Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


A native of Dalmatia, George Strazicich has had an adventurous career, visiting many parts of the world and thus broadening his outlook upon life. A spirit of self-reliance, a hopeful disposition, intelligence and ambition were his youthful patrimony and with these he has worked and won. He is one of the pioneer hotel men of Watsonville and the owner of much valuable property in the city, which numbers him among its builders and promoters.

George Strazicich was born in Austria, January 8, 1861, and his home was in a seaport whose climatic conditions were similar to those of Watsonville, the principal products of the farms in the vicinity being figs, olives, grapes and other varieties of fruit. After finishing his studies he followed the life of a sailor, going to Russian ports on the Black sea and to many other European countries. In 1876, when a boy of fourteen, he landed in New York harbor but returned to his native country in order to see his mother, arriving there at the time of the war with Turkey. He served on the battleship Albrect, also with the land forces, and received from the Austrian government a medal of honor, which he prizes very highly, as it was bestowed by the emperor, Franz Joseph.

On April 1, 1886, Mr. Strazicich arrived in the city of Santa Cruz, California, with but a few dollars in his pocket, joining his brother and sister, who had preceded him to this country. He obtained a job as a ditch digger for the Santa Cruz Gas Company, afterward working in a lime kiln and later as cook for the crew of seventy-five men employed in the Santa Cruz Tannery. In November, 1886, he came to Watsonville and for six months worked in a restaurant. On the expiration of that period he started in business for himself. Securing a location on Main street, he opened the second restaurant in the town. As soon as he was established in business Mr. Strazicich wrote to his boyhood sweetheart, a college graduate, who was then engaged in teaching, asking her to join him, and they were married here in 1889. She was the first woman to come from Dalmatia to Watsonville and three years later another one of her countrywomen arrived in the city.

Learning that the Southern Pacific Railroad contemplated building a branch line from Watsonville Junction to Santa Cruz, Mr. Strazicich bought two lots, one hundred by one hundred and twenty feet, opposite the site of the new station on Walker street, paying five hundred dollars for the property, on which he erected a building thirty by forty feet in dimensions and two and a half stories in height, naming it the Railroad Exchange Hotel. He operated a bar in connection with the hotel and five years later built an addition fifty feet in depth. At that time the Spreckels interests constructed a sugar factory near Watsonville and Mr. Strazicich boarded the men who worked in the plant, also securing laborers for the factory and the apple orchards. After he had improved the property and made it valuable he bought a lot sixty by one hundred and twenty-five feet on the corner of Walker street and West Lake avenue. Here he erected his present hotel, the Railroad Exchange and this was the first building on Walker street, which at that time was only a cow pasture. He also owns the Spreckels home, which he bought after the Watsonville sugar factory was abandoned and the new plant was erected near Salinas. He has done much to improve his city and for a time was also the proprietor of the Sugar Beet Hotel at Riverside, California.

Mr. Strazicich's first wife died eighteen years after their marriage, leaving four sons: Nicholas, who is living in San Jose; George Jr., who is associated with his father in the hotel business; John, a resident of Colusa county, California; and Emil. To the second union have been born two daughters, Elizabeth and May, aged respectively fourteen and thirteen years. Mr. Strazicich formed the Austrian-American Society of Watsonville, an organization that has been of great benefit to the working man. He brought to this country from Dalmatia three nephews and two nieces, whom he reared and educated, and is noted for his generous, unselfish nature and genial qualities. His prosperity has been honorably won and worthily used, and his friends are legion.

Source: History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California : cradle of California's history and romance : dating from the planting of the cross of Christendom upon the shores of Monterey Bay by Fr. Junipero Serra, and those intrepid adventurers who accompanied him, down to the present day. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1925, 890 pgs.