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Nov 02

Boom town, San Miguel

San Miguel is one of the boom and bust towns of the region.
Founded July 25, 1797, it is 16th of the 21 California missions.
Another significant moment came October 8, 1886 when Southern Pacific built rails into town from the north, then kept right on going to Paso Robles and Templeton where construction paused for a few years.
Paso Robles got the hot springs and an east-west road. Templeton got the rail terminal.
The town experienced two major economic lifts, during World War II and the Korean War as Camp Roberts boomed with activity. When it was built to train troops for the Second World War the camp was one of the largest in the world.
Sheep ranching, grain farming, cattle ranching and now wine grapes have been the major moneymakers in the region. The railroad had just made it over the hill to San Luis Obispo in 1897 but was still struggling to finish the route to Southern California when this ornate two-story brick building was built in San Miguel. Before the era of television community organizations were much more active.
By 1976 it was 79 years old and about to be torn down. This unbylined photo and story are from the August 6, 1976 edition of the Telegram-Tribune

Ernest Simon and the old San Miguel building—built in 1897—he's tearing down for scrap. ©The Tribune

Old building coming down

A two-story brick building in san Miguel has been a lodge hall, a movie theater, a drug store and an apartment since it was built in 1897.
When it fell vacant in the early 1970s, it became an eyesore and a magnet for youngsters intent on punching out windows.
Now the building is “like a Bank of America” because of the scrap value of its building materials, and owner Ernest Simon has decided to salvage the one-half million bricks and numerous redwood boards it contains.
Simon said he had been criticized for allowing the building to stand after it was condemned, and now he is being criticized for tearing it down.
He said it would have cost 10 times as much to restore the building as build a new one, and members of the Odd Fellows Lodge turned down an offer to use the building free because he insisted they pay for insurance.

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  4. Arroyo Grande cowboys come to town, Leonard Collection