Capitola’s Colorful Condominiums

Capitola, CA

What would we do without color in our world? Life would be so drab. So, it’s fortunate that we are surrounded here on the Central Coast by nature’s best palette of hues. It doesn’t get much better than the rainbow of blue water that is Monterey Bay. Or the lush, variegated greens of our agricultural fields. Or the kaleidoscopic colors of Capitola’s beachfront landmark, the Venetian Court.

Ok, I know, not nature’s doing. Regardless, those fanciful, multi-colored buildings do brighten up my day and make my whole body smile, much like nature’s vibrancy does. The splashy Venetian Court has been an eccentric mainstay of the Capitola beach scene since 1925. Designed in a blend of Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial and Mission Revival style architecture, its parapet walls, arches, balconies, carved doors and gargoyle sculptures are a nod to the Mediterranean city of Venice, from which it takes its name. The intensity of color captures what you might see from a gondola on the Grand Canal.

Or Disneyland’s whimsical fantasy ride, It’s a Small World. I want to break out in song, “It’s a world of laughter, a world of fun …,” whenever I see it. Reminiscent of an Italian fishing village, it actually would fit right in to the water-based Disney attraction, I think, with just the simple addition of a few animatronic singing dolls. It is not, however, part of the Disney magic, but the masterpiece of early Capitola resident, Henry Allen Rispin, as characteristically offbeat as the Venetian.

Rispin, an oil millionaire from Canada, purchased all of Capitola in the 1920s. His imprint forever changed the perception of a rustic Camp Capitola to a flourishing, seaside resort with the new name of Capitola-by-the-Sea. He dreamed of recreating the Italian town of Venice on our West Coast waterfront. The Venetian Court, with its Mediterranean influences, was just one step to making that dream happen. Sadly, by the end of his life he was destitute, alone and indigent, but Capitola’s colorful personality that he helped put in place was firmly fixed.

His legacy, California’s first condominium seaside development, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and listed as a U.S. Historic District. The Venetian Court is located at the mouth of Soquel Creek, sandwiched between the Capitola Wharf and the Stockton Avenue Bridge. These vibrant condos were designed with an ocean view in mind, stair-stepping up the slope of the beach so each has a picture-perfect perspective on Monterey Bay. The first two rows are privately owned; the remaining units part of the Capitola Venetian Hotel. It’s a convenient place to stay if you’re looking to explore the area.

This 1.7 square mile picturesque city is not one to shy away from its sparkling ambience and regularly shows up as a best of something …  small town, coastal community, unsung beach … in various travel magazines.

I would include best color palette. In Capitola, gray is just not an option.


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