At this time of changing time and seasons, we pause to reflect on our past as well as looking to our future. As we plan to celebrate our 10th anniversary of opening the Cambrian Historical Museum in December 2008, we at the Historical Society are so grateful for all the efforts that got us to this point.
The Guthrie Bianchini House had been in wrack and ruin for decades when a dedicated group of neighbors did an extensive study and presentation to have the home placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, when there were rumblings about demolishing it and putting in “needed parking”. Thanks to their foresight for saving the property, because at that time there was no Historical Society!
After retired educator Paul Squibb died, a small group of dedicated citizens organized the Cambria Historical Society in 1990, incorporating as a nonprofit specifically to save all his local research and papers, as well as archives and artifacts from our pioneer families. Again, we appreciate those who established the mission to preserve the past for future generations.
In 1999, when the property was put on the docket after years of litigation in San Luis Obispo County Probate Court, a committed group of members gathered at small community benefits to “Save the Bianchini” and contracted to a mortgage of half a million dollars. They did a great job of educating the public about the value of the decrepit structure, which represents decades of changes in Cambria since its establishment in 1866, through the Victorian times, into the era of stucco construction around town and to our present-day status as a popular destination on the Central Coast.
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Through the seven years of construction and reconstruction at a cost of another half million, members as well as the general public pitched in financially with donations, attendance at events and grant writing. There was a heart-rending pause during the year we ran out of money when the original pine home was demolished and the redwood part stood on stilts.
There are poignant notations about those who contributed for specific items such as the fireplace, door or window. Ultimately, the Hundred Angels Campaign cleared the last $100,000 still due on the mortgage, thanks to an anonymous major donor and about 40 individuals who contributed $1,000 each, with our sincere gratitude.
We appreciate efforts of the Garden Committee and consultants who dug up, identified and then replaced the heirloom plants along with some new starts, which are now fully mature. Maintaining the Heirloom Gardens by our volunteers has not been easy in this time of drought and financial cutbacks, so sales from the backyard nursery help to offset our costs, as well as provide our guests with Cambria’s heritage.
Currently we are setting up the archives and artifacts in the historic blue Maggetti House next door so that materials, including back issues of The Cambrian since its first issue in the early thirties, can be more readily available for research. An energetic committee has acquired grants to beautify the place. We are moving the office into that edifice so the original bedroom can be restored in the museum to display donations such as the Edith Bianchi Maddalena trousseau.
So, Thanksgiving is a time for acknowledging volunteers at brunch on Nov. 3, but also planning ahead for December anniversary celebrations, as we ask you to reserve the date for Hospitality Night traditions on Dec. 6 and local author Catherine Ryan Hyde to speak Dec. 13. She joins a host of distinguished folks who have participated in the Speaker Series in the parlor of the museum. Please support us as a member, and designate the 1866 Society as your historical legacy.
Located at 2251 Center Street at Burton Drive, the museum and book store are staffed by volunteers from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday-Sunday and 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 www.cambriahistoricalsociety.com and like us at www.facebook.com/cambriahistoricalsociety.