Hot off the press building

Community gathers to voice uses for historic Printery building

photo Beth Giuffre

A public meeting to brainstorm ideas for the old Printery building was held Sunday. Thoughts ranged from a maker's studio to a marketplace. 

ATASCADERO – Now that the Atascadero Printery Foundation has purchased Atascadero’s Printery building on Olmeda Avenue, its members are brainstorming thoughts on how to best use it.

A public meeting Sunday gathered plenty of ideas, from a performing arts center to a printing museum.

After a presentation from the foundation about reclaiming the more than 100-year-old building from the city, the foundation went over its mission to rehabilitate the building and restore it as a multipurpose, community-use facility. Community members were asked in an open forum setting, which included a potluck spread, how they would like to see the building used.  

“We can literally say we own this building,” Karen McNamara, a founder of the Atascadero Printery Foundation, said at the meeting, thanking donors and volunteers. “We were able to buy our amazing piece of history.”

The foundation has only been fundraising for one year since the purchase. The foundation has raised more than $70,000, and plans to use its experienced volunteer grant writing team for the next phase of the project.

“It’s going to be no small task to finish the rehabilitation, but I know we’re up to it,” McNamara said.

One popular suggestion at the meeting was using the old Printery building as a performing arts center or community theater. Some were talking about a dinner theater or something similar to Wine Country Theatre in Paso Robles.

Another idea at the meeting was using the Printery as a print museum to honor what it was originally designed for, as a printery for Atascadero’s founder E.G. Lewis’ women’s magazine. The Printery was the first major building built in Atascadero, according to a local history piece by Guy Crabb. After its first use as a Printery in 1914, the building went on to serve as a college, a Masonic Temple and school district and sheriff department offices.

The total square footage of the two-story building is roughly 18,000 square feet, with a unique floor plan that includes upstairs rooms and a hallway, an old commercial kitchen set-up on the lower level, and a 2,600-square-foot room with six columns. The building also contains historic hand-painted murals, one which was recently and anonymously returned after being stolen from the property.

Organizers said at the meeting that the National Guard Armory, behind the Printery on Traffic Way, will be up for sale and eventually donated to the city, which, in turn, could potentially be donated to the Printery Foundation. Organizers say the Armory space would be an ideal parking area if the building becomes a performing arts center or other large destination place. Foundation members said they would like the community to urge local leaders to gift the Armory lot to the Printery in the future.

Other ideas expressed at the meeting included a children’s museum, a space for classes such as printmaking or cooking, a dance hall, office building and meeting space, or as studios for artists with equipment many could share.

All attendees were given a survey with a space for comments to express their opinion.

The foundation would like to hear from more community members. To contact them with ideas for the Printery building, email [email protected] or message them on the Atascadero Printery Foundation Facebook page.

Please contact Reporter Beth Giuffre at [email protected] for questions and/or feedback.   

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