About the Colony

Renovation of iconic Atascadero building offers peek into past

Recently I had the chance to peek at some photos of the interior of Atascadero’s City Administration Building, which is being repaired to the tune of about $42 million. Slightly half of that total will be paid for by the federal government while the city is paying the rest. The Federal Emergency Management Agency only will pay for what the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake damaged. But the city wants to do a complete restoration of the inside of the building, which Atascadero founder E.G. Lewis never got around to doing.

When Lewis built the City Administration Building over a four-year period, he didn’t get the chance to really finish the detail work such as painting the columns and the plaster ceiling decorations.

Add to that the fact the building was used for only about six years by Lewis before he was forced into receivership. The building was then sold to Frank Moran of Seattle in 1927 and turned into a satellite campus for a junior college that was based in Washington. Moran also purchased the Printery and the Lewis Memorial Hospital to be used for his school. The hospital was intended to be used as the college infirmary. It never was and soon became a part of the county hospital system.

Moran built dorm rooms on the upper floors and even a penthouse where he and his wife could stay while visiting Atascadero. The penthouse has been removed.

By 1935, the Moran era ended, and the school became Miramonte School and Junior College with its own board of directors. A brochure for the school listed the building as El Roble Hall.

By 1943, Col. Benjamin Aldrich and his wife, Dorothy, were owners of the two buildings and renamed them the Amerivet Technical Institute.

Dorothy Aldrich eventually sold both buildings after her husband passed away in the 1950s.

Workers have uncovered evidence of a major fire in the building at one time in its history. Old newspapers have been recovered.

The building is rife with history, as are most old structures. When The Carlton Hotel was being worked on, a small scrapbook was found inside a wall. The book was filled with photos of Carlton Hotel roadway signs up and down the state highway. The scrapbook is now safely tucked away in the Atascadero Historical Society’s museum.

This is why they cut holes in construction barricades, so the rest of us can have a peek at what is going on.

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

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