Monday, April 13, 2009

Morse Takes Over

Samuel F.B. Morse was sent to the Monterey Peninsula in 1915 to liquidate the holdings of the Pacific Improvement Company, a land company formed in the 1860s by the “Big Four” railroaders of the day. He had been hired by one of them, Charles Crocker, after befriending Crocker’s son while both were students at Yale. Morse was overcome by the natural beauties he found here and decided this is where he wanted to stay and live. Partnering with the owner of a bank in San Francisco, Morse formed the Del Monte Properties Company and, in 1919, bought the bulk of the railroad holdings. For $1.3 million, the new company bought the posh Del Monte Hotel in Monterey (now the Naval Postgraduate School) with its companion race track (now the Monterey Fairgrounds), polo field, Del Monte Golf Course and Monterey County Water Works (now part of Cal-Am); the bulk of Pacific Grove, including the stunning shoreline, Pacific Grove Hotel (now the Holman Building) and many residential lots; 17 Mile Drive and the forests and beaches that surrounded it; and acreage in Carmel Valley. In all, Morse obtained 7,000 mostly undeveloped acres on the Peninsula.

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