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The Colony of Atascadero was founded in 1913 by E.G. Lewis. It was to be Lewis’ “utopia,” or paradise. He purchased the 26 square miles of land that had been set aside as a military camp and began construction.

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Category: City Profile
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Category: City Profile
Category: City Profile

The City of Atascadero is a community located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on Highway 101, about 225 miles from each city. Atascadero is situated within an oak forest off Highway 101 twenty miles north of San Luis Obispo and 10 miles south of Paso Robles. Nearby CA Highways 41 and 46 provide easy access to the Pacific Coast and the Central Valley of California.

ATASCADERO (ah-task-a-dare-oh) a Spanish name which, loosely translated, means "a muddy place", was originally home to the Salinan Indian tribe. In the half century between 1769 and 1823 the Spanish Franciscans established 21 missions along the California coast, including the nearby Mission's San Miguel Archangel, and San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain, and California became a Mexican province.

The settling of Atascadero began with the Franciscan clergy who managed the 60,000-acre Rancho Asuncion until 1833, when the Mexican government secularized the mission lands. Governor Rio Pico then granted Pedro Estrada nearly 40,000 acres, part of which would eventually be a portion of the 23,000-acre Rancho Atascadero.

Patrick Washington Murphy held ownership of 61,000 acres, at one time. Eventually, J.H. Henry became the owner of the Atascadero Rancho. Edward Gardner Lewis, a successful magazine publisher from the East, founded the community of Atascadero in 1913 as a utopian, planned colony. He had previously created such a community, at University City, Missouri. After purchasing the Atascadero Ranch in 1912, Lewis put together a group of investors from across the country, paid J.H. Henry $37.50 an acre, and celebrated acquisition of the Rancho on July 4, 1913.

Atascadero's Tent City. As investors came to homestead the land that they had bought with their down payments, the area was transformed into a "tent city" with tents situated on land now occupied by Century Plaza and Bank of America. Lewis employed the services of experts in agriculture, engineering and city planning to develop his dream colony for the anticipated 30,000 residents. In 1914 the land was surveyed and subdivided. Thousands of acres of orchards were planted, a water system was installed and construction began on an 18-mile road (now Highway 41 west) through the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains to the ocean, where Lewis built cottages and a beachfront hotel called the Cloisters.  

The first civic building in Atascadero, The Printery, had the first rotogravure presses west of Chicago. Lewis then published the Atascadero News newspaper and the Illustrated Review, a photo/news magazine.

The centerpiece of Lewis' planned community was an Italian Renaissance-style building, which was the home to Atascadero City Hall and the Museum until it was damaged in the 2003 earthquake. Built between 1914 and 1918 with bricks made from local clay, this unique and beautiful building has become one of California's Historical Landmarks (No. 958). 

Atascadero was incorporated in 1979. Today, with nearly 28,000 residents, Atascadero is the third-largest city in San Luis Obispo County. Many of the very principles that E.G. Lewis envisioned for his "utopian city" are ensured through the city's general plan, which includes preservation of open space, protection of trees and hillsides, the keeping of domestic animals, and large lot sizes. It was Mr. Lewis who first had the vision in which he foresaw the future of Atascadero as a creative, rural community.

The City offers many recreational possibilities such as our Downtown and Sunken Gardens area, golf, scenic roads and trails, shopping, restaurants, and the Atascadero Lake Park and Zoo facilities. Accommodations are available to include numerous Motels, Bed and Breakfast Inns, and the recently opened Carlton Hotel described by the editors of the Tribune as the "jewel" of the Central Coast.

Atascadero is also home to one of the County’s largest employers, the Atascadero State Hospital, and is a growing center of tourism, commerce and employment in Northern San Luis Obispo County. 


Category: City Profile

This family orientated, mid-size community has that small-town feel yet is buzzing with new business and a blossoming economy. Atascadero’s rolling-hill topography is covered with oak trees and is home to a variety of wildlife species. Residents of Atascadero are concerned with preserving the town’s open spaces and native horticulture, and have kept these goals as a priority while still encouraging growth and revitalization. Atascadero was to be E.G. Lewis’ “utopia” back when he founded it in 1913, and it truly is a little bit of paradise. It is an exciting place to live and do business.

Category: City Profile
Category: City Profile

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