Discover Atascadero’s rich history
Atascadero, the Spanish-named city is roughly translated as “a place of much water” or “a muddy place.” The name stems from the early days when travelers on what is now Highway 41 witnessed the surrounding countryside turning into a bog during rainy seasons.
Originally home to the Native American tribe called the Salinas, the area came under the jurisdiction of Franciscan Friars when Missions San Miguel Archangel and San Luis Obispo de Tolosa were built. Ownership of what became Rancho Atascadero changed hands a few times until the acreage was eventually owned by J. H. Henry.
In 1913 visionary Edward Gardner Lewis set out to develop a planned utopian colony at Atascadero. Lewis, a successful magazine publisher, had developed such a community in
Missouri and purchased the acreage from Henry together with investors from across the country. The acquisition was celebrated on July 4, 1913.
Lewis employed city planners, engineers and experts in agriculture to make his dream colony a reality and anticipated 30,000 residents. The early settlers had to suffice with living in a tent city while land was surveyed and subdivided. Orchards were planted, a water system installed and the first 18 miles of Highway 41 constructed.
The crowning jewel of Lewis’ planned town was an Italian Renaissance-style building that has been home to Atascadero City Hall and the Historical Museum. This unique building has become one of California’s Historical Landmarks, Number 958.
Visitors to Atascadero will enjoy the Atascadero Lake Park Complex, including the Charles Paddock Zoo, and the Veterans Memorial Tribute. Many events are held throughout the year such as Hot El Camino Nite, Mid-State Cruizers, Colony Days and the Atascadero Lakeside Wine Festival. Christmas time brings 50 tons of manufactured snow to the Winter Wonderland and Santa is in residence in the Christmas Castle.
For more information on Atascadero, including events and activities, call the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce at (805) 466-2044, stop by 6904 El Camino Real or visit www.atascaderochamber.org.
— Ruth Ann Angus