Restoration of Cambria’s rare and long-hidden Chinese temple is complete and will be celebrated with a public open house from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at the Greenspace Creekside Reserve on Center Street in East Village.
While the exterior restoration was completed a few years ago, the interior work took time to fund. The Hind Foundation of San Luis Obispo assisted with a grant in the last year.
Greenspace — The Cambria Land Trust purchased the 1.6-acre property in 1999, intending to create a nature preserve. The site included a structure known as the “Red House,” which had been created from three buildings, one of them a rare Chinese temple which was essentially unidentifiable. There were no external signs of its earlier role as a religious, fraternal and social focus of Cambria’s Chinese community. By contrast the four other 19th century Chinese temples remaining in California had been restored and designated as historic sites.
As Greenspace directors prepared the preserve to make it suitable for eventual public access, they learned that much of the Red House could not be salvaged, but that the temple section was still sound. In 2001 the deteriorated portions were removed and the remaining temple structure was placed on a temporary foundation and covered to keep out rain.
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Funding to move forward and eventually restore the temple came from folks who pledged help with mortgage payments on the property, from an “angel” who later paid off the mortgage for Greenspace, and from people who bought commemorative bricks in a “Patron Path.” Early grant support for the restoration was from three sources, including the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation. There were special fundraisers and contributions from countless people whose donations, large and small, allowed Greenspace to build a new foundation for the structure in a better location on the site and to restore the exterior as called for by professional archeologists and architectural historians. Following a year-long effort, Greenspace celebrates the restoration of the interior and completion of the project.Greenspace is applying for landmark status for the temple out of respect for its rarity in California (one of five), and its uniqueness as a testimony about the Chinese presence in Cambria from about 1880 to 1920. A private reception for contributors to the restoration funding will be held later.