Wednesday, September 13, 2006


SOME OF YOU COMING TO THE “LA NOSTRA COSTA DAY’ BOOK SIGNING AT THE SWANTON BERRY FARM ON SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14, may not be all that familiar with the Davenport area. Therefore, posted below is a historical mini-self tour of the local “Cement Capitol of the World”. This, of course, is not all inclusive of the sites, however; it will give you a start and you will not even have to leave Hwy 1. (LNC: Chapter 10 – “Davenport”, pgs. 105 - 115 has pictures and covers most of what is described below. Also, a member of “La Nostra Costa” gang is working on a map which will designate other places of interest su per la costa. It may be ready for the book signing date.)

Davenport is located approximately 10 miles north of Santa Cruz on Hwy 1. (Those of you coming from the San Jose Area, take Hwy 17 to Santa Cruz and then Hwy 1 to Half Moon Bay.Those who may be coming from the Bay Area, take Hwy 1 south towards Santa Cruz.) The little town was founded in the mid-1800s by John Pope Davenport, who sailed around the “Horn”, and built himself a 450 foot long pier at El Jarro Point, now known as Davenport Landing. The pier was used to export lumber, fuel and lime. The “Landing” also became one the most important whaling stations on the West Coast. In the 1900s, the Portland Cement Company started excavating limestone (the main ingredient for cement) from the hills just east of Davenport. About one mile south of the “Landing”, the Company built the Hotel D’Italia and later, the Ocean View Hotel to accommodate its workers. A “Cash Store” was also built next to the Ocean View Hotel to supply domestic goods and services.(This area was to become the little town of Davenport.) Just north of the newly established Cement Plant, the Company built a subdivision known as “New Town”, to house management personnel and other “upper-end” workers. In the 1920s and 1930s, “New Town” became the home of many Italian Immigrants who worked at the Cement Plant or on the coastal ranches.

Thus being duly informed of the local history, let us begin our tour.

Nearing Davenport from Santa Cruz (about 9 miles up), you will see that Hwy 1 takes a noticeable dip. As you are descending the grade, look to your right (east side of the Hwy) you will notice a rather large “clump” of trees mixed in with other green shrubbery. This was the location of the famous Hotel D’Italia, which burned down in 1945. “Carabiniere”, the gentle giant on the front cover of “La Nostra Costa” and my God-Mother Pina Micossi with her husband Frank Micossi, owned and managed the hotel. The Italians who worked on the rancios or at the Portland Cement Plant, used to gather her to socialize and play bocce ball.
As you approach the top of the grade at the intersection of Hwy 1 and Davenport Ave., you will see the “New Cash Store”. (It has just re-opened as "The Roadhouse at the Cash Store". Please see comment#6 for further info.) This was the location of the “Old Cash Store” which burned down in 1954. This is where my father, “Bronco” would drive my brother and me in the “Old Carrettone” (1934 Lafayette Auto) every Saturday afternoon to pick up our groceries.Right next to the “New Cash Store” (still on the east side of Hwy 1) you will see a parking lot. This was the site of the “Ocean View Hotel” which burned down circa 1962. (According to Davenport Historian Alverda Orlando, this hotel and the Hotel D’Italia were never re-built because of insufficient fire insurance coverage.) The Ocean View Hotel was own by Charlie and Carmelina Bella, and was famous for its “Wild Game Feasts” involving the local cacciatore (hunters.) The Poletti Packing and Shipping sheds (no longer there) used to be located directly across the street on the ocean side of the highway. Artichokes, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli , and other vegetable grown su per la costa were shipped to the East Coast from this location.
Continuing on to the intersection of Hwy.1 and Ocean Avenue, you will see the Whale City Bakery Bar and Grill on the south-east corner and the Arros Restaurant (now changing its name to “La Costa”) on the north-east corner. The Whale City Bakery used to be the Miramar Café and Gas Station (where my God-Mother, Pina Micossi used to work after the Hotel D’Italia burned down), and Arros (La Costa) used to be Gregory’s Market and Gas Station. (There is a small building directly behind the market, but it is unknown if this is the same building where my boyhood friend, Reno Cantarutti , then age 4, says he was offered an ice cream cone if he would only “give the Fascist Salute”.)
Proceeding north on Hwy 1, you can not miss the CEMEX Cement Plant, which is quite noticeable on the east side of the road. This used to be called the Portland Cement Plant and it was the point of origin of all those cement trucks that went up and down the Coast Road. In the old days this plant used to spew copious amounts of cement dust from its smoke stacks, painting the buildings (and also the lungs of the inhabitants) in Davenport ‘snow white’ and enabling coastal swallows to build their ‘custom cement harden’ mud nests. Almost directly across from the Plant, (Ocean side of Hwy 1) you will see a cement block building. This was the Cement Plant Hospital (not in use now) where many injured plant workers were taken (at least initially).
Up the road from the Cement Plant (on your right), you will see what appears to be a subdivision of older houses. This is “New Town” which can be accessed by taking the frontage road directly from the Cement Plant. Joe “Pino” Brovia, the future Pacific Coast League Baseball Hall of Famer (LNC: Chapter 11), used to perplex his father Pietro, by constantly playing baseball on First Street. It was also here on First Street where the “famous” author of the book “La Nostra Costa”, Ivano Franco Comelli , lived with his family during the first six months of his life.
Continuing north on Hwy 1, you will come to the intersection of Davenport Landing Road and Hwy 1 (Ocean side of the highway). Davenport Landing Road will take you to Davenport Landing, where it all began. John Davenport’s pier is no longer there, however, you may still view a very nice beach where (perhaps) rancher-whale hunters ran across the sands, harpoons in hand, yelling “Ecco la sofiatta va” (“Thars she blows”.)
The next intersection you will come to on Hwy 1 is the Swanton Road T-intersection (east-side of Hwy 1). This is probably the most infamous intersection in Davenport History. It is here (1947) that the DeLucca family vehicle (A 1941 black Buick) collided with a Department of Forestry Fire Truck. Five passengers in the DeLucca vehicle, including a 4 year old girl and a 9 year old boy, were killed.
Just north of that intersection on Hwy 1, (still on the east side) you will see the Swanton Berry Farm Sign. You have arrived at the “Bigga Ranch” where my father used to work in the 1920s. Drive to the “cookahousa” and partake in the festivities, --- “Soups On”. Ivn0

