The History of Atascadero Colony
For people who dared to dream of an ideal life, Atascadero Colony was first conceived. Founded by Edward Gardner Lewis, Atascadero Colony was envisioned as a veritable paradise with spacious acres of rolling green hills, miles and miles of winding roads, bordered with charming bungalows and tall mansions. Even the most humble cottages would possess the charm of a scenic setting, and all homes would be built to suit the varied taste of the people.
In the spring of 1913, Lewis bought the 23,000-acre tract of Rancho Atascadero from J.H. Henry for approximately $1 million. Through the power of his paper, Lewis promoted his dream. It didn’t take long for the settlers to arrive.
About a year and a half was devoted to exhaustive surveys, carried out by the most prominent experts on the Pacific Coast. The large property was first surveyed for its subdivision to the greatest advantage designing all main roads and arteries from the civic center to the most remote districts. Residential areas were carefully plotted to give the greatest possible beauty and desirability to each lot, and the plan of the civic centers was determined.
In early May 1915, people were coming from nearly every state in the union. A tent city appeared on the low knoll behind the old ranch house that Lewis converted to his headquarters of the promotion. Here people waited enthusiastically going over plans and discussing the details of their houses on their own plots of land.
All through the summer and fall, carpenters were busy creating what became know as “Atascadero Estates,” building the permanent homes for those waiting in the tents. By the last of year 1915, early weeks of 1916, a number of the homes had been completed and the two largest public buildings, the City Administration Building and the Printery were nearly finished. By 1916, 60 miles of roads had been completed, 21 miles of permanent water mains had been laid with modern pumping stations and deeps wells set into the Salinas River. The year 1917 brought with it the rest of the modern utilities such as electricity and gas.
The last half of the year 1919 was marked by a building boom. When the people came, the jobs followed. Early industry that came to Atascadero was the Printery, the E.T. Dooley doll factory, and poultry farming. Standard Oil even built a sub station on the outskirts of town. By 1920, Atascadero was a strong and thriving town.
Although not all the details of Lewis’ dream came through, the dream did not change for those early settlers of Atascadero Colony. One only needs to talk to early residents to realize that the dream still lives.
Written by E.G. Lewis
“In publishing this Bulletin, or Digest of the Atascadero Estates and Plan, the originator and those who have been and are helping to carry it to completion, are as proud of the MENTAL concept that gives it life and momentum, and continues to inspire it as the project progresses, as they are the tangible and PHYSICAL work that has already been accomplished. The BIG IDEA and central thought back of the Plan is the combining of an effective, businesslike, scientific, coordinated production, conservation and direct-to-the-consumer marketing of the products of the soil, with the business of providing the highest beauty and desirability of a place in which to live a complete and well rounded life. Recognizing that the highest state of organized society is predicated upon individual freedom and voluntary co-operation, the Atascadero Plan is not based upon any common religious or political conviction, but leaves questions wholly to the individual initiative.”