Our little town of Aptos, California has been around far longer than any of us can think back. The name Aptos is Ohlone, meaning “the people”. Aptos was traditionally inhabited by the Ohlone people who had lived here for thousands of years before Mission Santa Cruz was completed by the Spanish back in 1974. The name is one of only three natives that has survived as place names in the Santa Cruz County.
In 1833 Aptos Rancho was granted to Rafael Castro by the government of Mexico. The 6,686 acre Rancho was initially used for raising cattle for their hides, but after California became a state in 1850, Castro leased his land to Americans for industrial developments where the first wharf, general store and lumber mill were built in town. The original town was located where Aptos Village Square is now.
In the 1870’s, another 2,500 acres were purchased to expand Aptos. The land was bought for a mere $30 per acre! With this land, the first school was built in Aptos. The field to this school is now the site for our Shopping Center, Rancho Del Mar!
Around this time, Castro helped in building the Bayview Hotel in Aptos village. The hotel is now a Santa Cruz County landmark. It is Santa Cruz county’s oldest operating hotel and is has been a State Historic Monument since 1974. It has also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1993.
From 1880 to 1920, Aptos became a boom town after the town began harvesting timber. This soon became a major industry in the area at the time. Also during this time, the Santa Cruz Railroad began being built and was opened in 1876. With the coming of the railroad, the town moved to the other side of Aptos Creek.
Our community comes together and celebrates many different traditions that date back many years. One of our most famous traditions which started in the 1960’s is the “World’s Shortest Parade”. This is an event that Aptos is famous for which takes place on the Fourth of July. The event started out over 50 years ago as a small celebration and is now an annual tradition celebrated by thousands. It is something that members of our community look forward to each and every year.
The 1960’s also began a period of rapid development for Aptos. During this period Cabrillo College Aptos campus opened in its new location halfway between Watsonville and Santa Cruz. This was also the time that Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center opened! We have been going strong since 1962, serving our community with a wide variety of shops and restaurants.