Coastside Cultural Resources of San Mateo County

An Approach to Developing A Protection Program for the San Mateo County Coastal Zone.

Prepared by the Department of Environmental Management, Planning Division, San Mateo County, Redwood City, California. September 1980.

This project is supported by a grant from the National Endowment For The Arts, Washington, D.C. a Federal agency.

Chapter 4

The essence of this program is to protect and preserve coastal cultural resources in their natural physical setting. This is possible on the San Mateo Coastside for many of the historic and cultural features, whether in small towns and villages or rural compounds, are still intact.


There can be no realistic protection program unless there is a comprehensive survey and inventory of all significant cultural resources. Those building, structures, and sites (both cultural and natural) which are of importance to the Coastside had to be identified. To do this, a comprehensive survey of all resources which are important at either the local, State, or national level was undertaken. It is this survey which forms the foundation of the Protection Program. Cultural resources identified in the survey are divided into five categories: Historic, Architectural, Community Design Features, Development History, and Natural Features. These are defined as follows:


This includes buildings, structures or sites which are important to the historic development of the Coastside. It also includes groups of structures, historic sites or features, design components or other interesting details which together create an exceptionally rich historic ambiance.


This includes buildings which represent diverse architectural styles,whether vernacular or the works of identifiable artisans, master craftsmen, builders, or architects of local or wider importance.

Community Design Features

There are objects of interesting design which are of importance to their physical setting. These may be light fixtures, street furniture, local or unusual building materials, unique design components, or design features that contribute to the "look and feel" of the community.

Development History

This represents surviving sites, routes, or structures important to the early settlement, economic origins, or technological development of the region. These may be reminders of the Spanish or Mexican periods, artifacts of early agricultural or industrial development, historic town plats or subdivisions, or transportation routes such as trails, railroads, or roadways.

Natural Features

This includes topographic features, geologic formations, bodies of water, arroyos, remaining forests or natural features, and other striking or familiar physical characteristics that are important to the special character, historic identity or aesthetic setting of the Coastside.


Once the survey was completed, the information collected was evaluated to determine which are the most important resources in need of protection. While certain well known features were obvious, others were less so and the evaluation process was a helpful tool in compiling a comprehensive inventory of resources worthy of preserving and protecting. The following criteria for the evaluation of historical and architectural cultural resources, listed in Table I below, were used as guidelines in the evaluation process.


Criteria For The Evaluation Of Historical And Architectural Cultural Resources

Historical Criteria

Architectural Criteria

Physical Setting Criteria

Table II

Inventory of Cultural Resources

The following inventory represents a comprehensive survey of cultural resources found within the San Mateo County Coastal Zone. Each resource is identified by name and number on the INVENTORY Maps and by number of the SCENIC CORRIDORS AND CULTURAL FEATURES Maps. [my note: there are maps, but I won't be able to email them to you, so it is possible to omit the sentence above which mentions maps].


1. DEVIL'S SLIDE - Coast Highway, north of Montara

Where Montara Mountain extends to the ocean's edge, undercutting by waves has produced an exceedingly steep and lofty escarpment which rises over 800 feet above the ocean from San Pedro Point to the valley north of Montara. The Coast Highway cuts through the rock here, creating one of the most spectacular sights north of Big Sur. Along the road cut tightly folded, thin-bedded, Paleocene sandstones and shales meet with granitic rocks (primarily quartz diorite) of the earlier Cretaceous period. Portions of the road bed of the old Ocean Shore Railorad are still visible along sections of the cliff.

2. Montara Mountain

Towering over 1,900 feet above sea level, Montara Mountain is a major north County landmark. It follows the backdrop for the communities of Montara, Moss Beach, and El Granada, and its ridge is the easterly boundary of the Coastal Zone between the Devil's Slide area and Half Moon Bay.

3. Corner Store--Second and Main Streets, Montara

This one-story brick building of simple construction is a good example of the "corner store" of the early 1900's;' it is the only known commercial structure built of brick on the Coastside. The building stands along the route of the old coast highway, and was probably once frequented by travelers. It is used as a private residence today.

