Since the San Simeon Earthquake in 2003 forced the closing of the Atascadero Historical Society’s museum, the organization has lost a public presence that was only partially restored with the opening of a smaller museum in the Colony House on Lewis Avenue last year.
Jim Wilkins, president of the Historical Society, and his board have done a great job showing off Atascadero’s past and provided something the society never had before — a research room.
The Marj Mackey Historical Research Library provides past copies of the Atascadero News and Illustrated Review Magazine dating back to 1916 and copies of the Atascadero High School yearbooks starting right from the first one in 1921. There are hundreds of photographs from Atascadero’s earliest days, especially many of the Colony Homes, residences built between 1915 and 1924.
The Historical Society considers many of those Colony Homes to be an extension of the museum in that they also tell the Atascadero story. Those homes vary from tiny three-room bungalows all the way to the elaborate Ewalt mansion on Alcantara Avenue or the Catalina Ranch House on Santa Lucia Avenue.
There is the former Marian Devereaux house on El Camino Real at San Benito Road, which housed many artifacts from historic Salem, Mass. That’s because Miss Devereaux’s mom was a cousin to Nathaniel Hawthorne.
And that little brick house on El Camino Real near Curbaril Avenue was once occupied by the grandson of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson of Civil War fame.
This Saturday, the Historical Society is holding its annual Colony Home Tour. Six original Colony houses will be open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. Each home has been carefully restored by its current owner to provide the visitor with a quick backward jump to the turn of the 20th century.
The majority of this year’s homes are in the classic Craftsman style. It was a style created to counter the previous Victorian era. The homes are more rustic in nature, more comfortable.
At one house, Hildy and Giddy Gal are only the second owner of their historic home built in 1917 on Navajoa Avenue. They say everything in the house is original, including the paint on the walls.
Tickets to visit these original homes are available from the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce today through Friday, at the Colony House on Wednesday and Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. or on the day of the tour. You can buy your ticket at any of the six locations and tour in any order. The ticket contains a map of the locations.
These homes are a constant reminder of Atascadero’s past and of the people who came here to make a new home in founder E.G. Lewis’ utopian community.