Louden Nelson Community Center
Backstory and Context
In 1860 he purchased an empty lot and built his home near the local school next to the San Lorenzo River near River Street and Front Street. In 1857 the school closed due to lack of funds. When Louden died in 1860 of consumption he left his entire estate "unto Santa Cruz School District forever for the purpose of promoting the interest of education". Mr. Nelson was illiterate and had to have friends help him prepare his will. His donation paid for the reopening of the school so that the children could continue to be educated. This was the first permanent school in Santa Cruz.
His name was mistakenly changed to Louden from London in the 1930s. London Nelson was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Although he reportedly could neither read nor write, he appreciated education and enjoyed watching the children trouping to school which was located, according to Clark's account, in a private house on the hill above Nelson's property. He willed his estate to the school children of Santa Cruz to be used for their education and following his death in 1860, the money was used, according to Clark, to purchase land on Mission Hill to build the first school. In 1979, the former Laurel School, built in 1930 and used as a community center was renamed the Louden Nelson Community Center in his honor.
The Louden Nelson Community Center is still open and operating today. The community center offers youth, teen and senior programs as well as renting out space for community and private events.
Lehmann, Susan. "Santa Cruz County History - Architecture." Santa Cruz Public Libraries, https://www.santacruzpl.org/history/articles/31/. Accessed 9 Oct. 2017.
"London Nelson." Santa Cruz, https://localwiki.org/santacruz/London_Nelson. Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.