Cambrian: Opinion

Tales from Town: Tour the place where history clicks

This photo of Cambria in 1908 is taken on what was then known as Lee Street (now Burton Drive), facing north. The old Hesperian School is on the hill above Main Street.
This photo of Cambria in 1908 is taken on what was then known as Lee Street (now Burton Drive), facing north. The old Hesperian School is on the hill above Main Street. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CAMBRIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

“History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard. It is a poem with events as verses.”

— Charles Angolff

Take a walk around Cambria’s East Village and you just might catch the music of the blacksmith’s anvil or the drone of children ciphering their arithmetic lessons. The clip-clop of hooves and jingle-jangle of harnesses. Or a choir of excited voices chattering away in Chinese, Portuguese or Italian.

All it takes to conjure up these echoes of Cambria history is imagination, curiosity and a good road map to the past. The first two attributes are up to you, but I know where to find the map:

With stories by local historian Dawn Dunlap and web design by graphic artist Scott Saunders, the Cambria Historical Society has put together an online walking tour of East Village that features a cool map you can click on to discover historic facts and interesting tidbits about the shops and houses you pass by all the time.

For example, click on No. 1, and up pops the story of the

Kaetzel/Williams House — now Fog’s End. In 1865, Philip and Sarah Scott Kaetzel settled on 150 acres on a busy road just outside Cambria and built a modest home and a barn for their dairy herd. Philip, a master wheelwright, had a wagon and blacksmith shop constructed

near the road (now Main Streeet). In 1880, the Kaetzels moved their house across the street and replaced it with a grand new home.

Antone and Rosa Machado Williams — grandparents of Joyce Williams of Cambria — bought the Kaetzel property in 1910 and there they established a dairy, grew beans and alfalfa and reared three sons, including Joyce’s father, Tony. The Williams family owned the house for nearly 90 years.

At stop No. 13 on the map — the ECR Gallery — you’ll find that the old blue house was originally built for James Erdman in the early 1870s, and later became the home of one of Cambria’s first physicians, Dr. Russell

Parkhurst, and his wife, Mary. Louis and Lala Galbraith Maggetti bought the house in 1894 and, believe it or not, raised six children in the tiny place. They built the second story in 1900 for their four daughters.

The Squibb House –No. 20 on the map—was built in 1877 for Frederick and Agnes Woods Darke and their eight children. Mr. Darke taught at the original Hesperian School for 12 years. A number of other owners followed, until Paul and Louise Squibb, founders of The Midland School in Los Olivos, retired to Cambria and bought the house in 1953. Paul chronicled Cambria history and Louise catalogued local flora. Paul passed away in 1984. After Louise died in 1991, Bruce Black purchased the home and renovated it as a bed and breakfast.

Want to learn more? You’ll find the East Village Walking Tour on the Local History page of the Cambria Historical Society Web site. There you will also enjoy other peeks at the past, including the location of Cambria’s first bathtub, the site of Chinese community gatherings and the story of how a slap led to a murder on Main Street.

Now that you know where you’re going, I hope you’ll take a walk around town and experience your own symphony of Cambria’s past.

Susan McDonald is a member of the Cambria Historical Society Board of Directors and proud supporter of the Cambria Historical Museum, corner of Burton Drive and Center Street — also featured on the online walking tour map.