In the mid-1950s the San Luis Obispo County Historical Society was hitting its stride. Today it operates under the name History Center of San Luis Obispo County. More than a half-century ago the organization was the leader of what has become a region filled with healthy and active community historical organizations.
The group traveled throughout the county engaging on local topics of interest. It was a time of transition; the history group was in search of a permanent home.
The heirs of William Randolph Hearst were wondering what to do with a home that was too opulent to afford — some people called it a “Castle.”
This excerpted story is from the Telegram-Tribune of May 3, 1954; it omits a three-paragraph roll-call of names at the end of the story.
Dana Adobe History Told At Meeting
The Dana adobe and early railroading in San Luis Obispo County were featured last week as the San Luis Obispo County Historical society discussed early days in the southern part of the county.
Sixty-three members met at Arroyo Grande high school for the April meeting. Members of the California Scholarship Federation served a Spanish dinner under the direction of Miss Ruth Paulding.
Mrs. Marie Dana Felix of Nipomo, in telling about the early days of the Dana family, said a Bostonian, William Dana, came to Santa Barbara in 1825 and married a Carrillo. The couple went to Nipomo and moved into the Dana adobe, which later became famous as a stopping place for the mail coach that ran between San Francisco and San Diego.
Of the Dana’s 22 children, 11 are still living.
In the year 1848, the steamship Edith was wrecked, and members of the crew stayed at the Dana adobe. Some of the ship’s furniture is still in the homes of present-day Dana descendants.
Mrs. Felix also told about captain Tom Robbins, who built a schooner in Goleta. His widow moved to Arroyo Grande and founded the Robbins store.
Other descendants of the Dana family who attended the dinner in addition to Mrs. Felix were county clerk A.E. Mallagh of San Luis Obispo, Mrs. C.E. Dennerlein and her daughter Rizzy Porter, Chester Porter, Mrs. Dan F. Sheehy and Goodwin Dana, all of Nipomo.
Mrs. Madge Craighill Ditmas of Arroyo Grande gave a brief history of two railroads constructed in 1873. One was built between San Luis Obispo and Avila. The second ran from San Luis Obispo to Santa Maria.
The two railroads were consolidated later. In addition to serving cattle ranches they were used for political rallies, picnics, weddings and circuses.
“Narrow gauge engines, one here, are still in use,” Mrs. Ditmas said, “and are used to haul sugar cane in the Hawaiian islands.”
State senator A.A. Erhart of Pismo Beach outlined the present status of Hearst Castle. He said that the next step will be granting of a deed by the William Randolph Hearst heirs.
Then the state will convert the castle and grounds to public use as a tourist attraction.
In other news on the page, a journalism banquet was held during Poly Royal for students. Keynote speaker Rod MacDonald, media director for a San Francisco advertising agency, said: “It is not good enough to do what was successful yesterday, because tomorrow it might be a failure.” He estimated that the California population would reach 27,500,000 by the year 2004. He was under the mark by more 8 million. California population in July 2004 was 35,893,799.
Lagoon dredging was scheduled for Oceano. Willows were to be cleared to allow swimming, boating and fishing.
Thirty-eight Emerson school sixth-graders were set to observe freeway construction in the city.
Movie cartoonist Walt Disney had plans to complete a $9,000,000 “Disneyland” by mid-summer next year. The 160-acre tract in Orange County was once a part of the historic rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana. “The famed creator of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck described the project as ‘a combination of world fair, a playground, a community center, a museum of living facts and a showplace of beauty and magic.’” The park opened July 17, 1955.