With Atascadero’s annual Colony Days celebration just around the corner, I wrote last week that I wanted to highlight a few of the city’s original buildings. Last week I profiled The Printery (pressed into service in 1916), which stands empty and structurally weakened as a result of the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake.
But another historic structure stands strong and in a good state of repair on the mall below Atascadero High School: the Federated Church building.
It is the root building at today’s Atascadero Bible Church (ABC Church). It is part of Atascadero’s original civic center. Before the freeway was routed through the heart of Atascadero, you could stand on the mall in front of the church and see the City Administration Building.
The structure was built by Atascadero founder E.G. Lewis, who told the individual churches if they all came to worship as one, he’d build them a building. Through his power of persuasion, Lewis brought together more than 20 denominations. There were Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Roman Catholics and more. More than 200 members were on board before the year was out.
The Federated Church actually had its beginnings on a hot summer morning in 1915 in Stadium Park. The congregation met in that natural bowl below Pine Mountain and in tents and other structures, including the workers’ mess hall, until the Federated Church building was completed in 1921.
But the building was more than a place of worship on Sunday. During the rest of the week it was the city’s community building.
Movies were shown there. There was a reception room, library, auditorium, billiard and pool areas, a gymnasium and even a swimming pool outside. The shower facilities were in the basement.
The last time I visited the structure, the showers were still there, as was the giant fireplace in the main entrance. The swimming pool was used until the ’60s, when a new pool was built on the high school campus. The pool, not more than 100 feet from Highway 101, was finally covered up in 2004 when the church added its education wing.
The building served the mixed congregations through the late ’20s and then fell victim to the stock market crash. In fact, the church was evicted from the building in 1929. The congregation split into two groups, the Community Church and what is today’s ABC Church.
Fortunately, the ABC Church completely restored the old community hall/church in 1995.
The interior looks much like it did when it was completed in 1921. Today’s congregation is strong and vibrant, and that original building looks as if it is going to be there for a very long time.
And, for the very first time, the annual Colony Days kickoff luncheon will be held in the ABC Church on Sunday, Oct. 9, starting at 2 p.m. Anyone who has lived here for 40 years and is 55 or older may attend. If you haven’t gotten your invitation, contact Dyann Shepard at 805-466-0947 by Sept. 23.
Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.