Holy City, California

Holy City, California

Holy City is an unincorporated community in Santa Clara County, California. With only one permanent resident, it is arguably a ghost town. The town is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, off State Route 17 on Old Santa Cruz Highway, at coord|37|09|25|N|121|58|44|W| (37.1568904, -121.9788476)GR|3. It is part of the Lexington Hills census-designated place. Its ZIP code is 95026 and its area code 408.

Holy City was founded in 1919 by cult-leader William E. Riker and about thirty of his followers. Calling his ideology "The Perfect Divine Christian Way", Riker preached celibacy, temperance, white supremacy, and segregation of the races and sexes. He apparently exempted himself from this ideology, as he had previously been a bigamist and later married one of his followers. He also encouraged his followers to renounce material possessions by giving all of their wealth to him.

It was with this wealth that Riker bought the two hundred acres that became Holy City. Here he offered tourist services including a restaurant and gas station. The town incorporated in 1926.

A radio station offering a variety of programming was built in 1924 and went on the air on July 7 of that year under the call letters KFQU. Though the call letters may appear obscene, they were issued sequentially and could not have been deliberate. The station went off the air in December 1931, and had its license renewal denied on January 11, 1932, due to "irregularities."

Ironically, the "religious" community had no church; services were held in Riker's home. Holy City expanded to three hundred residents during the 1930s.

The town began to decline in the 1940s. With the construction of Highway 17, Holy City was no longer on the main route through the mountains. With the end of the Depression, many of Riker's followers were able to find work elsewhere. Riker himself was arrested in 1942 for supporting Adolf Hitler, though he was later acquitted. The town disincorporated in 1959, and Riker lost control of the property. Several of the buildings mysteriously burned down shortly afterwards.

Holy City is currently owned by three developers who bought the property in the mid 1960s. They had plans to develop the property but never did. In November 2006, they put the property up for sale with an asking price of $11 million. There is one full time resident of Holy City, who lives in the former home of William Riker. There is also a glass blowing studio called Holy City Art Glass, which has been run by artist Tom Stanton for the past thirty years.


External links

* [http://www.thewavemag.com/pagegen.php?pagename=article&articleid=24768 "Wave Magazine" article about Holy City] (Note: The referenced article is out-of-date. The gentleman referenced in the article no longer gives tours of Holy City).
* [http://www.beal-net.com/hwy17/holycity.html Excerpt from Richard Beal's book "Highway 17: The Road to Santa Cruz"]
* [http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/story.php?sid=51411&storySection=Top+Stories "Holy City on the market again: Owners take second shot at listing historic town," "Santa Cruz Sentinel" December 9, 2007]

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