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HOLY CITY CALIFORNIA
Was not so holy after all

Occupied Historic Town       
Santa Clara County    
Circa 1919 to Present

Ok, this place by far contains some of the oddest history around. How people actually followed this towns founder is beyond me. 

Holy City was founded by Father William E. Riker in 1919. It all started in 1918 when Father Riker purchased around 75 acres of land in the Santa Cruz mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz California, and later expanded it another 200 acres. His intentions were to develop a world base for his religious ideology and new philosophy he called "The Perfect Christian Divine Way", a belief that emphasized white supremacy, segregation of the races, alcohol abstinence as well as separation of the sexes, a separation that Riker himself could not sustain. Riker, formerly a professor who dabbled in palm and mind reading became a wanted man in San Francisco for bigamy, which prompted him to flee to Canada. It was then, while in hiding, that Riker developed his own twisted version of the Christian faith.

Once back in the country, Riker, with the help of his growing congregation, began building and operating tourist oriented businesses along side of the busy Santa Cruz Highway which ran down the center of his town connecting San Jose with Santa Cruz. The growing tourist stop once included a restaurant, comfort station, fueling station, telescope observatory and radio station. Billboard signs littered the simple two lane highway, enticing visitors with fortune telling and prophesizing in this miraculous religious town. Little did anyone realize the town never even had a church?

In 1930 Holy City's population grew to over 300 people. Most of which were drifters and vagrants unable to make it elsewhere. Then in 1942 Riker was arrested after it was discovered that he was in communication with Hitler himself. Soon after winning his case in court which freed him, construction began on Highway 17 which offered the traveler a more convenient and faster travel between the bay area and the coast. Travel on the "Old Santa Cruz Highway" dwindled and Riker's business slowly began their demise.

In 1959 Holy City took its second real blow when a real estate deal went bad and threatened control of Riker's property. A series of mysterious fires then destroyed most of the buildings as control was turned over to the new owners. In 1966 Riker made his peace with god, and at the old age of 93 informed his few remaining followers that he had made the decision to convert to Catholicism. I bet that pissed them off!! Riker died in 1969 at the Agnew State Mental Hospital in Santa Clara, California. Little is left of the town today, a couple of old buildings and a large empty lot where others once stood. 

 

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