4. Montara Grammar School--Sixth and Le Conte Streets, Montara

This two-story school was built in 1915, in the Mission Revival style of architecture which was popular at the time. The building is presently used as a residence.

[Photo of Point Montara Light Station]

5. Point Montara Light Station--Coast Highway, Montara

A steam whistle and keeper's residence were installed at Point Montara in 1874 to warn ships of the sunken rocks which lie west of the point. The squat metal light tower which stands here today was constructed in 1901. Its stern white practicality is reminiscent of lighthouss seen on the New England Coast.

6. Ocean Shore Railroad

Between 1908 and 1920, the Ocean Shore Railroad operated trains along the Coastside from San Francisco to Tunitas Glen, carrying visitors to the beaches and hauling farm produce to market, During its brief existence, the railroad and its promoters were responsible for the subdivision of hundreds of lots in new coastal towns such as Montara, Moss Beach, and El Granada. The railroad failed due to financial problems which were never resolved and the coming of automobiles. Today all that remains of the old railroad are the scars of abandoned road cuts along coastal bluffs and several remodeled structures which once served as passenger stations. These are:

A. Montara Station, Second and Main in Montara, was built in 1906 of fieldstone by Italian masons. It has now been remodeled into a private residence.

B. Granada Station, Alhambra at Granada in El Granada, was constructed in a Mediterranean style with tile roof, stucco walls, and arched openings. It was the largest and most attractive station built by the railroad. The building today has been so altered to serve commercial uses that it bears little resemblance ot its originaldesign.

7. ST. SERAPHIMS HERMITAGE, Coast Highway and Virginia, Moss Beach

A one-story, wooden building, this Russian Orthodox monastery is distinguished by a small "onion" dome and Russian Cross on its roof.


Extending from Point Montara to Pillar Point, this nature reserve constitutes one of the richest intertidal rocky shore areas in Central California and is of great geologic interest. The rock formation provide a variety of intertidal and subtidal reefs, protected channels, and tidepools, all of which support in abundance of intertidal and subitdal marine organisms.

9. PRINCETON INN--Prospect and Princeton Streets, Princeton-by-the-Sea

Constructed in 1908 as a seaside resort hotel in the Mission Revival architectural style. It originally attracted throngs of tourists from San Francisco via the Ocean Shore Railroad. When the railroad went out of business, the resort-like atmosphere faded. The hotel came alive again in the 1920's as a bordello, and a haven for the rumrunners. It is typical of the turn-of-the-century coastal hotels and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


A small, sandy cove marks the spot where whalers came to render the blubber of their catches of humpback and California gray whales. Operations continued at the station intermittently from 1860 until the 1890's.

11. El Granada

This community was subdivided in 1906 in a Beaux-Arts design of radial and semi-circular streets, and divided landscaped boulevards. The town design is unique as it is the only one of its type in the County, and is the work of the famous Architect and City Planner Daniel Burnham. The town was intended to rival Atlantic City, Long Beach, and Coney Island as a beachside resort.

photo of advertisement for Granada. Caption reads:

Granada--the magnificent Burnham City while will be to San Francisco what Atlantic City is to Philadelphia--what Coney Island is to New York--what Long Beach is to Los Angeles.

Within fifty minutes of San Francisco there is springing into life and activity a great and wonderful beach city--a place of amusement and pleasure for our growing city's 500,000 people.

San Francisco has waited patiently for Granada--waited until the courageous builders of the Ocean Shore Railway could overcome the great difficulties of construction necessary to gain access to the most remarkable stretch of clean, sandy, safe beach in the world.

Granada is now ready and welcomes you--invites you to to spend Sunday on its broad stretch of hard sand, where the salty surf, tamed and calmed by a mighty natural reef, gently breaks and plays with the bathers along the short.

The Spring opening of Granada takes place next Sunday--thousands will be there to enjoy the pleasures of that great event--to take advantage of the splendid opportunity to make large profits in Granada real estate, for now is the beginning, and every day of growth is adding dollars to the value of this magnificent property.

