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Artifact of the Month: Woman over the Fence, Photograph of Cornelia Hopcroft and the School Street Adobe

Posted by on October 17, 2012

Mrs. Hopcroft watching over her neighborhood

It’s October and I don’t have a Halloween story. There are definitely a few Santa Cruz “ghost stories,” but I’m not in the mood. However, if I remember a woman who used to scare me when I was a kid, does that count?

I went to Holy Cross School, which is situated right in front of the School Street Adobe, also known as the Neary-Rodriguez Adobe. Known as the oldest building in Santa Cruz County, the adobe was the living quarters for the Native Americans who worked at the mission.

The Rodriguez family owned the building for 150 years before it was sold to the State of California and became a state park. Cornelia Lunes Hopcroft, adopted by the Rodriguez family when she was a young girl, lived in the adobe until she died in 1983 at the age of 104. She was a graduate of the Holy Cross Covent.

In this black and white photograph Mrs. Hopcroft doesn’t seem that menacing (after all, she’s wearing pearls).To my adult eyes, she looks like a woman guarding her neighborhood, although the desolate street and weathered adobe walls may look a little spooky.

I have to admit, Mrs. Hopcroft scared me when I was attending Holy Cross. I now know she was a lovely woman who enjoyed the beautiful grounds that were in back of the adobe, where the oldest living avocado tree in California still grows. I think she probably liked us school kids.

But when at recess our ball was accidently kicked over the fence, I feared that she would cast a spell on me and my schoolmates. I imagined her looking over at us, her black cat nearby, ruing the day we were born.

Now I’m not so sure her cat was black; maybe it was a non-threatening tabby. Silly I know, but that’s how some of us spent our recess, making up stories on the playground when your ball flies over the fence.