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A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108588 Tue Nov 29 2005 08:36 PM
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Las Cruces, a Lost Service Town
By Curt Cragg


The town of Las Cruces has been lost. It’s not even a ghost town, because there aren’t any “ghosts” of the buildings that were once there. The only remaining reference that there even was a town of any kind is a steel truss bridge that is practically hidden on the west side of Highway 101 as you travel south in the middle of Santa Barbara County.

Fortunately what did survive in the scrapbooks of the families of some of the service station owners and the archives of the State Highway Department were some images of what this small service town once looked like on the coast of California.

If you were traveling north on the coast highway leaving Santa Barbara in the 1930’s and 40’s you were headed into a vast open space of coastline and inland valleys all the way to San Francisco. Along this route at about 15 mile intervals you would encounter small service towns, and occasionally a town of some size like Santa Maria or Salinas.

Las Cruces was the first town you came to as you left the coastline and rounded into the Gaviota Pass, a narrow gap bordered by rock faces leading into the Santa Ynez Valley. It was situated at an Y intersection where the coast highway branched off to the west as Highway 1 to the town of Lompoc on the coast, or went straight on a winding path around the Nojoqui grade and eventually ending up in the somewhat bigger service town of Buellton about 15 miles to the north.

In the 1930’s as you traveled north on the coast highway and came to Las Cruces you first encountered the El Camino Garage.



After the El Camino Garage there was store, a restaurant, a Shell station and a row of visible gas pumps.



(More to Come....)


C Cragg
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Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108589 Tue Nov 29 2005 08:38 PM
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good to "see" you again curt...

Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108590 Tue Nov 29 2005 08:55 PM
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Hey There Curt, Like Kmann said glad to see ya back, and best of all your writing another adventure trip .


Chris Holt
Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108591 Tue Nov 29 2005 09:32 PM
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Hey Curt,

Good to see another story - I was looking forward to the next one... I really like that Grade Ahead sign on the Chevron station... I wonder what happened to everything - with the whole town gone, you'd think there was a fire or something...?

Wes

Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108592 Tue Nov 29 2005 10:13 PM
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WELOME BACK KOTTER !
I emailed Curt & told him he was M.I.A. on here. Glad I did.
Miss the stories/histories with his personal touch.
db

Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108593 Tue Nov 29 2005 10:16 PM
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Thanks guys, it's good to be back on Oldgas. Took some time off to catch up on some projects.

Back to Las Cruces and Gaviota
Las Cruces was a casualty of the ever expanding highway like many small service towns along the 101. The State Highway Department wanted to speed up traffic and avoid the slow downs involved with having to drive through a town along the way, especially every 15 miles. Modern vehicles did not require the frequency of servicing of the early automobiles.

To continue our journey though, we have to travel back to the 1920's and thirties when temperamental cars and small gas tanks required more frequent attention.

After crossing the rickety bridge at Gaviota most motorists were ready to stop in Las Cruces, at least to visit the restrooms. After 1931 the steel truss bridge at Gaviota was replaced with a concrete one that at least allowed two way traffic. The old bridge was moved to Las Cruces to replace a wooden one the crossed into the other side of town to the west of the highway as it became Highway 1.

Here is what the Gaviota bridge looked like before the concrete bridge.



Here is the concrete bridge that replaced it in 1931. The famous indian head rock still guarded the entrance to the bridge.



And here is the old wood bridge at Las Cruces that would be replaced by the Gaviota steel bridge.



The other side of the highway in Las Cruces consisted of a tavern and store. At one time there was also a brothel to service the needs of the cowboys driving cattle to the Gaviota pier from ranches to the north and the roughnecks from the oil wells along the beaches to the south. Shell, Associated, Seaside, Barnsdall Rio Grande and many other producers had drilling operations dotting the coastline from Gaviota all the way to the Seaside Company headquarters in Summerland some 30-40 miles to the south.


Still more to come...

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 11-29-2005).]


C Cragg
Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108594 Wed Nov 30 2005 09:10 AM
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Good to have you back Curt. I like the pictures and very interesting as we went through this area this summer after your bash. Can you still get off the road to see that bridge where Las Cruces once was?
I never even knew there was a town down there named that. Keep up the great articles and super pictures. TED

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Ted Pam & Ethyl Roach
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Looking for Signal, Hancock, Mohawk, Douglas, Gilmore and Richfield
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Ted Pam Ethyl & Polly Roach
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Looking for Signal, Hancock, Mohawk, Douglas, Gilmore and Richfield
Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108595 Wed Nov 30 2005 10:35 AM
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Thanks Ted.

Yes you can still drive across the steel bridge. To get there you have to take the exit off of Highway 101 to Highway 1 toward Lompoc. Just as you head toward Lompoc you make a left turn which takes you back in front of the Vista de Las Cruces school. This road dead ends at the old bridge.

To get to the other side of Las Cruces you go the other way off of the 101 exit which is just a quick access road along the freeway. There is nothing left but a trail to the mineral hot springs that is behind where the old garage use to sit.

I am working on a geocaching tour of Highway 101 in this area for those of you that know what that is. For those that don't, we will be hiding old pictures of historic places along Highway 101 and posting the GPS coordinates on a website so that people can locate them and see what the old service towns looked like in the actual location where they once sat.


C Cragg
Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108596 Wed Nov 30 2005 11:20 AM
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Great to have you back in form,
Curt. I recall years ago poking around near that old rickity iron brige with my young sons searching for remnants of old El Camino Real. I had no idea there was once a town there. I'm going back soon with a new awareness. Thanks for your efforts.
Ranchpump

Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108597 Wed Nov 30 2005 06:23 PM
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Hi Curt.. as a great comedian use to say "thanks for the memories". I've seen Curt's scrapbooks and any of you that have a chance to visit Curt ask him to share with you. Keep it up. How about doing Carpinteria next
Ray
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Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108598 Wed Nov 30 2005 07:22 PM
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My "scrapbook" now consists of 6 three inch notebooks with photos of most all of the service stations from Gaviota to Orcutt on the old coast highway covering the early 1900's through the 1950's with stations every 15 miles over about a 60 mile stretch. I also have a couple of thousand scanned images.

The town of Buellton had every major and quite a few minor west coast brands that we all covet as collectors. Fortunately for me the pictures are a lot cheaper than the signs.

More story coming soon....


C Cragg
Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108599 Wed Nov 30 2005 08:02 PM
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AAAAHHHHHHHHH !!!!!! Another road trip down memory lane hosted by our own Curt Craig...

Thank you so much for the ride Poorman, it's great to have you back at the wheel...

Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108600 Wed Nov 30 2005 08:38 PM
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This is what the steel bridge from the Gaviota crossing that was moved to Las Cruces looks like today. It sits down below the freeway so that when you pass it you hardly know that it's there.



This is what the turnoff of Highway 101 looked like before today's modern freeway. This view is looking north on the 101 and the town is to the west where you would turn off to go on Highway 1 to Lompoc. The bridge in the picture above is just out of view to the left.



On the east side of the freeway was the garage, store and service stations. In this view you are looking south at it.



Note the condition of the road at the time on this major route up the coast of California.


C Cragg
Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108601 Wed Nov 30 2005 08:58 PM
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LOVE TO LOOK AT THE OLD PICTURES AND READ THE STORIES (THERE IS A MOBILOIL FLANGE SIGN IN THE LAST PICTURE)........
GREAT JOB PM
.............
REX LIKES PICTURES

Re: A Lost Service Town by Curt Cragg
#108602 Wed Nov 30 2005 10:40 PM
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Thanks Poorman....missed you & your stories!

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