By: Ron Pumphrey
How about a bit of history about the DeLaveaga Park?
José Vincente DeLaveaga died in Santa Cruz in 1894 at the age 50. He was a mysterious benefactor, a little-known wealthy naturalist, horseman and humanitarian. His will left $775,000 of his $900,000 estate to charity, with bequests to his servants, friends, Protestant and Jewish hospitals and orphanages, the needy of Spain, Mexico and Switzerland, local societies protecting animals and children, and Golden Gate Park. In Santa Cruz, DeLaveaga left 590 acres to the City and County of Santa Cruz to be used as a public park. He also left 50 acres to a proposed asylum for the hearing, speech and vision although this never came to fruition due to his will being contested. The land officially turned over to the City and County in 1900.
José Vincente DeLaveaga, who was a successful businessman and financier. DeLaveaga was born in Mexico in 1844 and after receiving business training in Germany, settled with his parents in San Francisco in 1868. He spoke five languages and acquired properties in San Francisco, Contra Costa, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. DeLaveaga was almost completely deaf and his disability gave him strong empathy for the helpless, the afflicted and animals.
His Santa Cruz estate, straddling the city line, was given to the city and county for a park. Fifty acres of the park were to be set aside for a large facility to serve the deaf, blind, lame, paralytic and aged of restricted means. Rentals of several San Francisco properties would pay for its operation. The 50 acres to a proposed asylum for the hearing, speech and vision although this never came to fruition due to his will being contested. The land officially turned over to the City and County in 1900.
In 1908, trolley service was provided up Morrissey and Pacheco Avenues to the entrance of the park. This is near where the Pacheco Dog Park is located today. Some of the original light posts and gateposts remain near Pacheco Avenue and DeLaveaga Park Avenue to this day.
The park eventually became home to a zoo including buffalo, elk, deer, bear and smaller animals. The military presence began in 1901. The National Guard Armory took over the zoo site after 1933, blocking off the main entrance, and later the Naval Reserve blocked the Parkway entrance. Later the Naval Reserve blocked the Parkway entrance.
Over its lifetime, DeLaveaga has contained 14 park areas, including an 1894 covered bridge, three movie studios complete with false-front architecture, an amphitheater, rifle and archery ranges, and the “Flying Links” Frisbee golf course.
DeLaveaga enjoyed horseback riding and often was seen on county roads atop a silver-decorated saddle on his black pacer, Duke. His love of nature led him in 1887 to purchase a forested estate of hills and canyons, which had grown to 565 acres by 1892 and was valued at $81,500. He laid out a network of bridle horse trails which led to the highest peak of the estate, La Corona (now called ‘Top of the World’ hole at the disc golf course). He planted trees, vineyards, citrus and nut groves and rare plantings from around the world. The estate was watered by five springs and 14 streams plus a flume along Branciforte Creek powering a waterwheel.
The DeLaveaga Elementary School site saw unsuccessful oil drilling on the property where the school now stands in 1923 and 1924. Early on, the City of Santa Cruz residents were served by Gault, Bay View and Branciforte Elementary Schools however as the population increased in the mid part of the century, it became evident that Santa Cruz needed additional elementary schools. Schools constructed during this time period were Westlake Elementary (1960), Natural Bridges Elementary (1965), and in 1966, DeLaveaga Elementary.
Ground was broken and on September 30, 1966 the school was formally opened, welcoming 263 student into eight classrooms and a library. In 1968, the lower shell of the school consisting of six more classrooms and the multi-purpose room were added. The library-media center was completed in May of 1978.
DeLaveaga Park could be called the Golden Gate Park of Santa Cruz. Sitting on a forested hill to the east, it has hosted several military outfits and a world-class golf course.
Santa Cruz reminded him of his coastal hometown of Rosario, 40 miles south of Mazatlan. When he and his parents first visited Santa Cruz in the 1870s, they boarded at Andrew Trust’s house on Lincoln Street, bringing their servants and doing their own cooking. They eventually made their local headquarters in the Joseph Pierrugues residence at Pacific and Maple streets.
DeLaveaga had a quiet composure and distant air, in part the result of his near-total deafness, which isolated him in crowds and made it hard for the lifelong bachelor to make friends. Far from feeling superior and aloof, he developed a strong empathy for the helpless, the afflicted and animals.
His love of nature led him in 1887 to purchase a forested estate of hills and canyons, which had grown to 565 acres by 1892 and was valued at $81,500. He laid out a network of bridle trails and planted trees, vineyards, citrus and nut groves and rare plantings from around the world. The estate was watered by five springs and 14 streams plus a flume along Branciforte Creek powering a waterwheel.
The illegitimate son of a deceased brother challenged the will, asking for a third of the estate. Litigation dragged on for years, and while the challenger lost, the will also was invalidated by section 1313 of the California Civil Code, which stated that only one-third of an estate could be given to charity. So Santa Cruz got its park however not its asylum. The park became home to a zoo, animal shelter and riding academy.
Then in 1974, a group of teachers recovering from strokes conceived of a center offering classes on how to get well or how to live with a disability. Cabrillo College became a sponsor, and the Cabrillo College Stroke Center was located in the park’s abandoned naval building, thus fulfilling DeLaveaga’s original dream for his park…