My dad passed away four years ago this week. He was a man who was very involved in the Santa Cruz community. I can remember during my years growing up in Santa Cruz that he was busy volunteering his time as part of the Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency and the Citizens Committee for Community Improvement. Two of the people he would often talk about in relationship to downtown redevelopment were Chuck and Esther Abbott. I think they actually came to our house once or twice for dinner. The Abbotts were equally concerned about the downtown Santa Cruz area and how to make it more inviting and attractive (the picture below is from one I took on the second floor exhibit in the Santa Cruz MAH).
As part of Museum Camp last week, I was part of a group that happened to select Abbott Square as their project. This caused me to not just reflect on the project at hand, but also on my personal experiences I had had with the Abbotts, and my dad. I have lived through the development of the Pacific Garden Mall (Pacific Avenue which was a project of the Abbotts and my uncle was part of the design process), the building of the town clock (I was there at it’s dedication on July 4, 1976, the nation’s bicentennial and was one of my dad’s projects), and the devastation of the 1989 Santa Cruz earthquake. Although I was not living in Santa Cruz during all of these times, I still felt the ripple effects of the various events in Santa Cruz and their impact on the community.
In researching Abbott Square and the Abbotts along with my teammates, I learned more about the history of the Abbotts and their impact on the community. I was interested in learning that Abbott Square had earned a grant to be transformed and that the vision is to make it a town square.
It was interesting in reading about the character of Esther Abbott (she passed away in 2008) and realizing that Chuck Abbott passed away when I was a junior in high school (1973). I did remember hearing my dad talk about how Mark Abbott, the son of Chuck and Esther Abbott, had died in a surfing accident and how the Abbotts had contributed to the development of the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse Surfing Museum, one of the few surfing museums in existence in the world. My grandparents had pieces of art that Esther Abbott hanging in their house for many years.
Now, as I learned, Abbott Square will be transformed over the next few years as a place where people can gather and perhaps be a place where visitors may start or extend their visit in Santa Cruz (another earlier article here).
In order to develop this as a place such as this, it will take additional funds. However, as I have learned from watching Santa Cruz over the years, and now as a resident, I have no doubt that Abbott Square will receive the needed funds to be transformed. It will become the place that so many community members desire and it will become the vision of the Abbotts and others, like my dad, who put a lot of their time and effort into making Santa Cruz a great place to live.