Historic By-Ways

“The ordinary tourist in this state sees little outside the beaten track . . . But there are ‘high ways and by ways’ . . “

1) San Simeon – Sebastian’s General Store, 2) Cambria – Nitt Witt Ridge, 3) Harmony Valley – Harmony Valley Creamery Association, 4) Cayucos – “Little Italy,” 5) San Miguel – Mission San Miguel Arcangel, 6) Adelaida – Adelaida School and Pioneer Cemetery, 7) York Mountain – York Mountain Winery, 8) Templeton – Templeton Feed and Grain, 9) Pozo – Pozo Saloon & Mining Camp Stopover, 10) San Luis Obispo – Octagonal Barn, 11) Avila Beach – Port Harford Covered Wharf, 12) Halcyon – Blue Star Memorial Temple, 13) Oceano – Oceano Depot, 14) Nipomo – Dana Adobe

Historic Tour

Historic By-Ways Tour
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Sebastian
Sebastian’s General Store
1 – San Simeon: From Hwy 1, take San Simeon State Beach Exit west; follow road north.

By the 1860s, San Simeon Bay had gained local importance as a shipping point, handling barrels of whale oil, cheese, butter, and other agricultural products of the Central Coast. Grant, Lull and Company, who also operated a general merchandise store in Cambria, built this false-front store in 1872. George Hearst (a U.S. senator and father of Castle builder William Randolph Hearst) acquired 1,000 of the surrounding acres in 1865 and built the large warehouse (connected to a pier by a narrow-gauge track) across the street in 1878. At its peak, San Simeon Bay boasted two hotels, saloons, stores, a blacksmith shop, livery stable, butcher shop, school, and stage depot. Most of these businesses were gone by 1910, but this rustic store survived. The Sebastian family, who bought the building in 1914, operated the store for more than 70 years. A remnant of a shipping industry that once served whalers, dairymen, miners, and ranch hands, Sebastians General Store today provides for the needs of the many visitors to the area.

Just Get to the Point

San Simeon was home territory for a native Indian population and was later part of a sprawling Mexican land grant, the Piedra Blanca Rancho. In the 1860s a small community of Chinese seaweed harvesters lived on the bay, and a shore-based whaling station, manned by Portuguese whalers from the Azores, was located on San Simeon Point. When shore-whaling ended, Japanese settlers started an abalone drying business at the same location. The 12 acres of the Point were excluded from Hearsts original purchase of the rancho but were eventually purchased by his widow, Phoebe, in 1894. Today there is little evidence of the communities that once occupied the Point and the Bay.

Nitwit Ridge

Nit Wit Ridge
2 – Cambria: From Main Street in Cambria’s West Village, turn onto Cornwall, then drive or walk up Hillcrest Drive 0.25 miles.

Scavenging for discarded items to use as construction materials, local eccentric Arthur Beale began creating his whimsical house in 1928. Also known as Captain Nitt Witt and der Tinkerpaw, Beale fashioned a fantasy world using broken and salvaged pieces the community no longer wanted. Following Beales death, the property was administered by a foundation. Today the crumbling house and terraced gardens have a new owner, Michael OMalley, and the property is undergoing a conservation effort that will stabilize it without sacrificing its unique character. When the work is completed, Beales folk art legacy will be preserved for all to enjoy.

The gracefully decaying Bianchini House (1882), on the corner of Burton Drive and Center Street, is also on the verge of restoration, while across Burton Drive the Squibb House (1877) stands as a delightful example of old Cambria restored. On Center Street, a sagging red frame building was once a meeting place and Taoist temple for the Chinese residents of Cambria.

Harmony

Harmony Valley Creamery Association
3. Harmony: Located in “downtown” Harmony, 8 miles north of Cayucos on Highway 1.

The Excelsior Cheese Factory, a large two-story wooden structure outfitted with all the best appliances used in the cheese factories of New York, was established on this site c.1870. At its peak the factory produced 1,200 lbs of cheese a day, but production was erratic and finally ceased altogether. In 1908 the factory got a new lease on life when M. G. Salmina built the present structure and opened for business as The Diamond Creamery. The Harmony Valley Creamery Association was formed in 1913 with 22 charter members, all Swiss-Italian dairymen. By 1936 membership had reached 400 and the Harmony plant grew to include a co-op store stocking supplies for the dairymen and a market for products manufactured by the creamery. The association was affiliated with the Challenge Creamery and Butter Association until 1956. Cheese and butter making ceased in 1958 as the dairy farms changed to beef cattle, although for a short while bulk milk continued to be pasteurized at the plant.

