Piedmont Court was kind of a big deal 100 years ago, and it still is. Photo by Jacob Pierce.
Santa Cruzans took notice when they heard a new hotel apartment building on High Street would be heated by steam. That’s because in 1912, most homes were heated by wooden flame. “The whole point of building was to adopt the most modern and efficient innovations at the time,” local historian Ross Eric Gibson says of the Piedmont Court building, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend.
Planners designed the building in the aftermath of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake to be fire- and earthquake-safe. They also gave the building fold-down Murphy beds and the nations’ first patented electric stoves—plus an electrical plant onsite.
The Mission Revival building still has an elaborate court, a beautiful garden, a Pacific Ocean view and a stunning fountain. Out in front, High Street used to connect to Mission on the other side of what is now Highway 1 sloping toward downtown.
Don Pedro Chisem, a Mexican native, funded construction. But before it was completed, Chisem lost his silver mine’s fortune during political upheavals in Mexico, forcing him to return home, and local businessmen put up the rest of the money to finish the project.
The California Retired Teachers Association purchased the Piedmont in 1952, briefly renaming it “Calreta Court.”
Now the apartments are owned separately by individuals. “It changed so much over the years,” Gibson says. “Each epoch has brought in a different type of history, how it interacts with the community around it.”