Searching for an interesting site for a future light painting experiment, I came across what's left of Holy City near Highway 17, once the headquarters for William E. Riker and his goofy religious commune. Riker, a Depression-era cultist, on-the-run bigamist, repeated candidate for governor, and avid Hitler supporter, promised his followers a "Perfect Christian Divine Way" in a quasi-utopian experiment that began in 1918.
In her Saga of Holy City, Andrea Perkins describes how Riker's town, once home to 300 souls, became a minor tourist trap, selling gas, water, and (some say) lurid peep shows. Back then, motorists taking the only road connecting San Jose and Santa Cruz stopped to gawk at murals and banners announcing the new kingdom. One sign announced: "William E. Riker - The only man who can save California from going plum to hell."
Declining interest in Riker's vision, failed real estate transactions, and unexplained fires emptied Holy City in the fifties and sixties. Today only a house and post office, now a glass art store, remain. And then there's this shed, a weathered structure supported with the help of diagonal beams. The owners (folks unaffiliated with the former commune) gave their permission, so Jenny and I will return one night for some light painting.
Learn more: Betty Bagby Lewis's Holy City - Riker's Roadside Attraction In the Santa Cruz Mountains is said to be the definitive history of this town. I've already ordered my copy...
Also see: San Joaquin Valley Library vertical file
And: John V. Young's Rise and Fall of Holy City
See more: Here's the light painting experiment from our return to Holy City
(Photographs by Andrew Wood)