Come with us Sunday--enjoy a basket lunch on the Beach at our expense--let us help you have the most enjoyable day of your life--get into the spirit of Spring--shake off the tedious grind of the daily commonplace--be happy next Sunday at Granada.

Special Trains leave Ocean Shore Depot, Twelfth and Mission streets, at 9:00 a.m., 10:10 a.m., 11:20 a.m., Sunday, May 2, 1909.

12. SANDSTONE OUTCROPPINGS -- Route 92, east of Half Moon Bay

Numerous large boulders and outcroppings of Miocene sandstone on the hillside above the roadway are distinctive to the area.

13. HOUSE OF DOORS--Route 92, east of Coast Highway

This house is constructed of doors which, it is rumored, were salvaged from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Located close to the roadway, the front yard is filled with artifacts from previous eras.

14. WILLIAM JOHNSTON HOUSE--Higgins-Purisima Road, Half Moon Bay

Constructed around 1857 in an Italianate style by William Johnston, a member of one of the early Anglo families on the Coastside. The building is constructed entirely with wooden pegs instead of nails and still has its original shutters and corner boards.

15. JAMES JOHNSTON HOUSE--Higgins-Purisima Road, Half Moon Bay

This Salt Box style home was constructed in 1853 and is one of the few of this typically Atlantic seaboard design in California. In its prime, it was the showplace of the area and the center of social acitivity. Because of its history and architectural uniqueness, it is one of the County's most important early structures. During rehabilitation of the house in 1977, it was blown down during a wind storm; however, it has been rebuilt exactly as originally constructed. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

[Photo of James Johnston House]

16. PURISIMA TOWNSITE--Higgins-Purisima Road, south of Half Moon Bay

Purisima, established around 1853, was the first Anglo settlement in the Half Moon Bay area. In its heydey, it was a bustling stagecoach stop and shopping area with stores, hotel, school, saloon, dance hall, and harness and blacksmith shops, which served farmers and loggers in the surrounding area. By the turn of the century, the town was in a decline with the growth of Half Moon Bay as the produce shipping center of the region. By the 1930's, Purisima was a ghost town. All that remains today are the ruins of the school and the cemtery.

17. Tunitas Creek--Coast Highway, south of Half Moon Bay

Here on the high coastal bluffs at Tunitas Creek, Alexander Gordon in 1872 built a wooden chute from the top of the cliff to the ocean below in a daring attempt to create a port. The venture failed and in 1885 a storm wrecked the structure. Nothing remains today except several bolts in the rocks that supported the structure.

Tunitas Creek also marks the transfer point for the old Ocean Shore Railroad where travelers boarded a Stanley Steamer Automobile for Davenport and continuation of the railroad to Santa Cruz. A large wooden trestle was constructed across the creek for the railroad bed but the company went out of business before it was ever used. The structure burned in 1940 and nothing remains today except the concret footings which supported the trestle.

18. PETERSON AND ALSFORD GENERAL STORE--Route 84 and Stage Road, San Gregorio

This old country store has served residents of the San Gregorio ara since the 1920's. The Spanish Colonial Revival style structure also serves as a post office and service station.

19. SAN GREGORIO HOUSE --Route 84 and Stage Road, San Gregorio

This two-story gable roof hotel was built by George Washington Tully Carter in 1865 to service the stagecoach trade between the Bayside and Coast. In the 1870's it was enlarged to its present size and a veranda with balcony was added to the front in a style which can best be described as Monterey Traditional. It is one of the rare surviving examples in California of a hostelry of that type and period. The old hotel dominates the townscape of San Gregorio and is an integral part of the village and its setting. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic America Building Survey.

{Photo of San Gregorio House}

20. SEASIDE SCHOOL--Stage Road, San Gregorio

Constructed in 1875, this one-story wooden schoolhouse is typical of the one-room schools that graced rural America in the 19th century and is one of the few remaining on the Coastside. It is presently used as a residence.