For many years, Harmony has been a home for craftsmen working in glass and pottery. Buildings that once housed the creamery operation now reverberate with the hum of glass-blowing furnaces and pottery kilns. The land that initially supported dairy cattle is now being given over to viticulture and a winery, but the magic of the place remains.

Cayucos

“Little Italy” in Cayucos
4. Cayucos; Cayucos straddles Highway 1 about 7 miles north of Morro Bay

The Cayucos Trading Post building dates back to at least 1895, when it was a blacksmiths and the small attached building to the south was a woodworking shop. By the 1870s Cayucos was a bustling market center and shipping hub for the dairies and farms that dotted the nearby coast and valleys. Italian-speaking Swiss dairymen, most of whom had emigrated from Canton Ticino, worked on or owned the majority of these dairies. On steamer day they thronged into town to ship their butter, to have farm equipment repaired, and to buy supplies. The second generation continued speaking Italian, and often it was the only language heard on the streets of Cayucos.

The Cass House (1876), barn, warehouse, and pier near the north end of Ocean Boulevard are reminders of the early importance of Cayucos as a port. Captain James Cass came to Cayucos from England in 1867 and was responsible for building the wharf which opened up the coast to markets north and south. During the early 1900s the construction of roads eventually brought an end to the coastal steamer trade.

Cayucos

Historic By-Ways Tour
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Pozo Saloon & Mining Camp Stopover
9 – Pozo: Take Highway 101 up Cuesta Grade to Santa Margarita exit (Hwy 58). Follow Hwy 58 about 3.5 miles to junction with Pozo Road, bear right to reach Pozo.

Pozo

Pozo is situated on part of the historic San Jos Rancho, claimed in 1854 by Ynocente Garca. When the U.S. Land Commission determined that the rancho was not a bona fide land grant, Garca soon found himself joined by other settlers filing claims on the government land. Dairies, farms, ranches, orchards, and vineyards sprouted on the landscape, and the area became known as the San Jos Valley.
The historic Pozo saloon, established by partners Garca and Lascano, was already in operation by the mid 1860s but received a surge of new customers during the gold rush in nearby La Panza. Pozo received its name in 1881, and by 1900 the saloon was a part of a community of 200 that included a blacksmith, barber, post office, school, hotel, store, grist mill, and dance hall. Still a popular watering hole, the Pozo saloon is our own local reminder of Californias Gold Rush days.

The La Panza-Pozo grade separates the two regions. The gold rush at La Panza now a distant memory began in 1878 when Epifanio Trujillo spotted some gold nuggets gleaming in Placer Creek. Soon nearly 600 people had swarmed into the area. Mines extended along Navajo Creek and expanded up into neighboring canyons. The La Panza land grant stretched 20 miles along the San Juan River and once boasted its own school district, post office, voting precinct, and mining district. Today all that remains is a stone dairy building. At one time the La Panza Ranch was owned by Drury James, uncle of notorious outlaws Frank and Jesse James, who visited him in the late 1860s.

San Luis Obispo

Octagonal Barn
10 – San Luis Obispo: Take Higuera Street south from San Luis Obispo. Barn located on South Higuera Street about 0.5 miles south of Los Osos Valley Road.

This rare barn is one of only three left in California. Built before 1900 and owned until 1994 by the Lima-Pereira family, the octagonal barn is currently being restored by the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo. When the building is sound again and the cupola is firmly back in place, the barn will serve as a roadside stand containing a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables, a sampling of the bounty of local agriculture. A nearby dairy barn will serve as exhibit and information space on the countys natural resources and agricultural history.

This area, south of the City of San Luis Obispo, was once referred to as Portuguese Flats because so many families from the Azores had settled there. These families worked dairies and farms that lay along both sides of the roadway and the narrow-gauge railway leading to Port San Luis (Avila). During World War I, dried navy beans became an important cash crop, causing dairy lands to be turned over to bean production.

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Port Harford Covered Wharf
11 – Avila Beach: From Hwy 101, take the Avila Beach Exit and follow signs to Avila/Port San Luis. Port Harford Wharf is at the end of the road, 4.5 miles from Hwy 101.

