|Location||6351 Olmeda, Atascadero, California|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architect||Walter Danforth Bliss|
|Architectural style||Italian Renaissance|
|NRHP reference #||00001368|
|Added to NRHP||January 2, 2004|
The Atascadero Printery is a historic building in Atascadero, California. Built in 1915 to house a printing company, it later was home to a junior college, a prep school, a Masonic Temple, a school district office, a sheriff's substation, a live-in studio for a photographer, a karate studio, a commercial business, and community events. In 2017, the building, in a state of disrepair, was put up for public auction and purchased for $300,000 by the non-profit Atascadero Printery Foundation, which plans to restore and remodel it as a community center.
The founder of the city, and publisher by trade, Edward Gardner Lewis built the edifice in 1915 for the printing of his magazines and periodicals. Sources vary on the dimensions of the building, ranging from 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2) to 19,354 square feet (1,798.0 m2). In 1916, 100,000 copies of the Atascadero News were printed here. At the time, Lewis had several magazines in circulation targeted to women, as well as a national daily newspaper. For a period, the San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday circular was also printed in the building. Some sources cite that the site housed the first and largest rotogravure printing press in the United States, while others say it was at least the first in the Western United States. During the printing house era, nearly one million copies of print media were published in the printery, making it "the largest and most prolific operation in America".
The printing company closed in the late 1920s and the building housed two prep schools before being purchased by the Masonic Temple Association in the 1950s. Around 1994, the Masons donated 99% of the building to the City of Atascadero with the hopes of it being renovated into a youth center, and a later condition that if it were not, ownership would revert to the Masons. The city decided it was more cost-effective to build a community center rather than retrofit an older building to make it earthquake-safe, but wanted to hold on to the ownership of the former printery. The 2003 San Simeon Earthquake heavily damaged the building, preventing its use by the public; it was deemed in 2017 to require $9 million in restoration.
Nonprofit foundation ownership
A nonprofit foundation was started in 2015 to save the building from disrepair and to gain possession of it from an LLC of local citizen Kelly Gearhart, recently convicted of fraud. Gearhart had plans to turn the building into an events center that would be used by the public at least four times a year to comply with the Masons' agreement with the city government. These plans were delayed by the legal issues Gearhart was involved in, yet prevented the city from entering the premises with Gearhart's assets being taken into bankruptcy. The building was scheduled for public auction in May 2016 with a $1 million lien and $400,000 in back taxes. In 2017, it was revealed that the purchase would require $283,000 from the newly formed nonprofit, the Atascadero Printery Foundation, and that they had raised around $40,000. The foundation then began direct negotiations with the United States Attorney's Office to see if a deal could be made to release the lien.
In 2017, the property ended up in an online public auction along with the other Gearhart properties. The Atascadero Printery Foundation won the bid at just over $300,000, with $60,000 coming from donations and the remaining monies from an anonymous donor as a loan. The group plans to remodel the grounds for a "multipurpose, community facility" including a community theater, after-school arts programs, senior citizens' club, museum, and more.
As of 2018, the foundation was seeking $8 million to complete restorations and remodels for the building to fulfill the vision of becoming a community center, and had planned many fundraising events to work toward this goal.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. November 2, 2013.
- "Atascadero Printery Foundation to receive deed to historic building". Paso Robles Daily News. 7 May 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- "The First Piece of Atascadero". Colony Magazine. 1 February 2019. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- Garcia, Maria T. (August 9, 2000). "Atascadero, Calif., Printery Remains A Link to Areas Past". The Tribune.
- Holden, Lindsey (1 May 2017). "$17.5 million shocker: Federal lien may stand in way of effort to save Atascadero Printery". The Tribune. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- "Printery set to be auctioned". Atascadero News. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- Young, Heather (11 January 2016). "Nonprofit forms to save Atascadero Printery". Paso Robles Daily News. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- Leslie, Kaytlyn (15 May 2017). "With just minutes to spare, Atascadero Printery Foundation wins tense auction for historic building". The Tribune. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- Mattson, Nicholas (1 July 2017). "Foundation wins the Atascadero Printery". Paso Magazine. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- Johnson, Peter (22 February 2018). "Tent City Marathon in Atascadero will benefit Printery building's restoration". New Times San Luis Obispo. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- Phillips, Luke (23 May 2018). "Printery Foundation to receive deed to Atascadero Printery Building; Announce partnership with Atascadero Performing Arts Center". Atascadero News. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Atascadero Printery". National Park Service. Retrieved June 19, 2019. With accompanying pictures