21. STAGE ROAD--Between San Gregorio and Pescadero

Except for a thin cover of asphalt, this old roadway remains untouched by modern engineering methods of construction. As it twists and winds its way over the coastal hills between San Gregorio and Pescadero, the modern traveler experiences many of the same sights that greeted the stagecoach as it carried passengers between the Bayside and these thriving coastal villages over a century ago.

22. EUCALPTUS GROVE--Stage Road, north of Pescadero

For nearly 1,200 feet this majestic grove of eucalyptus arches over Stage Road, creating a tunnel-like effect which has sheltered travelers from the summer sun and winter rains for over 100 years.

[photo of Eucalyptus Grove on Stage Road}

23. MONTEREY CYPRESS--Pescadero Road, east of Pescadero

This single Monterey Cypress is 120 feet in height and has a circumference of 40 feet, 4 inches, making it the largest speciment of its kind in the United States. Its landmark location, by the bend of the road, and estimated age, 150 years, indicates it was planted in the Spanish-Mexican Era, probably to mark a site or boundary line.

24. PESCADERO MARSH--Coast Highway at Pescadero Road

The largest marsh on the coast between Monterey and San Francisco, it is an important habitat for a variety of animals. The marsh is owned by the State as a wildlife refuge and a trail system allows the visitor to explore the area for closer observation.

25. PESCADERO BEACH UNCONFORMITY--Coast Highway at Pescadero Road

Here at beach level, on the south side of a point of land extending westward into the sea, nearly horizontal beds of sandstone and conglomerates of Oligocene age rest on nearly vertical sandstones and shales of the Pigeon Point Formation of Late Cretaceous age. Approximately 50 million years of geologic record are missing at the contact or unconformity between these two geologic units. During this interval, the Pigeon Point Formation was uplifted from the ocean floor and the rocks were beveled before the deposition of the much younger sandstones and conglomerates.

25. ST. ANTHONY'S CHURCH--North Street, Pescadero

This Roman Catholic Church was built in 1868-1870 and its tower was added in 1888. The building was knocked off its foundation by the 1906 earthquake, but was replaced on a new foundation on the original site. Its style is basically Greek Revival, but the spire shows a strong Victorian Gothic influence, being octagonal in shape and cut by four pointed dormers with louver-filled arches. The tower on which it rests has a rose window in a formal frame. The design of the building reflects, to a large degree, the style of the Congregational Church and the homes of the community at the time it was built.

27. BRADDOCK WEEKS HOUSE--Pescadero Road, Pescadero

Built in the 1860's, this house is typical of early homes in Pescadero. The porch columns have fancy cut ornaments at the tops, and deocrative brackets are used under the long eaves and at the gable ends. The window frames have Italianate cornices.

{photo of Braddock Weeks House]

28. GARRESTON SCHOOLHOUSE--Pescadero Road, Pescadero

Built in 1875 by John Garretson as a private schoolhouse, this building was purchased in 1885 by Braddock Weeks and moved to its present location to serve as a dairy building. It is one of the earliest surviving elementary schools in the County.


Built in 1867, this is the oldest Protestant Church in the County. It was originally a simple building with a square, louvered bell tower above the entry. The 40-foot single covered Victorian Gothic spire was added in 1889. The church expresses in wood temple forms of Greek Revival with cornice returns and quoins. The bell tower has a pseudo-rose window in the shape of a Maltese cross and the walls are scored to simulate stone.

30. JAMES McCORMICK HOUSE--Stage Road, Pescadero

Built in the late 1860's by James McCormick, one of the early families in Pescadero, this is the most sophiscated of the houses built in this era. Influenced by the Classic Revival, the house is almost the mirror image of the Thomas W. Moore House on the other end of Stage Road.

{Photo of James McCormick House}

31. BARTLETT V. WEEKS HOUSE--Goulson Road, Pescadero

Constructed in 1885, this house shows a slight departure from earlier homes in Pescadero in thqt it indicates an awareness of the Victorian style. Porch columns are solid, rather than pierced, and are decorated with concave fans that suggest arches between the posts.


