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Tue, May 19, 2020

Do You Know My Name? Eliza Boston & The Little Red Church

If you've ever wandered around Downtown Santa Cruz, you’ve probably noticed this little red church right off the main strip of Pacific Avenue.

The origins of this little red church aka the Calvary Episcopal Church starts with one woman’s dream and her continued devotion in the face of life’s difficulties.

That woman's name was Eliza Boston.

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Eliza moved to Santa Cruz in the early 1860s. Her religious affiliation was Episcopalian because of their support for abolition, but the congregation in Santa Cruz lacked a place of worship. Services were held in courtrooms, or at Temperance Hall, the local community center, but this came to a quick halt as the local theater group used sacred items as props for their shows. Soon after her marriage to Joseph Boston, they set out to build a church for their local community in need.

Built in the Gothic Revival style – with pointed arched windows, a steeply pitched roof, a porch with turned posts, and board siding – the architectural design was made by Eliza’s husband, Joseph. The first service in the completed church was held on Easter Sunday in 1865, with a choir and melodeon to bring in the congregation.

Dana Bagshaw, author of “The Bostons: A Pioneer Family of Santa Cruz County,” writes Eliza had a series of hardships-her husband’s suicide, her eldest daughter’s possible suicide and her brother committed for insanity. Despite life’s curveballs, Eliza Boston continued devoting her time and energy to Calvary Episcopal Church through singing in the choir, writing the church’s history, and helping at social functions. She practiced her beliefs of equality and treating individuals with kindness with Santa Cruz’s Chinese community--even when it was unpopular to do so.

Upon Eliza’s death, she was cremated and buried in Evergreen Cemetery alongside her husband, and three children. The legacy of Eliza and her husband lives on in the Calvary Episcopal Church- 150 years later. Which is the oldest church in Santa Cruz County, and the only original church still active in downtown Santa Cruz. So next time you walk by, take a minute to admire the little red church.

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Check out more stories like Eliza Boston's in Do You Know My Name?, A MAH Publication that highlights those who witnessed the evolution of Santa Cruz County throughout the decades. From hardworking Californios, to gun-totting citizens, to poetic WWII soldiers, this book has it all.

Original story and research by Dana Bagshaw for Do You Know My Name?