Avila

Captain John Harford built a railroad wharf at Port San Luis in 1873. The wharfs facilities included a horse-drawn railway, constructed with Chinese labor, that connected the wharf to the mouth of San Luis Creek. A few years later, the wharf became a terminus for the narrow-gauge Pacific Coast Railway, which connected the port to San Luis Obispo and to towns as far south as Los Alamos in Santa Barbara County. The wharfs original warehouse burned in 1887 but was rebuilt. Later, in 1904, a long dock was added that extended 1,400 feet past the warehouse to accommodate the Union Oil pipeline. A second fire destroyed the warehouse in 1915, and again it was rebuilt. The Pacific Coast Railway was abandoned in 1942.

Join the docent-led Pecho Coast Trail hikers (805-541-TREK) for a hike up the coast and a visit to the Point San Luis Lighthouse, which began operating in 1890. Currently being restored by the Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers, work is also ongoing to be able to provide the public with access to the Light Station complex.

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Blue Star Memorial Temple
12 – Halcyon: From Hwy 101 South, take the Halcyon Rd exit; proceed about 1 mile. The temple is on the right, just inside the Halcyon town limits.

Halcyon

Francia La Due and Dr. William Dower, followers of Theosophist leader Madame Helen Blavatsky, founded the utopian settlement of Halcyon in 1903. La Due and Dowers Theosophical community, known as the Temple of the People, began construction of the Blue Star Memorial Temple in 1923. Every aspect of the triangular Temples architectural design incorporates symbols reflecting the communitys Theosophical beliefs. Formed a century ago, the Temple of the People still conducts regular services here. In a nearby eucalyptus grove, located at the corner of The Pike and South Elm Street, lies the tiny Halcyon Cemetery, where La Due and Dower are buried.

A community of artists, writers, philosophers, hermits, and hoboes once lived amongst the dunes in ramshackle cabins of driftwood and salvaged lumber. Gavin Arthur, grandson of President Chester A. Arthur, became interested in forming a utopian commune in the dunes during the 1920s, centering it around an area known as Moy Mell. The colony was unofficially known as the Dunites and included the area south of Oceano to Oso Flaco Lake. A marvelous account of their little-known history is found in the book The Dunites, by Norm Hammond.

Historic  By-Ways
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Oceano Depot
13 – Oceano: From Halcyon, go south on Halcyon Rd 0.5 miles to Hwy 1 (Cienaga St). Turn right and proceed 1.5 miles to depot.

Oceano

By 1895, Southern Pacific Railroad track had reached as far as Oceano on its way south along the coast. The town was formed and subdivided at about the same time, and a wooden boardwalk connected the depot, built in 1896, with the Oceano Hotel. The current 2-story Southern Pacific Railroad Station was built in 1904, after the original depot burned down. It included quarters for the station masters family upstairs, and a waiting room, baggage and freight room, and agents office downstairs. The depot is currently being restored after serving the communities of Oceano, Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Grover Beach for so many years.

The Coffee Rice mansion, built in 1885, is located at the end of Beach Street on 25th Street. The 20-room mansion was later purchased by the Temple of the People, the Theosophical group who founded nearby Halcyon, and used as a sanatorium. On the eastern edge of the plain stands the colorful Rose Victorian Inn, erected in 1886 as a residence for Charles Pitkin. Both of these extravagant Victorians, designed and built by the same architect, are reminders of an age that saw pavilions on the beach and a horse racing track on the flats.

Dana

Dana Adobe
14 – Nipomo: From Hwy 101, take Tefft St. exit east to South Oakglen, turn right. Watch for the gate and red mail box marking the entrance to the adobe at 671 South Oakglen.

In 1837, the Mexican government awarded Rancho Nipomo, a land grant of almost 40,000 acres, to William Goodwin Dana, a former Yankee sea captain, and his wife Mara Josefa Carrillo. They began building an adobe home on the rancho in 1839, gradually adding to it as their family expanded to include 21 children, 13 of whom reached adulthood. Finally completed in 1851, the adobe was the focal point of a large and virtually self-sustaining ranch complex. Strategically situated along El Camino Real, the Dana Adobe became an important wayside stop for travelers. By 1887 the town of Nipomo had grown up around the adobe. Today the community has joined together and formed the Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos, dedicated to restoring this historic building and making it accessible to the public.

Dana Dana