Built in 1889, this Victorian style building was designed on a cruciform plan with some Gothic Revival details and a highpitched roof. The natural redwood interior is relatively undisturbed and much of the hardware is original. During the 1920's it served as the Pescadero Community Center and later as a cultural school for the children of Japanese Americans. It is presently owned by the Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West.

33. I.O.O.F. HALL--Stage Road, Pescadero

This meeting place was built around 1878 by the International Order of Odd Fellows, one of the most active fraternal groups in the community at the time. The street facade was made more elaborate in 1890 by the addition of an overhang to the gable, decorative brackets under the eaves, and veranda with a balustrated balcony. Remodeling has destroyed the original classic symmetry of the building, which is now used as a private residence.

34. WOODHAMS HOUSE--Stage Road, Pescadero

Built in the mid-1880's, the house has a square bay window typical of the period. Pierced quarter-fan ornaments on each corner of the porch and on either side of the supports give it unusual interest. The apex of the gable has a simple stick form and at the crest is a double fan with a finial center.

[Photo of Woodham's House}

35. THOMAS W. MOORE HOUSE--Stage Road, Pescadero

Built around 1863, this is one of the oldest houses in the community. Constructed with classically inspired motifs, it reflects the architectural influence of early homes in Pescadero.

36. PEBBLE BEACH--Coast Highway, south of Pescadero

This small beach, covered with polished fragments of agate, carnelian, and jasper, has been a favorite gathering point for visitors since the 1860's. The Swanton House in Pescadero would carry their guests to the beach by wagon each morning to sun and collect pebbles. A large hotel on the bluff above the beach was a tourist mecca until it burned in the 1920's.

37. PIGEON POINT--Coast Highway, south of Pescadero

This headland was originally called Whale Point by early Californians. Here, on the cove on the south side of the point, Portuguese whalers established a whaling station that consisted of a dozen cottages, two warehouses and a wharf. Later the area became known as Pigeon Point for the clipper ship, Carrier Pigeon, that hit the rocks and sank here in 1853.

The area has great scenic beauty, and is also of considerable biological and geological interest.

38. PIGEON POINT LIGHTHOUSE, Coast Highway, Pigeon Point

First illuminated on November 15, 1872, this lighthouse was named for the clipper ship, Carrier Pigeon, that hit the rocks here on May 6, 1853. The tower, 115 tower in height and 28 feet in diameter, is constructed of bricks shipped around Cape Horn from Norfolk, Virginia. The light's 9-foot diameter fresnel lens was built by Henri Le Paute of Paris in the 1850's. Illumination for the light first came from whale oil. Kerosense was later substituted, and then electricity to run the light, which is magnified to 800,000 candlepower in a beam seen 18 miles at sea. In 1974, an automatic beacon was set up on a platform outside the lighthouse, replacing the historic lens. The lighthouse is a State Historical Landmark, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and Historic American Building Survey.

{Diagram of Pigeon Point Lighthouse}

39. STEELE BROTHERS DAIRIES, Gazos Creek to Ano Nuevo

In 1862, Rensselaer Steele and his three cousins established a chain of dairies between Gazos Creek and Ano Nuevo knowns as the Steele Brothers Dairies which became famous throughout the Bay Area for their products. A number of houses and barns still stand which were constructed by the family. The dairies are listed as a California State Landmark.

40. CLOVERDALE RANCH HOUSE, Coast Highway, south of Pigeon Point

This two-story wooden house was originally built by William Ramsey in 1873 but was purchased in 1880 by Edgar Steele. It is constructed in a Classical Revival style with quoins at each corner, and gables that end in ranking cornices. A bay window on the front elevation adds an elegant flourish to the house. The building is presently owned by the Campbell Soup Company which uses it for labor housing.

41. FRANKLIN POINT, Coast Highway, south of Pescadero

This wild, scenic area represents a good example of an open-cut environment. Onshore are fine examples of sand dunes, both mobile foredunes and, inland, older dunes now stabilized and covered by vegetation. Offshore rocks and reefs fringe much of the area.

