The Capitola City Council on Thursday released proposals for the restoration of the new Rispin Mansion Park. For those of you who know Capitola, you will have seen the Rispin Museum on Wharf Street at the intersection with Clares Street. He lives across the street from the new Capitola library on the west bank of Soquel Creek.
You’ve probably walked by and seen the old stucco fence married with a chain link fence that tries in vain to hide the wild plants, eucalyptus and native oak trees, and the last vestiges of a well from the Great Gatsby period. At the far end of the estate, you’ll find the Rispin Mansion itself with its crimson and broken building that looks like an uninhabited mausoleum. Before the end of 2022, the courtyard will be restored with a grand staircase and walkway, a restored wall, a sculpture garden, a natural oak display garden, a natural playground, outdoor chess boards , an amphitheater, king. accommodation, and many park facilities.
The restoration of Rispin Mansion Park is intended to present the building and grounds as part of the history of the city of Capitola. Getting to this point raises the question; Has the curse of the Rispin Mansion finally been lifted?
Many who know the history of the Rispin Mansion believe that it is cursed and brings trouble to all who try to use it. There are rumors that ghosts live in the house and even appear on ghost hunting programs. If you doubt it, consider this story.
The Rispin Museum was built by Henry Allen Rispin in 1921. Two years earlier he had purchased Capitola from Katherine Cope Henderson who had inherited the Capitola from her father Frederick Hihn. Rispin built the house not as a place to live, but as a showroom to court investors who would buy units in Capitola.
Soon after, Rispin ran into financial problems and suddenly disappeared from Capitola in 1929. The house was foreclosed on and sold at auction by his business partner Robert Hays Smith. Rispin died without pay in 1947 and is believed to have been buried in an empty grave.
Smith owned the property for many years although he never lived there. He became bankrupt himself in 1940 to sell the property to the Oblates of St. Joseph. The tower served for many years, but the nuns could not overcome the scandal. They left the house in 1959.
For decades afterward, the building was abandoned and neglected. In 1985, the city of Capitola purchased and purchased the house and grounds for $1.35 million, about the price of a small Capitola home today. Capitola used the property for SWAT team training and in 1991 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
However, the city had no money left, so the building continued to fall into disrepair and was plagued by vandalism and graffiti. Stories of ghosts, underground passageways and hidden rooms began to circulate, simply put. The latter two are confirmed, but ghosts are legends.
Capitola needed to do something with the Rispin Mansion, Capitola began attracting investors to build a boutique hotel on the site, and Rispin himself. Almost immediately the city was sued by a local conservation group about the Monarch butterfly’s presence and traffic. That lawsuit was settled in 2004 to make maintenance easier and to the satisfaction of the existing public.
However, plans for a boutique hotel continued. In 2009, Capitola granted a 55-year lease to a group of developers to turn the building and grounds into a 25-room boutique hotel with wedding facilities. A major plan that was quickly shelved by repeated complaints about ease of maintenance delayed the project again. The developers lost the court, but have already begun to start building the hotel. In 2010, at the peak of construction, there was a fire in the building that destroyed most of the interior.
The developers were forced to vacate the boutique hotel and the city terminated the lease agreement. The Capitola City Council has struggled for two years to figure out what to do with the Rispin Mansion. There are plans to demolish the building. But the cost of tearing it down was just as much as trying to save it and it’s on the National Historical Register. Therefore, in 2012 the city spent $649,000 to repair and maintain the building. It is there to stay frozen today.
Now after that tragic story, the Rispin Mansion Park will be restored this year. So, is the Rispin Mansion curse over? Let’s hope. However, keep in mind that the fields are subject to revision. The mansion is still there and Capitola doesn’t have the money right now for that monumental of a project. There are more things to do and more challenges to overcome.
By the way, I called this Rispin Mansion Park. However, it has been suggested that due to racial conflicts in Rispin’s work it should not be named after him. The Capitola City Council decided last year that the property does not currently have an official title. So you can call it whatever you want. Perhaps, the danger is alive.
Sam Storey is the mayor of Capitola.