Charlie Nye’s father, also called Charlie Nye, saw opportunity when his neighbors gave up after the Ocean Shore Railroad showed signs of faltering.
The 1906 earthquake, with its epicenter at nearby Mussel Rock, struck a mighty blow at the work the Ocean Shore was doing near Devil’s Slide. After having read personal horrifying accounts of the earth moving in downtown San Francisco, I can only imagine the shaking at the Slide.
In the 1880s Mr. Wienke, whose wife,Meta, was distantly related to the sugar king Claus Spreckels, established a beach resort at Moss Beach. Getting people to come was hampered because Wienke’s hotel was isolated and the carriage ride a long, dusty, uncomfortable one. The railroad, which planned an iron road from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, promised to deliver untold number of tourists–and now nature had reduced all that to temporary rubble as the Ocean Shore people cleaned up and took financial nventory.
I guess the railroad was committed to see their project through to the bitter end and they plowed ahead–even coming up with a couple of little gas powered coaches, much, much cleaner burning than the billows of black dirty smoke emitting from the coal-powered engines as they choo choo-ed across the Coastside landscape.
That was exciting for what the Reefs had been built right on the sandy beach of the present day Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. There was no foundation as the building stood on 16-foot stilts.
Charlie Nye: When the Reefs was first built it was built on the sand and there were rows of bathhouses on one side and a dance floor on the other side where they used to have an orchestra. There was a road to the beach and people used to drive down with their horse and buggies. There was a chute we used to sllide groceries down from the cliff to the beach.”
A romantic place like this instantly drew the famous of the time, the botanist Luther Burbank, breeder of plums and prunes, and many other plant varieities, and the great writer Jack London, who loved the sounds of the sea and whose adventurious sea stories were read by every male child.
Guests fished, boated and hunted abalone.
On the day the Reefs officially passed from Mr. Wienke to Charlie Nye, the new owner faceda smelly problem.
Charlie Nye (deadpan): A dead whale had washed ashore–and it was highly potent. They tried everything they could think of to get rid of the carcass. Finally they blew it up with dynamite and there was just more whale over everything.
It was either Charlie’s father or Mr. Wienke who had done the interior decorating at The Reefs, using only what could be found locally. Every inch of wall, from floor to ceiling, was covered with silvery blue abalone shells. The abalone chowder was a big hit and in later years Charlie Nye’s father revealed the secret to his delicous recipe: mince the abalone in a sausage grinder.