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Blog: The Lost Town of Purissima

It's located roughly 4 miles south of Half Moon Bay.

One of the earliest settlements on the San Mateo County Coast was Purissima. 

It's located roughly 4 miles south of Half Moon Bay.

Father Juan Crespi of the Portola expedition is believed to be the first who referenced it in 1769 when he stopped at a local stream adjacent to an abandoned village. He christened the stream by calling it San Ivo.

The abandoned village was renamed Purissima in 1786. However, it was in the 1850s when it became an established village.

Purissima's growth is primarily due to Henry Dobbel, a wealthy European who immigrated to the US and lived in the East Bay. He sold his ranch and purchased 1,000 acres of land south of Half Moon Bay, which became Purissima.

He and his wife built a large two-story house with 17 rooms, which included gas lighting and running water, both of which were very rare in those days.

He had 50 employees who toiled the land, harvesting wheat, barley and potatoes.

Over time, Purissima developed to the point where in 1870, there was a post office, several stores, a school and a hotel. A lumber mill was also constructed nearby.

In the 1880s, oil was discovered. However, only 20 barrels per day came from it, thus dashing hopes of a genuine boom.

Dobbel purchased the general store but encountered severe financial problems after extending credit to many of his customers who could not pay their debts. He ended up going bankrupt and sold his estate to Henry Cowell.

The post office closed in 1869. Then in 1872, it reopened and served the community until 1901. Some buildings remained into the 1930s. However, for all practical purposes, the town was abandoned before WWII.

No specific reason is recorded for Purissima's demise. Speculation points to its remote location.

All that remains of Purissima today is the cemetery and part of the school.

Everything else is just history

Some of the photos used in this blog are courtesy of the Local History Room, Redwood City's best-kept secret. The Local History Collection covers all aspects of Redwood City's development, from the 1850s to the present day, with particular emphasis on businesses, public schools, civic organizations, city agencies, and early family histories. The Local History Room is not affiliated with the Redwood City Public Library, but it is inside it. 

Dan Calic

About the Author: Dan Calic

A product of Goodwin (JFK), Henry Ford, Roosevelt, Sequoia High and Canada College, Dan has deep Redwood City roots. He’s witnessed Redwood City transform from a sleepy peninsula town into a thriving high-tech hub.
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