Situated in the redwoods area in northern Santa Cruz, CA our conference center has a rich history. The area now known as Happy Valley has gone by many names, including “Blackburn Gulch” and “Squabble Hallow.” The current name came into existence around 1913, when Happy Valley Ranch Hotel was established.
The earliest description of the hotel describes the comfort brought into a rustic, beautiful setting. This is found in the Santa Cruz Surf - February 21, 1913 reads:
“Three stories tall with surrounding porches, dining room, sitting room and kitchen. On each of the upper floors are ten guest rooms, each having a closet and hot and cold water. Happy Valley Ranch Hotel was wired for electricity, the community profited by this enterprise that brought the first electric lighting to this area.”
The Ranch continued to be one of the most popular destinations for vacations in the Santa Cruz Mountains for the next decade.
In 1928, the property was sold to William and Lea Swasey and they changed the name to Happy Valley Resort. The resort added cottages, swimming pool, and a tennis court, bringing more guests and new levels of fun and comfort to the Resort. They also added to the infrastructure of the grounds with the first walk in meat freezer in Santa Cruz and a Bake Shop behind the hotel. Unfortunately, the family placed all their funds into the development of the facilities and during the depression did not have the funds to continue to make payments and lost the property.
The de L’ Etanche family regained the property in 1933. The family, with four daughters, ran the hotel until 1942. One daughter, Frances, spoke with a member of the Happy Valley Board in recent years and remembered doing chores and making beds during that time. In 1942, tragedy struck with a fire destroying the hotel and adjoining cabin.
Little is known about the property from the fire until the current owners, Community of Christ bought the property in 1951.
In 1951 the Northern California District of the Community of Christ purchased 20 acres of Happy Valley at 2159 Branciforte Drive. Their vision was to establish a center to provide a place for worship and learning. As early as 1952, we received rental requests, and began opening the property to groups, furthering our mission of providing a space where community can flourish.
In 1969, we purchased an additional 10¾ acres just south of the property. It would all be called Happy Valley Conference Grounds until the name changed to Happy Valley Conference Center Inc. in 1993.
The chapel is an original building, but over the years, the several new buildings and amenities have expanded at Happy Valley Conference Center:
1951-2 North residence constructed, and additions to the dining hall
1958-1962 cement block cabins and bathrooms built
1968 A-Frame lodge and kitchen completed
1979 Swimming pool replaced
2004 High ropes course was created through an anonymous donation, enabling Happy Valley to partner with many corporate and educational groups.
2006 The Olsen Peace Plaza was completed to acknowledge generous donations to Happy Valley.
Though there have been many changes in this valley since 1919, one thing remains the same, the effect this pristine piece of natural beauty has on everyone who comes to “Experience. Dynamic. Transformation.” People of diverse faiths and interests come to Happy Valley for peaceful moments, surrounded with a community that cares for their needs, a place where many experiences make a difference and improve the quality of their lives.
Words Inspired by Happy Valley
Happy Valley, lovely vale, Famed for legends, fairy tales;
From the city’s deafening roar, To its rest I fain would soar;
Far from labor, pain and care, To its woods and fields so fair;
Morning mist that rise and fall O’er the treetops dark and tall;
Flowers of rainbow tinted hue Raise their heads to drink the dew;
Roses blushing in the sun;
Violets nod when day is done;
Apples luscious, fresh and sweet;
Berries ripening at your feet;
Water gushing from the springs, Health and happiness it brings.
Auto rides by day and night;
Dancing in the pale moonlight.
Perfect ease and rest and pleasure, This resort has without measure.