Seabright Beach was once known as ‘"Castle Beach"

Scholl Marr Castle existed between 1929 and 1967, and featured a restaurant, snack bar and other businesses.

August, 2023: Author Traci Bliss is a featured speaker at the dedication of the State Parks Castle Beach historic displays she helped create.

 

article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel

 

SANTA CRUZ — To celebrate the memory of the Scholl Marr Castle, which once stood at Seabright State Beach, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, the Seabright Neighbors Association and California State Parks held a ceremony Saturday morning for a new educational display and gate for the beach, which longtime Seabright residents still call “Castle Beach.”

The bilingual educational displays about the castle, opened in 1929 and demolished in 1967, and the new Seabright State Beach gate came about from an effort of many organizations and individuals that began in 2017.

“This is a celebration not just of the completion of the project but the community that made this possible,” said Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks Executive Director Bonny Hawley. “People donated locally and across the state and from as far away as Hawaii, Arizona and Oregon. There’s just a really deep love for this beach and the history behind it.”

An in-depth history of Castle Beach can be found in the book “Santa Cruz’s Seabright,” which was authored by local historian and project partner Traci Bliss along with co-author Randall Brown.

According to the book, James Pilkington built the Seabright Hot Salt Water Baths, fueled by local driftwood, in 1903. After about two decades, Pilkington sold the building to Louis Scholl who refurbished the structure into the form of a Moorish castle, which opened in 1929.

The Scholl-Mar Castle housed salt baths on the ground floor and shops, eateries and dressing rooms on the others. From then, until the structure was demolished in 1967, the beach was known as Castle Beach. In 1970, Castle Beach was sold to the state of California and it became part of Twin Lakes State Beach, and soon renamed Seabright State Beach.

Castle Beach is more than just a subject of historical study for Bliss, who grew up hanging out there. Before the addition of the Santa Cruz Harbor in the early 1960s, the coastline was much different in the area, and Castle Beach, a fraction of the size that Seabright Beach is today, was nearby a coveted spot for body surfing, which was a favorite activity for Bliss.

“We would body surf at San Lorenzo Point, which was considered the best body surfing north of Santa Barbara,” said Bliss. “After a long afternoon of intense body surfing we would come here and lie in the sand and as soon as we were warm enough, we’d come right up to the castle, and there was Gladys selling snow cones.”

Bliss mentioned that her favorite flavor of snow cone was lime, which prompted a number of audience members to shout out their favorite snow cone flavors, of which cherry, grape and strawberry were mentioned.

“It was paradise,” Bliss added. “What could be better than having that as your summer routine.”

 

Bob Watson, nephew of Louis Scholl, shared his experiences growing up around the castle, where he had his first job gathering umbrellas and chairs rented out to beachgoers.

“I got 10 cents a piece for bringing them back to my mother who rented them,” said Watson. “My mother was a great hamburger and hot dog cooker, too.”

After the presentation, Santa Cruz neighbors indulged in pieces of a cake decorated with an image of the castle and shared their memories of the unique structure, such as Declan Gallagher, who confessed that as a kid he would often sneak under the castle and hang out with the other juvenile delinquents in the neighborhood.

“We were the kind of kids that would run down the beach and knock down people’s sand castles,” said Gallagher. “Castle Beach was the place where you spent your summers. We would wake up at seven or eight in morning and mom and dad would say, get out of here and be back at seven for dinner. So we’d walk a few blocks down to the beach with two dollars in our pockets and our little rafts and go bodysurfing.”

The history of Castle Beach is a favorite subject for many local historians such as Bliss and others such as Daniel Model, who helped spur the effort in 2017 to have the Seabright Beach gate replaced and the educational display created. He was honored to be one of many people involved with the project, and happy to see the effort completed and the history of the Scholl Marr Castle preserved.

“Santa Cruz is changing everywhere and you can’t stop it, but the heart of Santa Cruz is in our past,” said Model. “It’s part of our identity. It’s who we are.”

“It was such a rewarding and exciting journey,”

said co-author Traci Bliss whose family goes back five generations in the Seabright area. She said that the book has about 50 different sources of historic photos from UC Santa Cruz to the Natural History Museum to individuals and families in Seabright.

Seabright, located atop towering sandstone cliffs and bordered by the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor and San Lorenzo Point, overlooks the famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk and a state beach where locals and lifeguards have performed many valiant acts of ocean rescue. Originally a Victorian-era campground, the neighborhood features special amenities, including a natural history museum, thanks to a long tradition of community activism. The creation of the Santa Cruz Harbor in the 1960s completed Seabright s transition from a summer resort to a year-round neighborhood. The beach doubled in size due to the littoral drift of sand blocked by the harbor seawall, protecting the vulnerable cliffs from the assault of winter waves.”

All proceeds go to support education programs at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.