The development of the Cloisters Inn and the Atascadero Beach property
Don Domingo Pujol received clear title to Rancho Morro Y Cayucos in 1877. He sold 160 acres to Franklin Riley which is the site of present downtown Morro Bay. He divided other areas into small farms and lots. Some bordered on the San Bernardo Rancho. Ownership along the coast passed to various farmers and investor groups.
On February 6, 1913 E.G. Lewis and his wife, Mabel Gertrude Lewis, bought a 23,000 acre cattle ranch from J.H. Henry that would become the Colony of Atascadero. The price was $850,000. In 1918 they added the 20,000 acre Santa Margarita Rancho.
1 In 1914 construction began on an 18 mile road west to the ocean where Lewis built cottages and a beachfront hotel call the Cloisters. (Morro Beach Inn)
The original Cloisters became known as the Atascadero Beach Tract. It extended approximately from San Jacinto north to Yerba Buena and westward from the highway. See photo below.
The property had various owners including E.G. Lewis’ Atascadero Beach and Land Development Company. As best I can determine he purchased this property from the Van Schroeder Investment Company of San Francisco in 1915. At that time Lewis’ group was called Colony Holding. In 1916 the property went to Edwin C. Seares et. al. This gets confusing because in 1917 the property went back to Colony Holding. Colony Holding deeded the property or perhaps mortgaged it to Atascadero Beach and Improvement Company.
In 1919 lots were sold to individuals. Lots were even given to folks who bought ten acres in Atascadero. These people were to plant almonds supposedly to make a living. (personal communication from Betty Madonna) Lots were still being sold in 1931. Apparently no building was permitted until a certain number of lots were sold. This was a tenuous position for buyers to say the least because no building ensued. By July 1, 1935 a Los Angeles bank, L.A.First National Trust and Savings released the property to the State
The Mattoon Act was named after Everett W. Mattoon a deputy county counsel of LA. He authored a state bill which allowed assessment districts to acquire and improve land but it entitled councils to spread assessments without the consent of the property owners in a district. The act was used by developers on unimproved land. Owners (buyers) had to carry the taxes for undeveloped lots in the district. Year after year taxes would continue on unsold lots.When an improvement bond was issued it could place a collective lien on all real estate parcels. All of the property owners had to pay their obligation in full or the property as a whole remained in a collective lien. People who had paid taxes in full could get thrown into foreclosure regardless.
E.G. Lewis was forced into bankruptcy in 1925 but either the Atascadero Beach and Land Improvement or The Colony Holding Company used the Mattoon Act to bond the property. Improvements were made as you can see in the accompanying US Navy photo. Some of us remember going to this nice area that had streets and curbs but no houses. This lasted throughout the war and about 1946 a local individual and a financier from San Francisco. (I’m not positive about the names so won’t use them) secured the property and began to sell lots.
“The Mattoon Act sprang from Progressive roots. It was originally proposed by backers of the Los Angeles Major Traffic Street Plan of 1924, an elaborate series of highways and roads that fostered residential and business decentralization.” “The Mattoon Act cut away much of what might be termed red tape meaning local resistance. It allowed large scale planning without the stunting interference of local control.”2
In 1931 the Act was repealed with the support of Everett Mattoon. It did not nullify tax debts.
For an interesting study of E.G. Lewis, the founder of Atascadero, please visit the Atascadero Historical Society. (http://www.atascaderohistoricalsociety.org/)
>1Atascadero Historical Society
2My blue heaven: life and politics in the working-class suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920--1965. By Becky M. Nicolaides PhD University of Chicago Press
Note that the road to the beach is no longer there. It appears as if there are some structures toward the beach. This may be what is left of the Inn or something from the military.