Holy City, California

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Holy City is an unincorporated community in Santa Clara County, California. Once a Utopian community, it is arguably now a ghost town.[1] The town is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, off State Route 17 on Old Santa Cruz Highway, at 37°09′25″N 121°58′44″W / 37.1568904°N 121.9788476°W / 37.1568904; -121.9788476Coordinates: 37°09′25″N 121°58′44″W / 37.1568904°N 121.9788476°W / 37.1568904; -121.9788476 (37.1568904, -121.9788476).[2] It is part of the Lexington Hills census designated place. Its ZIP code is 95026, and its area codes are 408 and 669.

Surviving building at Holy City, May 2008

Holy City was founded in 1919 by cult-leader William E. Riker and about thirty of his followers. Calling his ideology "The Perfect Christian Divine Way", Riker preached celibacy, temperance, white supremacy, and segregation of the races and sexes.[3]

Holy City Art Glass sign, September 2008

Riker bought the 142 acres (57 ha) that became Holy City. Here he offered tourist services including a restaurant and gas station. The town was incorporated in 1926.

A radio station was built in 1924 and went on the air on July 7 of that year under the call letters KFQU. The station went off the air in December 1931, and had its license renewal denied on January 11, 1932, due to "irregularities."

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 State Route 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. The town was disincorporated in 1959, and Riker lost control of the property. Several of the buildings mysteriously burned down shortly afterwards.[citation needed]

The Holy City Zoo, a comedy club in San Francisco, had the sign, table and chairs that all came from the original site.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Ghost town symbolizes woes of real estate icon. Commentary: Grubb & Ellis is becoming a ghost town itself". Feb 24, 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-27. The abandoned, 142-acre property between Santa Cruz and San Francisco is a rare swath of available land, complete with its own zip code, 95026. "It's a great property, only five miles away from civilization," said Dave Haugh, a Grubb & Ellis senior vice president in San Jose, in a brief phone conversation ... On the plus side, it features majestic redwood trees and a creek with waterfalls. On the minus side, it has no sewer system, some dilapidated buildings and a creepy history ... Developers who bought Holy City in 1968 evicted squatting hippies, thought of turning what was left into some kind of campground, and ultimately accomplished nothing. Now they’re in their 80s and want to sell. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ Hine, Robert V. (1953). California's Utopian Colonies. San Marino, California: Huntington Library. pp. 154–157. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lewis, Betty Bagby (December 1992). Holy City: Riker's Religious Roadside Attraction In the Santa Cruz Mountains, A Nostalgic History of William E. Riker. Otter B Books. ISBN 0-9617681-5-0.