42. CASCADE RANCH HOUSE, Coast Highway, south of Franklin Point

Built in the mid-1860's for Rensselaer and Clara Steele, the building is constructed in a classical form with a symmetrical placement of windows and doors, and is the most elegant of the buildings. A wide veranda with a balcony on the second floor runs along the front and both sides of the house. Alterations made to the house over the years have not destroyed its distinctive coastal character.


This three-story redwood structure was the first erected by the Steeles after their location on the Coastside in 1862. The building was designed for function rather than style, which may explain the irregular placement of its windows. A wide band, or fascia, just under the eaves was the builder's only architectural embellishment.

{Photo of Cascade Ranch Dairy Building)

44. GREEN OAKS RANCH HOUSE, Coast Highway, south of Franklin Point

Built in 1863 by Isaac Steele, this wooden house was originally constructed in a Greek Revival style but later additions have substantially altered its architectural character. The house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

45. ANO NUEVO RANCH HOUSE, Coast Highway, Ano Nuevo

Constructed in 1895 by Horace Steele, this house is unique as it is one of two Salt Box style structures on the Coastside. Built with its rear to the ocean winds, an innovative feature of the house is a bay window on the south side.

46. DICKERMAN BARN, Coast Highway, Ano Nuevo

This redwood barn was constructed around 18778-1900 by Isaac Steele's daughter Effie and her husband Edwin Dickerman. The structurer is comparable to three stories in height with a gable roof. It is a style of barn generally found in the eastern part of the United States. Unlike the usual California barn, with its long sloping roof, this one enclosed its space by going up three stories, reducing the roof size and maintenance cost without losing square footage. The beams used in the barn's construction are quite large, 18 x 18 inches. They were salvaged after 1877 from a burned-out wharf in nearby Ano Nuevo Cove. The barn is listed in the National Register of Historic Sites.

47. POINT ANO NUEVO, Coast Highway, south of Franklin Point

A number of features combine to make Point Ano Nuevo the most remarkable and spectacular area on the entire Coastside. Punta del Ano Nuevo was one of the first landforms in California to receive a Spanish name. From his ship in January 1603, Capatain Sebastian VGiscaino saw the point and its island while exploring for Spain. The first contact between Europeans and the natives of this land, the Ramaytush or San Francisco Costanoan Indians, occurred here in 1769 when the Portola expedition entered what is today San Mateo County one mile to the south. A Spanish engineering officer returned later to survey the area and an outpost of Mission Santa Cruz was established after 1798. The first American settlers came in the decade after the Gold Rush, building a wooden railroad for lumbering and introducing large scale dairy farming.

The area is rich in fauna, particularly in the marine area where, due to submarine stacks and shoals which prevent commercial fishing, there is a prolific population of fish, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. Tidepools are found in the bedrock outcrops. Sea birds nest on the shoreline cliffs, and recently the northern elephant seal has extended its breeding area from Ano Nuevo Island to the mainland beaches.

{Photo of Point Ano Nuevo)


This small island, once the tip of a peninsula, is one of the most important pinniped breeding grounds in Northern California, including the elephant seal. This animal has returned to the island in the past decade after virtual extinction around the turn of the century.

The island has been the site of a light station since 1890, when a light was added to the warning of the foghorn installed in 1872. The light station was abandoned in 1948 and today is occupied by seals and sea lions.


From October 23 to November 20, 1769, the expedition of Captain Gaspar de Portola was in San Mateo County searching for Monterey Bay. Traveling north up the coast, the expedition camped at several locations until it reached San Francisco Bay and became the first Europeans to view this great body of water. State Historic Landmark status commemorates these sites at San Gregorio Creek, Purisima Cree, Pilarcitos Cree, and Martini Creek.

{my note: end of chapter 4. There are two maps: (1) Mid-Coast Cultural Resources Inventory Map and (2) South Coast Cultural Resources Map showing the location of the above described sites). Chapter 5 to follow.

Chapter 5 | back to Chapter 3
This material provided by (june morrall)