Crazy name and a really interesting town, Atascadero California was the brain child of E. G. Lewis in 1913. He had previously successfully started a town in Missouri, and when he found this property in Central California, he put investors together to purchase the 23,000 acres which was a portion of Rancho Atascadero. E.G. Lewis was kind of the Gene Roddenberry of land development because he really looked into the future as he planned the town.
Many people do not know that when you purchased a homesite in Atascadero California and subsequently built a home, you were automatically a member of The Cloisters, which was an appx. 500 acre parcel of land in Morro Bay, complete with a clubhouse, dining room and facilities that allowed you to enjoy the beach for the day. Lewis built the highway from Atascadero to Morro Bay (now Highway 41) and if you had the funds, you could also purchase a beach lot and build a small bungalow to enjoy a longer stay at the beach.
He really planned out the community. He hired architects and engineers and planned out every lot including the piping of water to each street. He planned out orchards, chicken houses, places to raise livestock, a food processing plant for dehydration and shipping of the produce that came from the locally owned farms. There were churches, community event areas, schools, a printing building and operation, a hotel, a lovely City Hall (which has just completed a total retrofit and remodel after the 2003 earthquake) and numerous other amenities to make this a truly complete town unto itself. Lewis also knew that the location halfway between LA and San Francisco and just off of Hwy 101, would be a great place for travelers to stop and enjoy the town, and possibly decide to stay.
There’s lots more to the story, but sadly, Lewis got in trouble with the US Postal Service on what he termed a technicality and eventually was jailed for it for a time. He spent the majority of his funds defending himself and his good name. Lewis died in Atascadero in 1950. But his genius in creating a town in this beautiful location lives on.
Atascadero looks “different” than many other towns. Once a visitor exits off of El Camino Real, he will see that the residential streets have no sidewalks. The parcels are in general larger than average parcels, and the houses are all different. This is because anyone could come and buy a lot a build a house. The only developments in Atascadero which have continuity have been built within the past 15 years…..
Today, Atascadero California is a town in transition. With the earthquake and the subsequent rebuilding of the City Hall, the City Counsel realized that it was high time to reinvent the downtown area. New development is being approved, and a new Galaxy Theatre complex was recently completed and is generating a great deal of interest. And there are many plans to help revitalize the old downtown, including a walking path along Atascadero Creek which runs very near the City Hall. The park is lovely with a central fountain, and the fountains around the City Hall are all being restored as I write this.
And “Always Expect the Best”…..