Westside: Beautiful quirks & local lore

The so-called "Court of Mysteries" on Fair Avenue on the Westside.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Court of Mysteries

The fascinating 2,000-plus-square-foot property at 515 Fair Ave. has been the subject of rumors and speculation since its construction in the 1940s by a bricklayer named Kenneth Kitchen and his brother Raymond, a mason, who built homes around town — though none like this one!

“There are so many rumors about that place, which I don’t think were true,” says realtor Jessica Wallace. “It’s such a bizarre piece of property — you’d drive by and go, what is that thing? No one really knew. It’s cool to see what they’ve done with it and that someone took that on. It was an undertaking of a lifetime.” Sadly, the dream ended for the San Francisco couple who purchased and put so much thought and care into renovating the property.

Before COVID, these new owners, who maintained a blog about their Court of Mysteries renovation and journey, updated the property while completely retaining its signature mysterious structure modeled after a Hindi temple. They added a lap pool and a whole new, Mediterranean-villa style home, and had planned to open the space to the public on certain holidays for viewings. But the pandemic ruined that vision and they sold the property. Now, the mystery continues. Paul Zech, the realtor who handled the recent transaction, said the sale had been kept secret, along with the new owner’s identity. While one cannot enter, there’s plenty of room to gape from the street.

The wave motor off West Cliff Drive near Chico Avenue
The wave motor doing its thing.
(Nik Altenberg / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Wave motor

Walkers might receive a sprinkling of surprise near the intersection of West Cliff Drive and Chico Avenue. A blowhole! Only it’s not: A Central Coast secret is that it’s actually the remains of a wave motor from the 1890s, which dumped water onto horse-drawn wagons that would then clean the dusty streets of old Santa Cruz. It was dismantled in the 1910s. Today, spectators can watch with wonder as ocean spray shoots dramatically through the six-foot hole. Just remember to stand back.

Guardian I overlook (West Cliff Drive at Auburn Avenue)

The leaning pyramid-like sculpture poised like an ominous figure on West Cliff Drive at Auburn Avenue overlooking the bay was considered for removal in 2017, but the public art work erected in 1986 still stands on a cliff between Chico and Auburn avenues. Adjacent, when the tide is right, is a “secret” beach, appropriately known as Pyramid Beach.

The Guardian I sculpture on West Cliff Drive between Auburn and Chico avenues
The Guardian I sculpture on West Cliff Drive between Auburn and Chico avenues.
(Nik Altenberg / Lookout Santa Cruz)

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