Holy City, California

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"Holy City is For Sale"

Holy City is an unincorporated community in Santa Clara County, California. Once considered a Utopian community in the 1920s and 1930s, it is now considered a ghost town.[1] The town is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, off State Route 17 on Old Santa Cruz Highway.[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, 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, 2008

Riker bought the 142 acres (57 ha) that became Holy City. During the early years, the city was the only development between Santa Cruz and San Jose, known for its strange roadside attraction signs.[4] They attracted tourists to a restaurant, service station, zoo, observatory, peep show, soda stand, barbershop, shoe repair.[4] The town was incorporated in 1926.

The religious community had no church; services were held in Riker's home. By the 1930s the PCDW confirmed disciples probably never numbered more than about 30 people, however the population of Holy City and the surrounding neighborhood peaked at around 300.[5] By 1938, only 75 men and 4 women lived at the site.


A radio station was built in Holy City in 1924 and went on the air on July 7 of that year under the call letters KFQU.[4] In April 1931, KFQU had been operating on a radio wave far from its assigned frequency.[6] The station went off the air in December 1931, and had its license renewal denied on January 11, 1932, due to "irregularities."

Decline of population[edit]

The town began to further decline in population in the 1940s, with the construction of State Route 17.[5] 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.[1]

The developers who purchased the property eventually put it up for sale in 2006, but it lingered on the market until 2016, when it was bought for $6 million by Robert and Trish Duggan.[4] The Duggans are members of the Church of Scientology. Robert Duggan has been referred to as the church's "largest financial supporter" by former Scientology executive Mark Rathbun.[7]

The Holy City Zoo, a former comedy club in San Francisco, had the sign, table and chairs that all came from the original site of the zoo.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Ghost town symbolizes woes of real estate icon. Commentary: Grubb & Ellis is becoming a ghost town itself". February 24, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2012. 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. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. ^ Hine, Robert V. (1953). California's Utopian Colonies. San Marino, California: Huntington Library. pp. 154–157.
  4. ^ a b c d Kurhi, Eric (August 18, 2016). "Los Gatos: What will become of Holy City bought by billionaire Scientologist Bob Duggan?". Mercury News. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Guide to the Harry Plate Collection: The Rikers and Holy City, 1900-1970". www.oac.cdlib.org. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  6. ^ "Holy City to Lose License to Run Radio". Santa Cruz Evening News. April 1, 1931. p. 1. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  7. ^ Brendan Coffey (January 29, 2013). "Robert Duggan Scientology's biggest donor". SFGate. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  8. ^ Fripp, Patricia. "Work in the Humor Place". Fripp & Associates. Retrieved January 12, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 37°09′25″N 121°58′44″W / 37.1568904°N 121.9788476°W / 37.1568904; -121.9788476