About the Colony

Atascadero history is more than E.G. Lewis

Lon Allan
Lon Allan

I recently read somewhere that when the newly restored City Administration Building in Atascadero is finished, there will be displays showing the history of the Colony from 1913 to 1924.

Many people have asked me for “background” on Atascadero’s history and E.G. Lewis, the eastern publisher who bought a 23,000-acre cattle ranch on the Central Coast in 1913 and artificially inserted a city between three already established cities – San Luis Obispo to the south and Paso Robles and Templeton to the north.

There was already a small settlement with its own post office at Dove, located near the Salinas River and railroad tracks behind Atascadero State Hospital. In fact, the Dove post office remained open for business through 1912. The Dove Cemetery at the corner of El Camino Real and Santa Barbara Road was destroyed a decade ago.

I often remind my fellow Atascaderans that we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Atascadero, not just the 11 years when Lewis was at the helm.

Atascadero’s roots go back to a Mexican land grant of more than 40,000 acres of the Rancho La Asuncion y Atascadero. The remains of the Estrada Adobe on Traffic Way predate the formation of this community.

A bubbling spring on a hillside near the Estrada Adobe has been running for more than 100 years and is now in the caring hands of the Atascadero Land Preservation Society (ALPS).

When Lewis was forced into involuntary bankruptcy in 1924, Seattle attorney Oscar Willett took over the Colony with the formation of the Atascadero Development Syndicate.

His son, Volney, told me that his dad suffered much the same criticism as did Lewis, and that people either loved Oscar Willett or hated him. The Willett family home stood on the route needed for the new Highway 101 in the 1950s and was moved to its present location on Bajada Avenue.

Oscar Willett is the one who purchased the lighted sign that spanned El Camino Real near the Atascadero Creek Bridge. The sign shows prominently in many early-day photos of downtown.

When Willett decided to leave Atascadero and relocate in Southern California, the counts appointed state Sen. Chris Jespersen to handle the “Estates,” as Atascadero had become known. Even Lewis did not like the name “Colony” and tried to change it to something else.

Atascadero didn’t become an incorporated city until 1979.

All of these facts are part of our history.

Just make sure you include all 100 years of it.

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