In the late 1800s you could take a street car to West Cliff Drive and then gamble, dance and stay in a hotel all right there! The top photo is a postcard circa 1920 of the Vue de L’eau street car station located at the intersection of todays Woodrow Avenue and West Cliff Drive. The station was built in 1891 by the Santa Cruz, Garfield Park and Capitola Electric Railway as the end of their streetcar line.
The station was built in the Victorian style and had an octagonal observatory on the second floor. The use of French for “View of the Water” was likely to give the station an exciting exotic feel.
In 1894 the same company also built a casino with a ballroom and restaurant at Woodrow and Pelton avenues. The idea was to promote the streetcar line and further develop the area for wealthy people to vacation here. Already, West Cliff Drive near the wharves, (then just Cliff Drive) was known as Millionaire’s Row.
Yet another attraction located near the Vue de L’eau was a museum called the Free Cliff Museum.
The plan to turn the Westside into a vacation resort area was never successful. The casino closed after about ten years, and the streetcar line became less popular. It folded in the mid-1920s as cars and buses flourished. The Vue de L’eau station burned down in 1925.
Sustained development of the Westside area of Santa Cruz did not really happen until after World War II. Woodrow Avenue is so wide today because the streetcar tracks used to occupy what is now the large median strip.
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