El Granada: Vision & Reality


What a colorful scene when women wearing bulky looking, long dresses and beribboned hats, accompanied by serious, mustachioed men in three-piece suits and bowler hats, disembarked at the North Granada Station. They had come to survey what the land brochures described as a “Coney Island West” resort. Many had never seen the beach before and they came to enjoy the breathtaking train ride and the cool Coastside breezes.

In the distance, at the northern point of the half moon shaped bay, the visitors admired the spectacular sight of Pillar Point. Some said it reminded them of a snake’s head, a low, sleek and long slice of land that demanded attention.

To the south, as far as the Ocean Shore Railroad’s passengers could see, the beach was a continuous white, broad ribbon of sand, footprintless.

Remember, the passengers had come to El Granada to stroll along the beach and to learn about real estate opportunities. After the lovely beach walk, the popular realtor Charles Wagner launched into his sales pitch, lauding the finer points of real estate: 15 miles of curbing, 9 miles of cement work, 8 miles of water mains and sewer pipes, all that had already been completed, Wagner said. When the winter rains came, some 6000 trees would be planted along the concrete sidewalks.

Old photos capture the charm of the uncomfortably dressed visitors walking along a strip of concrete sidewalk with empty land on either side. The lone sidewalk is the promise of more to come and not far away stands Charles Morgan’s Hotel El Granada where weekend guests can rent a room while the more outdoorsy types can rough it out at Tent City in Moss Beach.

Already El Granada, as a blank slate, is showing signs of being a good place to live as well as a public resort.

…to be continued,,,

El Granada: Vision & Reality

Note: Here’s a very sentimental piece I wrote about El Granada a long time ago…some of the things I describe may not be around anymore.


A recent [see “note” above] walk past tall apartment buildings on Avenue Alhambra in El Granada–where a concrete slab is all that remains of the Ocean Shore Railroad–led me to reflect on the first buildings that appeared some 83 years ago.

In 1910 the 38-mile long railroad was running daily from San Francisco to Tunitas Glen, south of Half Moon Bay. The iron road closely paralleled Highway 1, which was to come some 40 years later. Two attractive, but strikingly different train stations were constructed. Until then prime agricultural land captured the eye, much of it farmed by Dante Dianda, the “Artichoke King.” Otherwise, the narrow strip of marine terrace, bordered by mountains and sea, was almost devoid of structures.

One station stood at the northern end of El Granada. Shot from afar, a vintage photo of the station is framed by endless rows of healthy artichokes, an artful contrast of man’s work with a farmer’s bountiful produce.

Another station stood near Avenue Portola; the building was later moved to accommodate a club, then a private residence.

Some people talk of three stations in El Granada. That’s because the Ocean Shore also built a platform used to store wood and other construction materials in southern El Granada. I guess some riders got off there, too.

Subdividing El Granada seemed like a good idea after the horrific 1906 earthquake and fire. El Granada was close to San Francisco but hard to get to because of the unforgiving geographical barriers. Fearing more earthshaking, and wanting to get away from it, city dwellers looked to other communities. Perhaps they were unaware that the moody fault line cut through the Coastside as well.

…to be continued…

St. Matthew’s Land by Coastside artist Galen Wolf (Part X)


It [the sea] strewed beach wood everywhere and created the aquarium-like pools flowering with anemone and garnished with kelp and sea urchins.

Big-faced capazoni, like Chinese fish-kites, prowled the reefs. Swift cod of many colors swam deep, and flashing silver schools awoke the sea birds and fishermen to intense activity.

The sea held the fog and the coolness, and never were the coastland people unaware of its pervasive presence.

The mountains, the sea, the indifferent access, kept this slender coastal plain apart in time and in ways of life for years. It acquired a serene and unspectacular beauty.

Houses and barns turned weather grey. Moss formed golden green patina on the roofs and fences. Thick hedges of cypress and eucalyptus, intended as windbreaks, helped compose pictures so lovely no artist could pass them by.

Glimpses down steep gullies to the blue or the froth of waves intensified the color. The warm greens of the varied brush was dusted in gold by yellow flowers–the lupin, the wormwood and the primrose.

With a sad heart one sees the change. A new day cannot be denied. Old shingles are replaced with tin or corrugated roofing. Trees are ruthlessly cut. The lovely curves of old roads are lost. A painter feels a desperation to record what is left, what is passing so fast.

This San Mateo, this Saint Matthew’s land, was rich and old when most of California was raw and unknown. The Spaniard had here achieved a courtesy, a hospitality, a serenity almost without historic compare.

There are times, moments, when we still may feel this enduring magic. Try it. Walk in the warm deserted canyons as October sun makes Indian summer. You will feel the spell, more tangible than dream.

In glades that have not changed at all, the centuries drop away. The day and the mood of Spain are here.

Quail leap up and take flight. The muted thunder of their wings becomes the mutter of Spanish drums. Along fence rows the pomp and glory and hope of a vanished empire stand in its bannered colors.

In purple and gold, the dusty ranks of aster and goldenrod ask remembrance of the birthday of our homeland. With joyful hearts we answer and celebrate and a strange benediction is ours and a renewed love of our heritage.

[The End]


St. Matthew’s Land by Coastside artist Galen Wolf (Part IX)


The galleons had long given way to a new ship, the clipper. These now came in an endless stream to San Francisco. The ocean that fought these fast ships for the months-long voyage of the Horn, sometimes seized them on the very doorstep of their arrival.

The cargoes of these wrecks became a part of the sea-bordering life. Pescadero folk salvaged so much white lead from the stranded Columbia that the town was known as the whitest in California.

from the wreck of the Sir John Franklin, extravagant furniture for the gaudy hotels of San Francisco’s tenderloin district, fell into the hands of the Steele family. The New York provided tea and ginger, the Ridal Hall silk thread.

In a happier mood the waves cast countless thousands of sea shells upon the sand. They ranged from ponderous abalone to fragile translucent fan shells. The sea polished myriads of pebbles and left them in shoals at Pebble Beach and Columbia Beach.

…to be continued…