Ivano Franco Comelli, is the author of "La Nostra Costa" (Our Coast) published by Authorhouse. Order on line at: or by telephone 1-888-280-7715 .


Anonymous said...

Ciao, Ivano,
With great interest I have just read your latest, moments after you posted it. All very interesting. The place I remember most is Gregory's, which if I remember right, had a gas station, general store and bakery. The best thing in the world was a French roll, stuffed with prosciutto, and hot from the oven. Baffi had a special name for French rolls, which referred to them as "fists", but the specific translation I cannot post, as it was probably Vulgar. Hah! Dai con questi conti. Molto interessanti. Gino

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

The Italian word for fist is "pugno"(poo-nyo). Nothing vulgar about that. In response Gino wrote:

No, Ivano. Pugno è una parola normale. Baffi diceva unaltra parola. Quando vieni in Skype, telo dirò.

Aspetta! Ho guardato nel dizionario italiano.

"Cazzotto" dunque pugno. Tutto lostesso. Forse simile ad un "Pataffe".

By the way, I just remembered a quote from somebody, I don't remember who it was, who overheard Smerigli in the dime store in Santa Cruz. He was trying to buy a colino and could not remember the English word for it. He asked for, "maccaroni stoppa, warra go". Smart, no?

Saluti. Gino

IFC: You bet Gino. Smerigli was one of my favorite rancere. When he kept off "la bibita del diavolo rosso" (red wine), he was one smart cookie. (LNC: pages 61-62 and 72-74)

diane Bianconi said...

The Terrini House Red House On Swanton Road my grandmother served the workman and the travelers with soup & ravoli's when there was nothing else to eat!!!! Thank you

Thanks Diane: For those of you who wish to explore further, Swanton Road will take you into the beautiful Swanton Valley. The road runs for about 7.5 miles in a semi-circle fashion and will take you back to Hwy 1. Make a left at the Hwy and you will be headed back towards the Swanton Berry Farm. Make a right and you will be headed towards "Haffa Moom Bay".
The Red House that Diane talks about is still there about 5 or 6 miles north of the Berry Farm. It bears a sign "Old Seaside School". It is here that my boyhood friend Reno Cantarutti walked 6 miles each day from the Coast Road to attend classe. (LNC: Pgs:354-357)

Alverda Orlando said...

Zdravei(hello) Ivan
Just read your mini history of Davenport. One mistake. Davenport
was a company town,but it was built by the Coast Dairies and
Land Company, not the cement company. The coast dairies managed
and owned everything in Davenport unitl 1923 when they began
to sell to the residents.
Take care
Dovizdone (goodbye)

IFC: Thanks Alverda. We "authors" do make mistakes. Yes, and I remember you telling me that the Hotel D'Italia ,built in 1906, was originally owned by the Coast Dairis and Land Company, a Switzerland based Company. Renowned "La Nostra Costa" entrepreneur Fred Phyffer was once the President of the Company. (LNC:page75,endnote 26).

