About the Colony

Colony Days pays homage to Atascadero vision

Special to The TribuneOctober 14, 2013 

Lon Allan


The theme of this year’s Colony Days celebration, and the 100th birthday of the community, is “Atascadero: The Vision of One — The Work of Many.”

Atascadero’s 40th annual Colony Days celebration got underway with last Sunday’s Quota Club Tea, at which time all past royal couples and parade marshals were dubbed 2013 Royalty for this year. About 25 men and women shared the spotlight.

Further activities this week culminate with Saturday’s parade, Tent City historical re-enactment, the Lion’s Club’s pancake breakfast and high school band competition, and then the vintage car poker run, lakeside barbecue and dedication of the Centennial Bandstand in the park Sunday.

This year’s theme just happens to be the official city motto, and it was coined by Paul Wilson of Templeton, who won $100 in a city-motto contest held in 1979.

Atascadero is certainly the work of many. It all began with eastern publisher Edward Gardner Lewis, who came here in 1913 and bought the historic Mexican land grant Rancho La Asuncion y Atascadero. But Lewis, forced into involuntary bankruptcy in 1924, was no longer at the helm.

Seattle attorney Oscar Willett was named by the court to take over the Colony. His job was to erase debt and make the investors whole again.

He formed the Atascadero Development Syndicate (ADS). Headquarters for the ADS was in the Carlton Hotel building. The letters ADA were carved into a concrete header over the entrance and were there until the building was knocked down in early 2000 to make way for the new Carlton Hotel.

That is why the City Administration Building, The Printery and the William H. Lewis Memorial Hospital were sold to Frank Moran from Seattle, who started a school in those buildings. That is how the old Mercantile Building was sold to Fred Bartholomew, who turned it into the luxurious Atascadero Inn in 1926.

But Willett, after six or seven years, was replaced as head of the ADS by state Sen. Chris Jespersen. There’s no doubt the senator from Atascadero was able to use his influence to locate a National Guard Armory and a state mental hospital here, to help the local economy.

Atascadero was a stepchild of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors until local voters approved cityhood in the summer of 1979.

That’s when new leaders stepped forward, such as Bob Wilkins, the city’s first mayor, and the late Marj Mackey, who was elected to the very first five-member council and eventually became the city’s first female mayor.

Many others took their place in our local history, such all those who have served on city councils, planning commissions and school boards, and civic volunteers who brought about Paloma Park, Memorial Stadium at the high school and even a new library nearing completion on the original “Hotel Park” property.

This week we salute that original vision and those who continue to make it happen.

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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