About the Colony

Plan helps protect Colony homes

I read with interest that the city of San Luis Obispo has passed an ordinance that will ensure better protection of its historic houses.

Although Atascadero has no such ordinance, the city does have as one of its General Plan goals the preservation of both Colony and historic homes. Colony homes in Atascadero are those residences built between 1915 and 1924, the period in which founder E.G. Lewis was in charge. A number of houses built after his departure are considered to be “historic” by the Atascadero Historical Society.

One such example is the Tom and Peggy O’Malley home, which is now a bed and breakfast and the site for numerous fundraisers throughout the year.

Some structures date before 1915, such as the Printery and the Administration Building. Work on those buildings began before 1915, but they weren’t finished until 1916 and 1918, respectively.

The Atascadero Historical Society estimates that approximately 300 Colony homes exist. The society also considers those homes to be an extension of the static museum now located in what is also a Colony house, built in 1919.

Although Atascadero has no specific ordinance dealing with historic homes, the General Plan contains three policies:

Ensure that development does not degrade scenic and sensitive areas, including historic sites, creeks, riparian corridors, wetlands, woodlands, hillsides and other valuable habitats.

Encourage conservation and preservation of neighborhoods, Colony homes and sound housing, including places and buildings of historical and architectural significance.

Encourage conservation and preservation of structures and houses that have historical and architectural significance.

We have a number of Craftsman-style houses, some of moderate size while others are mere bungalows, such as the E.G. Lewis “office” behind the late Marj Mackey house on Tunitas Avenue. In addition, there are large mansions such as the Ewalt house on Alcantara Avenue and the Santa Catalina Ranch on Santa Lucia Avenue.

I’m glad the city acknowledges these structures and values their historic nature, such as the Devereaux home on El Camino Real. The original resident of that house was related to American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. And the little brick house, also on El Camino Real near Curbaril Avenue, was rented by Gen. Jonathan Jackson Christian, base commander of Camp Roberts during World War II. He was the grandson of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

I would like to see an ordinance that offers a higher level of protection to these historic houses in Atascadero. But these General Plan guidelines are a start in encouraging the “thoughtful preservation and restoration of historic properties,” which is outlined in the city’s brochure dealing with historic preservation.

There are copies of those guidelines in the historical society’s museum and in City Hall. You can also talk to a city planner in the Community Development Department at 461-5000 or go to the city’s website at www.atascadero.ca.gov.