About the Colony

After years of work, Atascadero is looking good again

Special to The TribuneAugust 12, 2013 

Lon Allan


Atascadero is getting put back together again piece by piece. Several years ago the Sunken Gardens was reworked to provide a more pedestrian-friendly place for people to gather. It looks especially good now against the city hall.

A week from Tuesday, everyone who wasn’t at the $100-a-person black-tie opening of the Administration Building on Aug. 2 can see it free (or a $5 donation if you can). Since the fence was removed about 10 days ago, I’ve walked around the outside of the four-story structure and pressed my nose against all the glass doors and windows to get a peek inside. Just having the East Mall open for through traffic from El Camino Real to the junior high is wonderful. And you can walk right up to the fountains around the restored building as workers continue to repair them.

And on Sept. 22 the statue will be returned to the Sunken Gardens. The statue has been sitting in the city storage yard for over a year just waiting to make its big entry during the city’s 100th anniversary.

As many of you will remember, the statue, officially known as The Wrestling Bacchantes, was carved from a single piece of Carrere marble. Years of rain, sprinklers and vandals inflicted so much damage on the statue that the city shipped it off to Cambria in 2007 where conservators did a detailed $220,000 restoration of the beautiful piece that has also been called locally “The Three Graces,” and “The Wood Nymphs.” For a brief time during World War II, when there was such a housing shortage here on the Central Coast, a sign was attached to the classic statue that read: “Three Army wives fighting over an apartment.” The whole restoration movement was spearheaded by local artist Susan Beastie.

The large statue was created by an Italian sculptor for the St. Louis Exposition, which was held in 1904. But Italy shipped so much artwork to the fair there wasn’t room to display it all. The Bacchantes was put in a warehouse and after the fair, when the artwork was being sold off, Atascadero founder E.G. Lewis purchased this piece for his new city, University City, Mo. But by then he had his eyes on a new settlement in California and had the piece shipped here.

On Sunday, Sept. 22, a reception and art show will be held as the statue returns to the same place it occupied since 1963, when it was moved from the west side of the freeway.

And soon, a new “village clock” will be put in place in a corner of the Sunken Gardens to honor the memory of the late Joanne Main.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach him at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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