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“Looks good from outside, but...”

Capitola Historical Museum
Ranked #3 of 18 things to do in Capitola
Attraction details
Reviewed 25 July 2014

This looks like an interesting small museum housed in old buildings near the city hall. But the hours are too few and far between. We happened to visit Capitola on a Thursday, and the museum was closed all day. We peeked in the windows of an old beach cabin furnished to depict how it would have been back in the day. We walked over to the locked toilet/bath building but couldn't see the interior for an idea of this old public facility, and the museum itself was not only locked but shuttered, so you couldn't look through the windows. Big disappointment! We like history and would have liked to really visit the museum, but it wasn't possible.

3  Thank RuNanS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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14 - 18 of 27 reviews

Reviewed 6 July 2014

This is one of those destinations that few people know about but for those of us who do, this place is a pleasant departure from the hectic life of the city! Over the years, I’ve made many trips here with my friends to fish or to dine at one of their exceptional restaurants along the coast!

There are no major fascinations here but a nice hideaway from city life. With a population of less than 10,000 residents, there isn’t much to do other than to take in the spectacular views of the pacific which keeps bringing Californian’s like myself back!

When we drive to Monterey and take the coast highway, it’s basically the scenic route and adds about an hour onto your trip.

What you get out of the trip is the views of the pacific coast and you take in all these small towns that you wouldn’t normally see. They’re shops along the way that are unique to the area and worth stopping in for that someone special.

This has to be one of those gems that I recommend stopping into! There are other cities that are much older than Capitola, but no one has ever challenged it, so it still bills itself as the oldest resort city!

These cities were initially established as missions, pueblos, or presidios rather than vacation destinations. For more than 125 years, Capitola professes to be the oldest settlement founded as a resort.

As the history of this place goes, Capitola is built on the location of an Indian village that existed for more than a “thousand years (“of course, we came along and wrecked everything!”).” The native inhabitants, known as the Soquel Indians, were removed to the Mission Santa Cruz when it was established in 1791. Since then, nearly all traces of the Soquel “Rancheria” and its culture vanished.

In 1833, In the Mexican Era that followed, the territory became part of the Soquel Rancho granted to Martina Castro and husband Michael Lodge.

In 1850, California became a state and Santa Cruz County was formed. As settlers engaged in logging and agriculture, the beach became a busy shipping point known as Soquel Landing.

In 1857, a wharf built and was expanded to 1,200 feet a few years later. Gradually, a small fishing colony of Italian immigrants settled at its base.

In 1865, Frederick Hihn, a native of Germany came to California during the Gold Rush and obtained the land that is now Capitola Village. A few years later, Hihn leased the parcel near the wharf at Soquel Landing to S. A. Hall.

In 1874, his daughter, Lulu Hall Wolbach, suggested that he set up a tent camp along the beach for the summer. It’s believed that Lulu, a former Soquel teacher named the resort "Capitola" after the heroine in a series of popular novels.
In 1874, Camp Capitola, welcomed its first guests. The Hall family set up the tents along a dirt path every summer for five years, until increases in rent forced them to give up the lease.

An 1883, promotion about Capitola printed in the Tourists Illustrated Guide to the Celebrated Summer and Winter Resorts of California declared that "This great sea-side camping resort is situated on the beautiful Bay of Monterey, and is the oldest camping ground on the Pacific Coast.”

In 1883, with the Santa Cruz-Watsonville Railroad, Capitola had become the destination of thousands of summer visitors who wanted to escape the sweltering heat of the state's interior.

In 1884, Hihn himself took over direction of the resort's progress and created a subdivision map and began to sell lots for summer homes.

In 1913, following Hihn's death, Capitola was inherited by his daughter, Katherine Henderson, who sold it shortly after World War I to Henry Allen Rispin of San Francisco.

In 1929, Rispin spent a fortune on his schemes for "Capitola-by-the-Sea," until he went bankrupt just before the start of the Great Depression. Lulu and S. A. Hall, Frederick Hihn, and Henry Rispin were the early builders and protectors of a small seaside camp that may today be California's oldest continuing resort.

In 1933, a huge fire destroyed old Camp Capitola but within the next sixteen years, the breezy, seaside resort would tread away from its unincorporated neighbors and stand on its own as a full-fledged city.

In 1935, a small dance hall was built alongside the Golden Poppy Beer Garden. The New Hawaiian Gardens on Capitola Avenue was then chopped into sections and dragged the few blocks to the water's edge and became the Capitola Ballroom but was burned down in 1957.

In 1946, Capitola tried to be incorporated but failed because of petty squabbling on both sides, pro and con, although the community was increasingly bold in asserting itself on common issues.

In 1948, Capitolan’s took concrete steps toward incorporation just as the new highway neared completion.

In 1949, the City of Capitola was officially incorporated and is now guided by its city government and soon plans to celebrate its 50th birthday as a municipality.

8  Thank Holdtheair
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 June 2014

I have great difficulties describing a place that I will return to for more intensive and in-depth exploration. I visited Capitola only because I did not want to drive the extra miles to Santa Cruz and have to put up with dense traffic and panhandlers. This was my first time and I was struck by the calmness (mid week noon) for a beach town at the northern end of Monterey Bay. Since I am from Maine, I was pleasantly surprised by the mix of people and the serenity. I know the weekends are busy and there are a few festivals that many people flock to the small town and enjoy. That is not for me. I like the Mediterranean style character and the old pier with young and old fishermen discussing bait and the catch. The population is about 10,000 and though that seems like a lot, there were very few people on the streets and/or the beach at noon. Restaurants are plentiful and have a good variety to offer, though my wife and I did not eat, we did sit on benches downtown and ate what we brought. The best views are from the wharf which extends out about 150 feet into the bay and from the train (discontinued service) tracks above the town along E. Cliff Drive which winds down into the town. There is a very small museum, that is essentially a tribute to Harry Hooper a Red Sox Hall-of-Famer. The second most interesting building there is the Venetian Hotel which is really what gives the village that Mediterranean feel, not to mention a distinct climate. Great place to just sit, sun bathe, or cool off in the clean beach area of a nice small town in California.

6  Thank Danvillme
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 June 2014

Literally, we were in and out in about 10 minutes. The kids like seeing an original "Beach Cottage". They couldn't believe how tiny it was. We're so spoiled!

2  Thank Colleen B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 May 2014

History of Capitola with great pictures and displays in a house that was recycled and moved to its current location. Outside, there is a cool example of accommodation from an earlier time.They change the exibit yearly so you need to return. The Museum has walking tours of Capitola call or check web page for dates

Thank John N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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