A Guide to Santa Clara County's Ghost Towns


This month’s blog posts highlights a few of Santa Clara County’s ghost towns: Holy City, Lexington, and Alma. Read on for some extended history about these towns that no longer exist but have plenty of stories to tell.


Holy City (Santa Cruz Mountains, CA)


Holy City is a ghost town located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Founded in 1919 by religious leader William E. Riker (1873-1969), Riker preached celibacy, temperance, white supremacy, and segregation of the races and genders. The town was formally incorporated in 1926 and grew to include its own newspaper, radio station and restaurant for tourists. Following the construction of Highway 17 in 1940 that bypassed Holy City, the town experienced a strong decline in the mid twentieth century as the members and leader dispersed across the county.


Lexington (Lexington Reservoir, Los Gatos, CA)


Founded in 1848 by Kentucky-born farmer Isaac Branham (born 1804) and Julian Jank, Lexington, CA is a ghost town now submerged by the Lexington Reservoir near Los Gatos, CA. The city flourished as a saw/lumber mill and was one of the primary stops on the local stagecoach route from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz from 1848 to 1880. In 1880, the construction of the South Pacific Coast Railroad from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz removed the need for stagecoaches and accelerated the town’s decline. Additionally, the creation of the Lexington Reservoir caused further town abandonment.  


Alma (Lexington Reservoir, Los Gatos, CA)


Like Lexington, Alma is a ghost town that is also now submerged under Lexington Reservoir near Los Gatos. The town gained popularity as a destination those seeking saloons, hotels, stagecoaches, a general store to purchase goods. Saloons, for example, were not legally obtainable in neighboring Los Gatos. From 1880 to 1940, Alma was a stop on the South Pacific Coast Railroad that ran from 1880 to 1940. Noted resident Lysander Collins (1827-1885) was born in Pennsylvania and resided in Alma in the 1870s where he was the town’s postmaster. The town housed only around 100 people was demolished when the James J. Lenihan Dam (later renamed Lexington Reservoir) was constructed there in 1952.



Have you ever visited any of these towns or another one in the area? Share your experiences below!



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