ATASCADERO — March 2 this year marked the 150th birthday of Atascadero community founder E.G. Lewis. At least that’s the day the Atascadero Historical Society picked to throw him a party this year.
The group holds their annual membership dinner and meeting on the Saturday evening closest to his actual March 4 birthday every year, with a potluck and special informative presentations at the Atascadero Community Church.
Edward Gardner (E.G.) Lewis, born in 1869, came to Atascadero at the age of 45 after gaining a flamboyant reputation as a magazine publisher, land development promoter, and activist. Before Atascadero, he was a founder of University City, Missouri, where he helped pioneer American ceramics as an art worthy of attention from European experts. Local fixture of the Colony Days Committee and of the Historical Society Kent Kenny brought several pieces owned by Lewis at the “Headquarters House” and artwork by Mabel Lewis to the dinner and explained their creation. Pieces of the collection and the accounts of E.G. Lewis on the work done in University City explain Atascadero’s relationship with historic statuary not seen in Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo.
Club President James “Jim” Wilkins was re-elected by straw vote for another term and the Society's distinguished service award was handed to a large group of constituents this year, those who’d served as docents at the Atascadero Historical Museum on Lewis Avenue by the Sunken Gardens.
New this year, Wilkins noted, is the push to finish restoration on an archive to be housed in an original colony home recently moved to a plot of land near the Atascadero Library and County Government building. Sharing a parking lot with the public facilities, the Colony Heritage Center is planned to become home for multiple historic buildings moved to the site as well as a preserve for documents and objects.
While volunteers can be found working on any suitable Saturday, a special event is planned to coincide with milestones on the restoration, settling the building on its new foundation. On April 27, the Society is planning a first, perhaps annual, Colony Family Fun Day at the Colony Heritage Center. While the Annual Colony Days Tent City in October is more reminiscent of dress and activities popular at the time of the community's founding, the April event will focus on what events would have been appropriate for a celebration of the completion of family homes 105 years ago.
Like a modern rancher living out of a fifth-wheel while building a do-it-yourself estate, families at the time lived in tents near the homes being built and approaching move-in day was a community event akin to a barn raising.
The April event will be a fundraiser for the Society’s ongoing project with more information available at www.atascaderohistoricalsociety.org.