Atascadero can trace its beginning to a Mexican land grant when in 1845 Governor Pio Pico granted Pedro Estrada almost 40,000 acres of the Asuncion Rancho, a good portion of which eventually made up part of the smaller 23,000 acre Atascadero Rancho. Through various and natural ownership changes, the 23,000 acre Atascadero Rancho came to be owned by J.H. Henry of San Jose after California became the 31st state of the Union.
In 1903, Congress passed the Dick Act which totally reorganized the various state militias under the universal term of National Guard and dictated that they would be trained to Army standards. It was decided that there were going to be four major joint training exercises with the Regular Army and the National Guard. One of these sites would be on the future site of Atascadero. Soon over 5,000 soldiers and 1, 000 horses made their way to Camp Atascadero. Commanding the division and supervising the exercise was the legendary Major General Arthur MacArthur father of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. These joint exercises would continue on a biennial basis until 1912.
Edward Gardner Lewis
In 1913 publisher Edward Gardner Lewis left University City, Missouri and came west to begin what was to be a model community. He eventually recorded what was the largest single subdivision map in San Luis Obispo County. Atascadero was a “planned community” from the very beginning.
Using his printing presses still in Missouri, Lewis began to tell the world about his new community on the Central Coast of California (for which he paid $37.50 an acre.)
He hired experts in many different fields – agriculture, engineering, planning – to help him create the “Atascadero Colony.”
City of Atascadero
In 1979 Atascadero became the seventh incorporated city in San Luis Obispo County, becoming the second largest city in the county. Many of the very principles that E. G. Lewis had envisioned for his model community were written into the city’s first general plan.
The Atascadero Historical Society
The Atascadero Historical Society, in its present form, was founded in 1965 in order to preserve our unique history. The Atascadero Historical Society boasts a state-of-the-art archiving facility where our staff has archived 10,000 items from our collection. To help further our goal the Atascadero Historical Society has been gifted with approximately 3 acres near the new Atascadero library. Our plans for this area include relocating up to four Colony Period homes (built between 1914 and 1924) to the site. Each of these homes will be used for a specific purpose in telling the unique story and history of Atascadero.
Atascadero Historic City Hall Tours
The Historical Society offers docent guided tours of this architecturally unique and historically significant building. Tours are scheduled through email request at email@example.com or from our website atascaderohistorical.org, City Hall receptionist, the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce. A tour can range from 45 minutes up to 2 hours depending upon the level of interest and time constraints. Tours are available to individuals as well as small groups. 24 hrs or more notice is requested and are scheduled according to availability. Organizations/groups of more than a dozen may require 2 or more docents and additional lead time.
Some of the highlights on this tour are an in depth look at this Italian Renaissance style building with a double rotunda. The construction employed the use of armored concrete (post 1906 San Francisco earthquake technology). When completed in 1918 it included an elevator from the basement to the 4th floor. This building also hosted the American Woman’s Republic headquarters. In fact, Atascadero was founded in the name of this suffrage organization.
We look forward to seeing you.