About the Colony

First step to restoring Atascadero’s Printery is sealing the building

Take a look inside the historic Atascadero Printery building

Karen McNamara, president of the Atascadero Printery Foundation, talks about the Printery building, which is the first building in Atascadero; its history; and the hopes to restore the landmark. The nonprofit group is working to purchase the histo
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Karen McNamara, president of the Atascadero Printery Foundation, talks about the Printery building, which is the first building in Atascadero; its history; and the hopes to restore the landmark. The nonprofit group is working to purchase the histo

I’m so pleased that the Atascadero Printery is now in the hands of a local nonprofit organization.

Formed just a few years ago, the Atascadero Printery Foundation has taken on the task of keeping the building safe from the wrecking ball. In fact, the group’s stated purpose is “Dedicated to preserving and maintaining the Atascadero Printery building for use by the community.”

Of course, the community can’t use the building right now.

The structure was heavily damaged in the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake. It is being held together with giant wood and steel structures on the inside.

The Printery wasn’t built to the same standard as the City Administration Building, which is only a block away.

It was more of an industrial building intended to house the rotogravure presses used to print sales brochures called “Bulletins,” along with a photo magazine called “The Illustrated Review” and other materials. The Atascadero News editorial and sales staff was housed in a stick-built building behind the Printery. The newspaper press was in the Printery.

This building served as the financial lifeblood for founder E.G. Lewis because that is how he let the rest of the nation know what he was doing developing a 23,000-acre cattle ranch on the Central Coast of California.

I have crawled through that building, from its basement to the upper floors. I covered many social events there when it was the permanent meeting place of the Masons. I signed my teaching contract there when the building served as headquarters for the school district. I went there to get details for the newspaper on local crime when one end of the building served as the North County office of the Sheriff’s Department.

Kelly Gearhart walked me through the building to show me what he was planning to do with the structure.

Baseball legend Jackie Robinson worked in the building when it was used by the National Youth Authority for at-risk teens in the early 1940s.

So I’m glad a group of local volunteers has taken on the eventual preservation/restoration of the building. Printery Foundation members point to public meetings and maybe even a performance venue in the building.

They are going to need a lot of money to do all this. But at least now there is a genuine effort to save the building and make it useful once again. Local citizens raised several million bucks to get a brand-new library here. We can do this, too.

I think this group is off to a good start. Already some vintage printing and book-binding equipment has been donated. It is now in safe storage waiting to go inside the building.

Of most immediate concern by the foundation is covering the windows with plywood to secure the interior from ongoing vandalism, pigeons and the weather. A foundation board member told me that the estimated cost will be $200 per window. There are about 40 windows that need to be sealed shut.

You can follow the progress and donate money by going to www.atascaderoprintery.org.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or lonallan39@gmail.com.

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