Cambrian: Opinion

Cambria pioneer Guthrie in Women’s History Month spotlight

Sarah Guthrie was the homeowner with her husband Samuel during the Victorian era which the Historical Museum portrays.
Sarah Guthrie was the homeowner with her husband Samuel during the Victorian era which the Historical Museum portrays.

Since March is Women’s History Month, we felt it appropriate to feature one of Cambria’s founding “foremothers,” Sarah Woods Guthrie. Sarah came from Oregon with her family, and she and her sisters married prominent Cambria businessmen. Samuel Guthrie was a merchant whose shop was on Main Street, and while he was away in San Francisco, Sarah bought the fine Victorian style home in the residential area at the corner of Center and Lee Streets. Lee was renamed Burton Drive about 1973.

We don’t know if she initiated the purchase in 1883 from Benjamin Hubes Franklin, who had expanded the 1870s single-room house, or if she was directed to by Samuel. We do know she bought it in her own name with her own money, and her name is on the title. This was at a time when by law she and other women were “chattel,” or property, of a husband, and it was not common for women to own property. By law, she could not even vote.

Their home became a showplace with lovely gardens, and we credit her with planting the Port Orford Cedar in the early 1900s; this has become the official Cambria Christmas Tree. It may also be that she planted the elephant garlic which grows prolifically in the yard, because the tree and garlic both originated in Oregon. Sarah owned the lovely home until she sold it to Eugenio and Luisa Bianchini in 1914.

The gardens currently are blooming with some original narcissus, calla lilies, and black lilies named Arum Palaestinum, with promise of lilacs, iris and roses to come, thanks to backbreaking pruning, weeding and hauling by our dedicated volunteer gardeners since Christmas. We welcome the rain, and any other volunteers who will come forth to assist in bringing our Heirloom Garden back to its former glory.

Arum and iris, and several dwarf white agapanthus named Tinker Bell are now potted and available for sale in the backyard nursery.

Membership and next speaker

There’s lots of fascinating local history on display with more to come at the museum; there is a good selection of books and unique gifts in our museum store. We feature high-quality speakers in our parlor almost monthly, with admittance free to family and business members, or the public for a small $10 donation applicable to membership fees. Contact Penny Church at 805-927-1442 for reservations, and join us for hors d’oeuvres and beverages to begin the evening,

Our next speaker, on Thursday, March 22, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., is Larry Newland, the current president of the Board of Trustees of the Morro Bay Maritime Museum, where the Alma Coast Guard ship resides. The Alma was instrumental in the rescue of survivors of the 1941 sinking of the S.S. Montebello six miles off the coast of Cambria.

Newland’s interest in sailing was piqued by the sabot dinghy that his father built as a Christmas present when he was 9. He has been a longtime boat owner and worked around his father’s boat-building projects while growing up in Morro Bay. He is also an experienced sailor, having cruised coastal California, the Channel Islands, Mexico, and a 14-day Trans Pac to Hawaii from Morro Bay in 1978.

Professionally, Larry began a career working for the State of California as a tour guide at Hearst Castle while attending college, and after a stint in the Army transferred to Caltrans. He recently retired from a 32-year career with the state of California, with the last 17 years as a supervisor in the Environmental and Transportation Planning branches of Caltrans.

Consuelo Macedo’s monthly column on North Coast history and Cambria Historical Society activities is special to The Cambrian.

About the museum

The Cambria Historical Museum and bookstore, 2251 Center Street at Burton Drive, are staffed by volunteers from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday; the heirloom gardens and backyard nursery are open all day every day. Phone: 805-927-2891. Go to, and like the museum on Facebook at