The first rebuild of the Cayucos Pier in 1876

Posted by David Middlecamp on September 4, 2013 

Capt. James Cass founder of Cayucos.


In Cayucos, tourists and locals can take a short walk on a long pier.

According to the Save Cayucos Pier website, the structure was first built in 1872 by Capt. James Cass. It was rebuilt and lengthened in 1876 for about $15,000.

At that time, logs from Cambria only cost $7.00 delivered.

Today, the structure is threatened, and repairs are estimated to cost $2 million.

The good people of Cayucos don't spend their time pointing fingers; they are busy raising matching funds to rebuild the pier.

Pilings are missing (14 of them), and dozens more are seriously damaged. The ocean environment is a harsh one, and no one seems to have budgeted for maintenance.

Ironically, as I was photographing the pier closure, there was a friendly State Parks worker surveying bummed-out people fishing off the fence-shortened pier. She was asking questions like, "How long have you been here?" and dutifully entering the answers on a clipboard.


If anyone asks me, we don't need to spend money on studies or surveys.

Survey sez: People like piers.

They like them even better when they don't fall in the ocean.

To quote a learned philosopher, Sylvester, "Sufferin' succotash!"

Dust off the old blueprints, buy lumber and get it rebuilt.

Hopefully it will take less time than the original construction — after all, our era does have power tools.

Here is the San Luis Obispo Tribune story from Sept. 30, 1876. The paper at the time had an odd habit of inserting headline type mid-sentence.


A Growth of Fifteen Months.

One year ago, the 24th of last June, we passed by what there then was of Cayucos. It consisted of the store, warehouse, dwelling, and 380 feet of wharf—all combined—of James Cass. On the side of the hill about an eighth of a mile distant, was the old ranch-house, being the only building within sight. Last Sunday we revisited the place, and it is of what we then saw that we propose to talk. We found the scene entirely changed. In front of where the old dilapidated buildings of Mr. Cass stood, there now stands the large and commodious warehouse of James Cass & Co., a building that would do credit to any city on the coast. It is 50x92 feet in dimensions, with 14-feet walls and a broad, steep roof, affording ample storage for the products of the rich country tributary to this port. In the northeast corner a store is partitioned off, of the dimensions of 20x50 feet, where-in a large stock of goods is constantly kept on hand. Here is also the office of the steamship company, and the telegraph office. The store is ceiled throughout with alternate boards of redwood and white pine, giving to the room a warm, cheerful appearance. A car track runs through the warehouse, onto the wharf, thus affording easy transportation to and from the ships, for merchandise, grain, butter, wool, etc.


Is being pushed rapidly ahead. Mr. R.E. Osgood has the contract, and is making a good job of it. The piles are San Simeon pine, cut near Cambria, and delivered at a cost for hauling of seven dollars each. It takes one hundred and sixty of these monster trees for the uprights to the wharf. They will average two feet in diameter at the large end, and not less than ten inches at the small. They vary in length from 35 to 60 feet. They are driven not less than fourteen feet each, into solid earth, thus standing as firm as if rooted there by nature. The extension to the wharf will be 500 feet, making the total length 940. This carries it out to 21 feet water at low tide. The wharf is sixteen feet wide, for 876 feet out, and 40 for 64 feet, where vessels will land. It is thoroughly braced, and the dock portion will have cluster piles at the corners, and fender piles every four feet around the sides. It will be seen by the foregoing that this will be one of the most substantial wharfs on the coast. The floor is thirteen feet above extreme high water. It will be about two weeks before it will be completed so that steamers will tie up alongside.

In connection with the wharf and warehouse, Messers. Cass & Co. have a lumber yard, stocked with a supply of good lumber. A Regulator windmill elevates water from a well in the lumber yard into a tank that holds between 4,000 and 5,000 gallons, which supplies the store, wharf, stock yards and dwelling house, with ample water of excellent quality.


In addition to the above, Mr. Cass has built himself a pretty cottage and barn, which stand across the street, in the center of a lot nicely fenced, and planted with ornamental trees and shrubs. Directly opposite the warehouse is the Cosmopolitan Hotel of B. Morganti & L. Signorini, a pair of eterprising [sic] Swiss, who saw the future importance of Cayucos as a shipping point and center of trade, and went in for the most central spot upon which to build a house wherein the traveling public are well supplied with everything, from a bed to a cocktail. The store of the late firm of


Is another of the notable improvements. It is a splendid building, of large dimensions, with a storehouse adjoining. The store was closed, so we did not have an opportunity to see the stock, but understand Mr McMillan keeps a general assortment of such goods as are most in demand throughout the county. Mr Dunn has sold out his interest in the store to his partner, Mr. D.C. McMillan, who is ever on hand to serve his customers.

The future


Is assured, and in a few years this nucleus will have enlarged into a thriving village. It is the center of, and the shipping point for, a large area of rich farming and dairy country. We saw in the warehouse of Cass & Co., several thousand sacks of barley awaiting shipment, and there is now, in the dullest season for dairy products, an average shipment of 50 boxes and barrels of butter per week. This represents about two and a half tons. Then there is the quicksilver, the chickens, eggs, pelts, hides, grain and hogs, which swell the exports to a large annual sum. This will increase as the county settles up, which it is rapidly doing. There is a large number of Swiss settled in this vicinity, many of whom have grown rich in dairying, and others are rapidly becoming so. Were Morro y Cayucos grant all sold and settled by these industrious people it would add a large valuation to the assessment roll.


The building up this thriving town is due to James Cass, who, a few years ago, discovered its availability as a shipping point, and, single-handed and alone, began the work of building a wharf, while the incredulous stood by and laughed at his efforts to make something out of nothing. He succeeded in building his wharf out 360 feet, where, at high tide, he could lighter off and on his goods, in comparative safety, if not ease. The moment he had accomplished this, business and curses began to acumulate, [sic] until it was found that, to keep pace with the two, he must have more wharf and a larger warehous [sic]. To enable him to do do this he associated with himself Wm. L. Beebe, John Harford and L. Schwarts, under the firm name of James Cass & Co., since when the improvements we have described have been made. Had we more such men as Messrs. Cass & Co., and less growlers, our county would make a progress that all might well feel proud of; but, unfortunately, growlers and obstructionists seem to be in the ascendant:—Time, alone, is the remedy for this evil.

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