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Jun 24

California Men's Colony built

cmc-const-aerial-1959.jpg

Eight months after starting the list I now have the 10th item for my top ten list of things that have changed the history of San Luis Obispo County.
Drum roll please….
State prisons.

From California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo to Atascadero State Hospital to the now closed California Youth Authority in Paso Robles, millions of dollars and hundreds of careers have been injected into the local economy via the payroll and construction at these institutions.
CMC’s minimum security West Facility opened in 1954. The medium security East Facility opened in 1961. The correctional facility was named in an era when rehabilitation was the watchword so prison isn’t part of the name, colony is.
The CMC website lists the 2006/2007 combined medical and operating budget as $215 million dollars with a staff of 1,870 and 6,586 inmates in both facilities.
The community also gets the benefit of having inmate fire crews and work crews.
The Wikipedia page has a list of famous inmates, which included Timothy Leary and Huey Newton. Leary was also arguably the most famous escapee.

4-6-1959.jpgApril 6, 1959
Unbylined photos of the construction were on the front page of the then Telegram-Tribune. Earth moving bulldozers crawled over the site of the administration building and concrete walls of the cellblocks were being poured. This has to be in the list of biggest construction projects in the county.

This is my guess on how a list could look, though I’m open to suggestions.

Diablo Canyon
Cal Poly
CMC
Morro Bay Power Plant
Hearst Castle
Salinas Dam
Cuesta Grade Highway projects

I seem to recall someone telling me that the prison grew out of surplus Camp San Luis Obispo land and that there may have been a stockade on the site originally. Perhaps someone knows those early details.

Having just discovered a bulging folder of photos from the early days of CMC there will be a few posts over the next few months on the state prison.

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UPDATE

Major (retired) Mark Johnson, Director of Community Activities, Camp San Luis Obispo sends this photo from almost the same spot 50 years later. Thanks for sharing!

1959-2009-cmc-today.jpg

Related posts:

  1. Huey P. Newton at California Men's Colony
  2. Morro Bay Power Plant built
  3. Pope John Paul II leads mass at Laguna Seca, California
  4. 1966 Nazarene Church opens
  5. Dali Lama escapes