E.G. Lewis purchased the land that makes up Atascadero in 1913 from the United States Army, who used the land for Army training–including at the manmade lake–Atascadero Lake. Lewis had already planned and built University City in Missouri and moved west to started another planned community–the first in Atascadero.

He got people to Atascadero through his women’s magazine and mailings through the U.S. Postal system. Using the postal system ultimately got him in trouble and landed him in prison for a number of years for “mail fraud.” To learn more about E.G. Lewis, CLICK HERE.

Tent City 1915

Late in 1915 E.G. Lewis created Tent City in an area below Pine Mountain (where Bank of America is today) to accommodate up to 1,000 guests. The tents were sturdily built with wooden floors and electricity. There was an assembly tent, a grocery store, a post office, laundry facilities, land sales office, an ice cream parlor and even a dry goods store. A prospective buyer who purchased five certificates received a round-trip railroad fare to Atascadero and a week’s stay in Tent City.

Lewis had a fleet of 27 cars to drive guests around the Colony. According to his nephew, Will Lewis, in the latter part of 1914 and in 1915 many came to Tent City to stay. Their household belongings were warehoused in the industrial section and they began community life while awaiting the day when home construction would be finished.

After the tents were no longer needed for the new homeowners, they were retained as a place for special guests to the Colony. Lewis hosted conventions here such as the Episcopal Ministers’ Convention and the Southern California Editors’ Convention. It was only natural to host a group of newspaper writers, because they returned home and then wrote about what Lewis was doing here on the Central Coast.

Additional Tales of Atascadero History and the People who are a part of that history can be found on the website of the Atascadero Historical Society.