About the Colony

Eager to begin work on city’s crown jewel

The latest estimate puts fixing the City Administration Building at more than $40 million. That is a lot of money, especially in light of the fact it cost $256,000 to build in 1914.

Actually, the cornerstone was put in place in June 1914 but the building wasn’t completed until June 1918. That’s because construction on the Administration Building was halted from time to time to concentrate on getting the Printery, the Grammar School and the Mercantile finished. The Printery was the first, pressed into service in January 1916 with the publication of the Atascadero News.

Everyone agrees that repairing the imposing structure will cost a lot of money, but I’m delighted that the city is moving ahead. It is that building that sets the tone for Atascadero today, just as it did 96 years ago. E.G. Lewis instructed Walter D. Bliss, the man who designed the building, that he planned for his civic center to be “accessible from all parts of the Colony and the center of the social, educational and business life of the community, as well as the center of its government and of its university and school system.” Lewis asked that his civic center buildings reflect the Italian school of architecture.

The late Russell Goodrich always said if it weren’t for Hearst Castle, Atascadero’s Administration Building would be the most talked-about and cared-for structure on the Central Coast.

One of the first steps will be to remove the dome, a penthouse and another storage building from the roof. I really don’t see any reason to replace the penthouse, which was used by Frank Moran and his wife when they visited their most southern campus of the Moran Junior College.

Another structure added to the top of the building was used during World War II as a radio shack and is now filled with junk. And who is going to use the penthouse if it is replaced? The county always used it as a residence for the on-site maintenance man who kept up the building. I always thought that the penthouse should be the official residence of the president of the Historical Society. Now that I’m no longer the president, I’ve softened to that idea.

And I hope, during the reconstruction stage, there is a plan to isolate one dorm room and shower unit and keep it preserved as a reminder of when the building, from 1928 to 1951, served as a college to three different owners.

I have just one suggestion. We’ve waited far too long to start this repair job, so let’s put the guys who are building the new Rite-Aid building to work on this project.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears on the Local page every Tuesday. He can be reached at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.