Hitchcock in Scotts Valleyby Jay Topping
Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma were a force of nature in the Motion Picture industry in England. And it wasn't long before Hollywood beckoned the Hitchcocks to come stateside. After moving to the United States from England in 1939, they settled into a rental house owned by Carol Lombard. But almost immediately, Alfred and Alma started looking for property that would allow them to escape the pressures of the film industry. During the filming of the movie "Rebecca", Alfred expressed to film star Joan Fontaine's parents that he was interested in looking for land and growing his own wine grapes. They suggested looking in the Vine Hill district of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
In September of 1940, the Hitchcocks purchased the 200-acre estate known as "Heart o' the Mountain". It had been the property of the Cornwall family, was very secluded with beautiful views of the Monterey Bay. The main house was a 5000-square-foot building in the Monterey Spanish style with white plastered walls and a red tiled roof. The home also featured many side patios and flower gardens with a beautiful tiled 12-foot square mosaic by Georges Braque. It included a farmhouse complete with animals and a farmer. Huge vineyards surrounded the house below. There were also a tennis court, citrus trees, and a rose garden.
The years in Scotts Valley from 1940 to 1970 were wonderful and the children and grandchildren have very fond memories of the times spent there. So did the celebrities that Alfred and Alma would invite to stay at their retreat. Stars of stage and screen like Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Kim Novak and Grace Kelly, to name a few. Robert Cummings, being a pilot, loved to fly into Skypark airport for a weekend getaway. Alfred and Alma enjoyed the company of Princess Grace when she married the Prince of Monaco, who came back many times to visit and were lifelong friends.
Even though Alfred and family kept a fairly low profile in Scotts Valley, that didn't mean that they were not involved in the community. They worked with local landscape architect Roy Rydell who designed the gardens at the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz. They also employed many folks in construction projects, housekeeping and groundskeeping. Many a local have their pleasant memories of working at the estate. Also, restaurants have recounted their memories of the Hitchcocks dining there. The Old Danish Inn was in Scotts Valley, and they visited there many times. Gilda's on the wharf, the Palomar Inn Downtown and Adolph's were Hitch's favorites. He also loved to visit the United Cigar store on Pacific Avenue, an old-time favorite of Santa Cruzans for decades. He would get the Hollywood newspapers and his favorite cigars there.
We also have personal stories of locals who lived around the Hitchcock neighborhood. Some are very charming and give us insight into Alfred's personality, both comedic and heartwarming. Neighbors mostly knew when the Hitchcocks were at their getaway, respected their privacy and went about life as usual. Hitch (a nickname he used to refer to himself) also liked to walk his dogs on the beach in Santa Cruz.
Life went on for Hitch and he made many movies from his Northern California compound. But as the years went by it became harder for Hitch and Alma to make the trip. Sadly, when they were away, the house was burgled. Finally, it was decided to sell their beloved Scotts Valley residence. Their daughter Pat said it wasn't easy to let go of the home. On April 21, 1980 Alfred passed away peacefully in his sleep, and Alma passed on July 6, 1982. They left a legacy of wonderful movies and TV shows for us to still enjoy today.
In 1974 a young local artist by the name of James Scoppettone decided he really wanted to buy the Hitchcock property and he seemingly pulled off a miracle to do it. But that is another story…