-old Kay Trieman.
1999 University Town Center
University Town Center revives the tradition of Pacific Avenue’s “College Corners” (1869-1942), a cluster of businesses and teachers colleges, seminaries, and student hotels between Walnut and Lincoln streets. The new building design incorporates heritage elements of downtown architecture, with its Alpine influence, Cooper House style yellow brick, grand
University Town Center Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, January 3, 2013
2. University Town Center Marker
tower, hip roof, art deco panels, and upstairs meeting rooms.
Design & Text for plaques:
Ross Eric Gibson

Erected 1999.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable Buildings. In addition, it is included in the Art Deco series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1856.
Location. 36° 58.312′ N, 122° 1.541′ W. Marker is in Santa Cruz, California, in Santa Cruz County. Marker is on Pacific Avenue near Cathcart Street, on the right when traveling south. The building sits on the northwest corner and the marker is mounted near the corner of the building. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1101 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz CA 95060, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Theatre Del Mar (within shouting distance of this marker); The Hihn Building (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); ZaSu Pitts House (about 500 feet away); J.J. Newberry Building (about 600 feet away); 411 Cedar Street (about 600 feet away); Calvary Episcopal Church (about 600 feet away); First Services (about 600 feet away); Old Theatre Building (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Santa Cruz.
University Town Center image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, January 3, 2013
3. University Town Center
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on January 10, 2013, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 386 times since then and 52 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on January 10, 2013, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.

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Dec. 2, 2023