A Brief History of Aptos
Aptos in Santa Cruz County, California is a town with such an intriguing history, as you may learn when you stop by the local history museum close by your vacation home rental in Aptos. Learning about the events that have made the area as picturesque as it is today can help locals and tourists alike to appreciate the area even more.
How the Name Originated
Indians lived in the area that is now Aptos for thousands of years before the Spanish ever came to it to build Mission Santa Cruz (Holy Cross). Historians trace the Indian settlement in Santa Cruz County back to around 7000 BC.
In 1769, a group of Spaniards rode through a well-established Indian village located where today the Aptos and Valencia Creeks meet. To the Spanish group, the name of the village that the American Indians said to them sounded like “Awotos,” which means “the meeting of the waters.”
Later, in 1791 and beyond, Franciscan priests began to baptize the local Indians in the Mission Santa Cruz that Father Lasun had begun. Mission Santa Cruz finished in 1794. The priests recorded the names of the people they converted and where these people lived. The name of the “Awotos” area was recorded as Aptos, Abtos, and Avtos, depending on who did the records. The Aptos address remains today.
More about the Early Aptos Years
Mexico’s government gave Aptos Rancho (5500 acres) to Rafael Castro in 1833. Within the next ten years, the total area of Rancho was increased by Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado to 6,686 acres. At first, Castro used the land to raise cattle to use for their skins. Then, when California was named a state in 1850, Castro rented his land to Americans to build businesses on it.
The first town was established where Aptos Village stands now. It had a lumber mill, an all-purpose store built by Jose Arano, and, within the next five years, the Apple Lane Bed & Breakfast Inn was completed. Castro built Aptos Wharf in the 1850s. In 1860, a bridge was established over Aptos Creek.
Spreckels & the Santa Cruz Railroad
In 1872, the millionaire Claus Spreckels built many establishments in the area, including a huge house and a racetrack for his horses. A hotel was built, which was only accessible by Spreckels Drive, and he put money toward the Santa Cruz Railroad project, which was completed in 1876.
To make room for the railroad, the town was moved from one side of Aptos Creek to the other. The first steam engine, called Jupiter, is an exhibit now in the Smithsonian.
Aptos as a Mill Town
The biggest industry in Aptos from the late 1800s to around 1920 was the logging of redwoods. The timber harvested by the Loma Prieta Lumber Company was primarily taken from what is today called Nisene Marks State Park, which is within close proximity of beach house rentals in Aptos. The Valencia Mill took care of everything eastward.
By 1920, there were few trees left and apples took over as the primary industry in Aptos. The main apple packing plant was situated where the Village Fair Antiques store stands today. In 1927, the Chamber of Commerce for Aptos was formed.
The concrete ship “Palo Alto” was moved to Seacliff and put on the sands with the intention of using it as a nightclub. The ship was rebuilt to include a ballroom that featured popular bands like Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. After only two seasons of being open, the owner had to close due to lack of profit. The ship remains a popular sight and is a must-see attraction to take in while you vacation in a quality rental in Santa Cruz Country.
Fast Development in the 1960s
The 1960s was a time for a lot of development in Aptos. Residential neighborhoods began to form as more attractions were built in the area, including an Aptos Campus for Cabrillo Community College and Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center. Aptos High School was completed in 1969.
Find Out More About Aptos History
The coastal region of Aptos has a full history that we have only briefly touched upon here. To find out more, visit the Aptos History Museum as part of your California trip. Wander the long-standing Aptos Village conveniently when you stay in quality vacation home rentals in Aptos, and revel in the knowledge of its interesting past.