Davenport Historian Alverda Orlando is currently vacationing in Bulgaria. Thus the foreign greetings and salutations.

Anonymous said...

The car Amerigo was driving was a black 1941 Buick. I have a picture that is somewhat haunting in that it has the whole DeLucca family standing around the car that three of them would ultimately die in. There was an older couple who's name was Quadros that also died from the wreck. Amerigo was bringing them to visit Mr. Quadro's sister in Half Moon Bay who had recently been released from a hospital. You mentioned seeing pictures of the wrecked car. Do you have any pictures of the car or pictures relating to my family? Are there any in your book?

As for being related to Don Silva, I'm not. My Grand parents were Joe and Mary Silva. They lived on the corner of Mission and Dufour not far from Amerigo's house.

IFC: The above e-mail was sent to me by Jim Silva several months ago. He is related to the DeLucca Family. The only pictures I viewed re:the DeLucca Accident were on microfiche at the Santa Cruz Library. The front of the car was so badly damaged that I couldn't tell what make it was. Jim supplied that information

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

IFC: I saw the following in the Santa Cruz Sentinel yesterday. It looks like the "Old Cash Store" aka "New Cash Store" is back on its feet. Bouna Fortuna to Renee and Robin.

Davenport Roadhouse at the Cash Store

WHAT: The latest incarnation of the New Davenport Cash Store restaurant, inn and retail shop.

WHERE: 31 Davenport Ave., Davenport.

Reopening: Today. Closed since January.

Owners: Renee Kwan and Robin Sirakides, both of Santa Cruz.

Room rates: $150-$250.

Menu: Breakfast, $5-$9; lunch, $6-$13; lounge menu, $4-$6; dinner, $12-$15. Full bar.

Retail store: Pieces by local artists and artisans, as well as food products produced for the restaurant.

DETAILS:; 426-8801; (800) 870-1817;



February 1, 2006

Matilda DeLuca Dornbergh

Matilda was born in New Town, just North of Davenport to Italian Immigrants, John & Adalina Brovia. Later they moved to Davenport. Life was very hard for her. From the age of eight Matilda had various cleaning jobs in Davenport to supplement the family's income. Matilda married young to Amerigo DeLuca, they had four children. Together they had a 52-acre ranch in Bonnydoon and later moved to Santa Cruz, as they had enough of the ranch life. In 1947 just North of Davenport they were in a car accident and her husband Amerigo and two of their children Anthony and Donna were killed. Matilda clung to life in a coma for one month; her remaining daughters, Marie and Delores were also badly hurt in the accident. Matilda, being the very strong person she was survived, recovery was slow. Matilda worked at the various canneries in Santa Cruz to support her daughters and later as head housekeeper for Dominican Hospital. She then met and married John Dornbergh and had a daughter Madonna. They had a very happy 46 years together traveling through the desert during their retirement. John Dornbergh passed in 1995. Matilda was an amazing cook, much to the delight of her family; she made the best homemade raviolis in Santa Cruz. Matilda was a long time member of the Sons of Italy. She loved to work in her yard, and to embroider. Matilda is preceded in dealth by her first husband Amerigo DeLuca their children Anthony, Donna, Delores DeLuca Joiner and Maria DeLuca Alves. Second Husband John M. Dornbergh. Grandsons Tony Alves, and Dennis Alves. She leaves behind her daughter Madonna Dornbergh of Soquel. Grandchildren Nicole Steen, Christopher Steen, both of Santa Cruz, Debbie Yarnall of Lafayette, California. Ronnie Yarnall and Kenny Yarnall of Kentucky, Joey Alves and Michael Alves of Santa Cruz, & 9 great grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.

Anonymous said...

----- Original Message -----
From: ivan comelli
Sent: Friday, May 05, 2006 9:58 AM
Subject: The Faces of Organic Swanton

Kudos to Janet Fletcher on her excellent article on organic farming in Swanton (5-03-06). Also congratulations to Jim Cochran for all the hard work he has done in bringing Organic Farming back to the Coast.

In my book "La Nostra Costa" (Our Coast), published by Authorhouse, I describe how the Italian Farmers working the ranches on the north coast of Santa Cruz and the Swanton Valley (named after former Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Swanton), used "pattume" , good old fashion organic manure to produce bountiful crops of Brussel Sprouts, broccoli, and artichokes during the 1920s,30s and early 1940s. Very little or no pesticides were used during this period.

So you see, Jim and Janet, "what goes around, does come around." Again, congratulations to you both on jobs well done.