Many local organizations to participate in History Fair at UCSC on October 24

Free public event coincides with 'sesquicentennial' anniversary of Henry Cowell's purchase of the Cowell Ranch land

August 17, 2015



In this historical photo, an ox team on the former Cowell Ranch hauls cordwood to fuel the lime kilns there. (Photo: courtesy of Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District)

The Conference on Lime and Lime Kilns in California History, sponsored by the Friends group in 2009, attracted a large number of local residents and history buffs. (Photo: Jim MacKenzie)

The rebuilt Hay Barn on the UCSC campus, "raised" in March, will be the location for the History Fair. (Photo: courtesy of Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District)

The Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District is hosting a local history fair, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Henry Cowell's purchase of the land that would become UC Santa Cruz. The event will take place on Saturday, October 24, on the UCSC campus.

One of the campus's 50th-anniversary events, "A History Fair: Cowell Ranch and the land before UCSC" will feature five short talks that focus on the pre-UCSC use of campus lands. A number of local organizations and campus groups will also present displays and activities that focus on local history, especially the effects of past human activity on the land. (Speakers and participating organizations are listed, below.)

"Not only does 2015 mark the 150th anniversary of the Cowell family's arrival in Santa Cruz, it marks the 50th anniversary of UC Santa Cruz's opening," says local historian Frank Perry, who serves as board president of UCSC's Cowell Lime Works Friends Group. "The intersection of these two milestone anniversaries in Santa Cruz makes this a perfect time to take a closer look at the legacy of the Cowells in the local area."

Open to the public at no cost, the History Fair will take place from noon to 4 p.m. at the recently "raised" Hay Barn just up the hill from the main entrance to the UCSC campus. The first of the five talks planned will begin at 1 p.m.

Free parking will be available in designated areas on campus near the venue, and refreshments will be available on site.

Perry expects the fair will be of interest to a wide range of community members — from local history buffs to individuals and families who just want to know more about the history of Santa Cruz.

Cowell Family's large impact on Santa Cruz area history

Henry Cowell's purchase in 1865 — 150 years ago — of half of the lime manufacturing firm of Davis & Jordan was a signature moment in Santa Cruz history. Only 12 years earlier, the company had started making lime — a key ingredient in mortar and plaster — from the limerock on what is now the UCSC campus; Cowell's purchase also included half interest in a wharf at the foot of Bay Street.

The lands that are now the UCSC campus were ideal for making lime. Marble bedrock provided the necessary raw material and the old-growth redwood forest was a vast source of fuel for the kilns. The site was also close to the ocean, which made it easy to ship the lime produced in the kilns to San Francisco. San Francisco’s rapid growth after the gold rush created a huge demand for building materials, including lime.

Cowell also used the lands to raise the horses and oxen which hauled rock, logs, and barrels of lime; to house much of his labor force; and to produce food for workers and livestock. This use of the lands transformed the landscape.

Henry Cowell’s youngest son, Samuel Henry "Harry" Cowell, was the last link in the Cowell family line. Upon his death in 1955, Harry Cowell made generous gifts to 21 faithful employees and left the rest of the family fortune to the Cowell Foundation to use for the public good — much of it in Santa Cruz County.

Not only did the Cowell family's generosity enable the University of California Regents in 1961 to purchase 2,OOO acres of the former Cowell Ranch land for a new campus that four years later would open to its first class of students, the family's generosity helped establish the local redwood state park that bears Henry Cowell's name.

Informal talks, of approximately 20 minutes each, on the following subjects are planned for the inaugural history fair:

  • 1 p.m. — "Cowell Lime Works Historic District archaeology," by Pat Paramoure, archaeological consultant and anthropology instructor at UCSC
  • 1:30 p.m. — "History of the Cowell Reservoir," by Melanie Mayer, professor emerita of psychology at UCSC
  • 2 p.m. — "Restoring the Cooperage," by Frank Zwart, retired UCSC architect and Friends board member
  • 2:30 p.m. — "Human impact on the land prior to UCSC," by Chris Lay, curator of UCSC's Kenneth Norris Center for Natural History
  • 3 p.m. — "Native Land Use Before and After the Missions," by Tsim Schneider, assistant professor of anthropology, UCSC

In addition, a large number of on- and off-campus organizations will staff information and activity booths at the history fair, including:

  • Agricultural History Project: Milking (fake) cows, for children
  • California Lichen Society: lichens on historic structures
  • Capitola Historical Museum: exhibit of logging tools and logging photos
  • Mobile Ranger: Demonstration of app with local history walking tours, including lime works tour
  • San Lorenzo Valley Museum: activity related to the history of Chinese in local area
  • Santa Cruz Archaeological Society: learn about local archaeology, plus activities for children
  • Santa Cruz Heritage Foods Project: history and use of foods grown in the region
  • Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History: information about Evergreen Cemetery; display and sale of local history publications
  • Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History: native crafts and activities
  • Santa Cruz Public Libraries: information about local history resources at the library
  • Santa Cruz Timberframes: how the hay barn at UCSC was rebuilt
  • Lime expert Tom Schreiner: demonstration of making and slaking lime
  • UCSC Arboretum: samples of native plants used by the Amah Mutsun
  • UCSC Archaeology Research Center (ARC): information about the center and children's activities
  • UCSC Campus Reserve: exhibit about the reserve, what it is, and where it is"
  • UCSC Department of Anthropology: historical archaeology finds by students in the district
  • UCSC Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences: display of campus rocks and minerals
  • UCSC Farm: information from the campus's Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
  • UCSC Friends of the Cowell Lime Works: information about the historic district, displays of lime-related tools and equipment, and information about Cooperage restoration plans
  • UCSC Hihn Archive, University Library: Collections and artifacts on F.A. Hihn, early Santa Cruz pioneer
  • UCSC Institute of Arts & Sciences: a new project planned for the campus
  • UCSC Kenneth Norris Center for Natural History: natural history of the campus and the environmental impact of logging, quarrying, and ranching on the land
  • UCSC Student Services: information about the UCSC Quarry Amphitheater restoration project

In addition to the UCSC Lime Works Friends Group, other sponsors of the local history fair include the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, UCSC's Archaeological Research Center, UCSC's Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), UCSC's Kenneth Norris Center for Natural History, and Mobile Ranger.

For more information about the fair, please phone Alisa Klaus in UCSC's Physical Planning & Construction Office at 831-459-3732 or send email to


UCSC's Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District support group was established in 2008 to promote and support the rehabilitation of the historic lime-industry buildings near the campus entrance. The Friends group is currently celebrating completion of the hay barn and is planning and fundraising for restoration of the Cooperage building, with its stone pillars, and the adjacent stone lime kilns.

Updates to this press release will be posted on this web page, so please check back.