On Jan. 5, I read an article in the Sentinel with the headline, “Employer Ledyard going to Gilroy.” What does this have to do with the history of Aptos, you may ask? If you have a house above the Aptos Library, you live in a neighborhood called Ledyard Acres. There is a connection.
If you have lived in this county for any amount of time, you may have noticed Ledyard trucks delivering food and restaurant supplies. I did not make the connection between the two names until I received a book for the Aptos History Museum entitled, "Aptos was Idyllic," written by Dr. David Glass. It is the story of his childhood, growing up in Ledyard Acres in the middle of the last century. It is a wonderful little book.
In the early 1900s, David’s grandfather, Henry Horatio (Harry) Ledyard, bought a 60-acre ranch on the hill facing the bay, and he planted a pear orchard. Unfortunately, pear blight struck the orchard and most of the trees were destroyed. About 1925, he decided to turn the ranch into an early subdivision which he named Ledyard Acres. The Great Depression of the 1930s caused the Ledyard Acres project to slow to a crawl, but it finally took off after WWII. Henry built a new home for his family on Sunset Way in 1940.
Harry Ledyard’s father, Henry C. Ledyard, was a dentist who had traveled around the world and had settled in San Jose to establish his dental practice. In 1879, he married Elizabeth Cory and they left on a 10-year honeymoon. Harry Ledyard was born Christmas Day, 1880, in Shanghai, China. At the age of 2, he accompanied his parents in a sleigh on a 3,000-mile trip from Siberia to St. Petersburg. After spending the winter there, the family moved to Constantinople/Istanbul where they lived for six years. In 1888, the family returned to San Jose.
In the 1920s, Harry Ledyard was the manager of the Santa Cruz branch of the Keystone Company, a San Jose wholesale foods firm. In 1929, after the Keystone Company went out of business, Ledyard mortgaged his Aptos property and started his own wholesale grocery business. The H. H. Ledyard company opened offices at 24 Mission St. in Santa Cruz with three employees.
The firm grew quickly and in 1932, the company moved to larger quarters at 53 Vine St. In January 1953, a fire destroyed the company’s warehouse. Then, the Ledyard company moved to the old Coast Counties Gas and Electric company warehouse on Sycamore street at Pacific Avenue. After less than a year, the Christmas flood of 1955 destroyed the warehouse. The company was able to remain in business and opened a new warehouse and office in 1957, in its current location at 17th Avenue and Kinsley Street in the Live Oak industrial area.
Harry Ledyard managed his company until he was 84 years old. He died at his home on Sunset Way in Aptos on Jan. 3, 1965. The Ledyard company stayed in the family until 1978 when Richard Fontana purchased it. He was the former owner of the Parisian Bakery in San Francisco. Richard Fontana greatly expanded the company and in 2010, he sold Ledyard to Performance Food Group, the third largest foodservice distribution company in the nation. The food distributor and restaurant equipment supplier has outgrown its current location and plans to build new warehouses on a 29-acre site in Gilroy. And now you know what that has to do with the history of Aptos.
SAVE THE DATES!
Saturday, May 5 is the Kentucky Derby and we are having a party. Come watch the Derby with us. Mint Juleps at our no-host bar, Southern Fare, live music and silent auction. 2:30 until 4:30 in the afternoon. Prizes for Best Women’s and Men’s Derby Outfits. $35 general, $30 museum members.
The Loma Prieta Lumbermill. Professor Marko Meniketti will present the results of a three-year archeological investigation of the mill site in Nisene Marks State Park for our “Coffee, Tea and History" event. Saturday, Feb. 17, 3-4:30 p.m. $20 general, $15 museum members.
Local History Through the Lens. Award-winning Sentinel photographer Shmuel Thaler will present a gallery of his photos that capture local history for our “Coffee, Tea and History" event. Saturday, March 24, 3-4:30 p.m. $20 general, $15 museum members.
Call 688-1467 for information and reservations.