515 Fair Ave. on Santa Cruz's Westside is on the market at $4.625 million.
(Will McCahill / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Sizzling Santa Cruz housing market, meet the overhauled Court of Mysteries: Iconic place up for $4.6 million

After an ambitious remodel since it most recently changed hands in 2016, the iconic property on Fair Avenue on the Westside is on the market for $4.625 million.

With Santa Cruz home prices seemingly trending ever upward, one of the county’s most iconic properties — so unique it has myriad nicknames and its own Atlas Obscura entry — is on the market.

The pandemic sank Artina Morton and Douglas Harr’s plans for an “ohana compound” at their historic Westside...

A longtime resident who hasn’t been past 515 Fair Ave. in a few years might not recognize what’s become of the so-called Court of Mysteries.

The 1,400-square-foot brick structure that’s long been at the center of the property on Santa Cruz’s Westside has been restored — with some of its original abalone-shell details still intact — and the listing describes it as providing an “amazing studio/workspace.”

The median sale price for a single-family home rose to a record $1.3 million countywide in May, and the sale price of a...

What’s new, on the south side of the property, is a 3,000-plus-square-foot, three-bedroom Spanish-style house, with a detached garage that boasts a 500-square foot in-law unit. There’s also a 70-foot lap pool/spa tucked behind the brick-and-abalone structure.

All this on a 0.46-acre parcel two and a half blocks from West Cliff Drive can be yours for a cool $4.625 million.

515 Fair Ave. on Santa Cruz's Westside
(Will McCahill / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“We wish we could open it up a little more,” said Kathleen Zech of Coldwell Banker Realty in Aptos, a listing agent with partner Paul Zech. But between privacy concerns and the COVID-19 situation, that’s not been in the cards.

The property was put on the market May 21, a little more than five years after it changed hands for $1.58 million, and Kathleen Zech said it has aroused “a lot of curiosity” from Santa Cruz County and beyond.

The owners, Artina Morton and Douglas Harr, “set out to save this place,” Paul Zech said; with the Court of Mysteries in fine shape, and with time and the pandemic having altered plans, they’re ready to focus on other things.

Morton detailed much of the property’s — and the couple’s — journey in a blog; the most recent post, from Feb. 25, outlines a swath of delays with utilities, the city and the like in 2020, obstacles that were themselves then overtaken by COVID and last summer’s CZU Lightning Complex Fire.

“The world began to close in very quickly around us all,” she wrote of March 2020, in a sentiment that surely echoes with many of us, “and it felt as if all our long-awaited dreams were coming to a screeching halt overnight.”

(Below: the pre-remodel Court of Mysteries.)

Some 289 new properties were listed in Santa Cruz County last month, per real estate data analyst Aculist, and the median sale price for a single-family home hit another record in May at $1.3 million. The median price in the city of Santa Cruz was slightly higher, at a record $1.5 million.