The Riverside Neighborhood

The Barson Years

For more than 100 years, the neighborhood of the Riverside house was defined by the Barson family's 30- acre Riverside Hotel and orchard. Barson street, from Bixby to the riverbank, was bordered by ornamental cedars, palms, fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and rustic sheds and barns. The river curved around the property, occassionally flooding over the bank bordered by tall eucalyptus. The wide, sandy beach upstream from the Riverside bridge was a famous place to fish.

Barson Hotel neighbors were a mixture of business owners, laborors, clerks, printers, railway workers, and orchardists.


After 1945

In 1945, the children of the hotel's founder retired and sold the hotel and surrounding orchard to developers, Canfield & Gilbert. The 600 block of Riverside was cut through the orchard and gardens at that time and the orchards subdivided into "riverfront" suburban house lots. In 1948, the hotel building was sold to Jack Genovesi and a hotel and restaurant was operated by his daughter and son-in-law Pete and Edna Marchesi. The hotel building was remodeled in the 40s, and the old hotel was razed in 1960. A new restaurant was built on the site. That business was sold in 1972 to what was termed a "Japanese business." In the late 70s and early 80s the restaurant became "The New Riverside" which introduced Schezuan Chinese food to Santa Cruz. The restaurant closed in the late 70s, and burned sometime before 1982.It was an abandoned property until the late 80s when it was razed and a new hotel rebuilt as the Riverside Garden Hotel. It is currently (2002) operated as a Best Inn.

One Hundred Years of Lower Ocean

Santa Cruzans enjoy the coincidence of the 1905 publication of our first telephone directory and our first Sanborn map of the twentieth century.Begining with these sources, which provided names, addresses, and building footprints, we can then create lists of names to then discover those brief and ordinary newspaper articles of ordinary Santa Cruzans: our parties, business enterprises, our obituaries. By 2005, I hope to make available to local historians an annotated map of the Lower Ocean neightborhood as it was in 1905. From these beginnings, I hope that other local historians can continue their own research into this fascinating neighborhood.

Here are the first two products of the map project. The 800 block is the template of the remaining streets: Campbell, Clay, Ocean, Broadway, Barson, Pearl, Jessie, and Bixby.

700 Block of Riverside 1905

800 Block of Riverside 1905






Pearl, Jessie, Lemos



Click to see an arial photo of the neighborhood around 1915.


This timeline of the Riverside Hotel was compiled by Helen Susko for Sandy Lydon's History class at Cabrillo College, Spring semester, 1980. Her notebook of articles and photographs was given to the Barson family, and they allowed me to use it in my research. Dorothy Barson told me that Helen Susko had passed away some years after she finished the compilation.

1848 First records of property. American alcade grant to Adna A. Hecox
1853 Tract leased to Henry G. Balisdell to raise potatos
1864 Alfred Barson moves to Santa Cruz. Works for Hihn and Field and later grocery store of his own on upper plaza
1866 Before confirmation of Santa Cruz land titles, property passes into hands of E. H. Heacock, judge of Superior Court.

Land (30 acres) bought from Judge Heacock by Alfred Barson. His father had come to US from Worcestshire, England in 1849 where he had been a contractor for England's railroads.


Added 2 stories and some cottages to original building. (70 guest rooms and 8 cottages.)

1880 Dance Pavillion and Bowling Alley built on property
1889 New Stable. Electric Generator installed. Electric pump for well water. Hotel electrified.
1889 Previous to this date, Aldred deeds to the town of Santa Cruz a total of five acres for streets (Riverside and Barson).
1889-1945 Run as a successful hotel by Barson family
1945 Sold to C.E. Canfield and Sons for land development.
1948 Riverside Hotel sold to Jack Genovesi
1960 Razed.




The Barson Years -- After 1945 -- Other River and Neighborhood scenes
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