About the Colony

Atascadero about to lose a significant landmark of its Colony history

Atascadero High School is tearing down its oldest building to make room for campus improvements.
Atascadero High School is tearing down its oldest building to make room for campus improvements. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Last May, I lamented that I failed to save the Rancho T Motel sign. The sign graced the motel in the center of Atascadero’s downtown (next to the Atascadero Creek bridge) for more than a half century.

The motel was surrounded by the Atascadero Golf Course with a putting green just behind the motel. From a sidewalk width away from El Camino Real you would tee off up the hill along what is very close to the Highway 41 route eastward across the Salinas River bridge.

The sign featured a large tee supporting a giant golf ball. The golf course was eventually close in 1972, but the sign remained. The motel changed its name last May.

I tried to find where the old sign went. I thought it should be kept by the Atascadero Historical Society. If they didn’t want it, I know Mayor Tom O’Malley would have added it to his informal museum surrounding his bed-and-breakfast facility.

But nobody seems to know where the sign went. One person said it fell down and broke into many pieces. An iconic historical sign was gone in an instant. It happened on my watch.

So, I was overjoyed when I was invited to watch the Templeton Historical Museum Society take delivery of the 12-foot-tall, 80-year old milk bottle that marked the location of the Ross Dairy.

I remember when the concrete and chicken wire bottle was down by the freeway. I noticed that it was moved up on the hill in the front yard of the Rossi family home now owned by Tom McNamara. Tom and his family donated the historic sign to the Templeton museum.

Five generations of Rossi family members were on hand to watch the bottle leave the old dairy site and be deposited on a special concrete pad at the museum on Templeton’s Main Street. It will be repainted and ready for public adoration in January.

The Tribune covered the relocation of the milk bottle in a Dec. 6 story by Lindsey Holden.

I applaud everyone who helped save it.

Atascadero founder E.G. Lewis’ 10-acre estate, house, greenhouses and chauffer’s quarters were all razed in a practice burn drill for local firefighters. There was no one way to save any of it.

Paso celebrates its Spring Street with signs that remind visitors this is “Historic Route 101.”

Atascadero needs to be more diligent in preserving its past.

Like many homeowners who live around the high school campus, I received a document that announced that the proposed campus improvement project is “determined to be exempt from any further environmental review.” The plan includes new buildings, relocated campus parking, moving the tennis courts over to where the old bus and maintenance complex stood on Santa Lucia Road, adding a new science and shops building, and reconstructing the music building into a new Black Box Theater and performing arts classroom.

Atascadero’s high school opened in 1922. That original 25,393-square-foot building, the last remaining piece of Margarita Black Union High School, is to be torn down. A time capsule was pulled from its resting place earlier this year.

What bothers me is a statement in the document we received recently saying, “the proposed development would have no impact on any known historical resource.”

That just seems a bit cold.

I’m not advocating saving the building. I’d just feel better if the document addressed the historical loss of the two-story school building that educated Atascadero’s Colony teens. It is the last major building constructed by Lewis’ Colony Holding Corp.

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

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