Atascadero Administration Building
The civic center in the Colony of Atascadero was the idea of Edward Gardner Lewis. The civic center was part of Lewis’ model community, and would serve as the central hub for all the residents of Atascadero. Lewis was so proud of his civic center, he even gave thought to the railroad passengers that were passing through his town by giving them a clear view of the buildings as soon as they departed the rail station. And the centerpiece of the view was the Administration Building. Construction of the Administration Building began in June of 1914 and was completed in June of 1918. The building was used for many things but served as the Chamber of Commerce, offices of the Governor of the Colony, and the general manager of the real estate office.
Backstory and Context
The city of Atascadero Administration Building is located on the block of 6500 Palma Avenue in its original location. The site is in the center of the original civic center that was designed by E.G Lewis. Walter Danforth Bliss (1874-1956) was the Commissioner of Architecture for the Colony of Atascadero.
The Administration Building is designed with a Greek cross plan. In the middle of the cross are two rotundas, one above the other and are 100 feet in height. The domes of the rotunda have a coffered design. The dome of the building is tile. There are three floors of offices around the lower rotunda. The building has a total floor area of 48,942 square feet. The building is constructed from reinforced concrete and faced with terracotta brick. According to W.D Bliss, the overall design of the building is in the design of the Italian Renaissance.
The Administration Building was used as the chamber of commerce during the colony period. Other uses during this time included a bank, headquarters of of the water company, post office, real estate office, and other civic functions. After E.G Lewis was forced into bankruptcy, the new trustees sold the building. The building is currently being used as the Atascadero city hall and access to the public is allowed. The city hall gives guided tours of the historic building a few times a month.
In 1928 - 1933 Frank Moran purchased the Administration Building for use as the California Campus for Moran Prep and Junior College. He also bought the Printery and hospital to use for his school. The Administration Building was used for the Junior College while the prep school was housed in the printery. The Miramonte School and Junior college occupied the building following the Moran school. The school was incorporated in 1935 but failed and was repossessed in the early 1940’s.
Colonel Benjamin Aldrich bought the building and used it for the Acheson Polytechnic College. After his death, San Luis Obispo county bought the building in 1951 and used if for the veterans memorial building. In 1980, SLO county gave the building back to the newly formed City of Atascadero to be used for its city hall building. In 2003, the San Simeon earthquake forced the building to close. It was completely renovated and is now operating as the city hall building once again.
Edward Gardner Lewis purchased 23,000 acres of rolling hills from J.H. Henry in the Spring of 1913. The Atascadero Colony was created by Lewis who formed the Colony Holding Corporation to take care of promoting the Atascadero enterprise. It was referred to as a “dream city”. His motto was, “all the advantages of country life with city conveniences”. The Atascadero Administration Building was completed in 1918 at the cost of approximately $200,000.
Atascadero Historical Society: City Hall History
National Register of Historic Places, Registration form #77000336, listed November 17, 1977