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Feb 19

Paul and Louise Squibb preserve the history of Cambria

Paul Squibb in Cambria Jan 1966. Photo by Jack Wilson ©The Tribune

Paul Squibb in Cambria Jan 1966. Photo by Jack Wilson ©The Tribune

In the late 1860s Rosaville, was the fastest growing community in the county. The region had a lot of commerce, mercury mining in the hills, at least two saw mills, a nearby whaling harbor and steamer destination in San Simeon and a brisk trade in real estate. The post office made them change the name and we now know it as Cambria.
Elliot Curry wrote a piece for the January 29, 1966 Telegram-Tribune’s Focus section.

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Cambria – a path to yesterday

There’s a little picket gate on Lee Street in Cambria, worn smooth by the touch of many hands, that looks like it might lead into a thicket of brush and trees along Santa Rosa Creek.
It really leads down a pathway into yesterday.
Hidden away in this sylvan setting is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Squibb, who preside with loving care over a bit of Victorian America which they have carefully restored and preserved.
If Paul Squibb had a time machine, he would probably have taken himself back to 1877 when Rutherford B. Hayes was president and Westerners talked of fortunes to be made at Virginia City. Lacking that, he did the next best thing, and bought the old F.E. Darke house, a Cambria landmark since 1877.
The old house is so well hidden among a bramble of trees, bushes and vines that the hurrying motorist is not likely to see it at all. The raccoon, the quail and all the varied wildlife that forage along the creek are well acquainted with the friendly abode, however, and make frequent visits.
On Sept. 1 1876, F.E. Darke, a handsome young schoolteacher and Civil War hero, bought two lots on Lee Street from George W. Proctor. The next year he built a house there and rented the front room out for school use. He taught classes for a salary of $65 a month.
Darke sold the house to Alexander Paterson March 1, 1890 and that opened a new era for the property. Paterson was a carpenter and cabinet maker. He raised the house to a higher foundation, enlarged and improved it, until it became much as it is today.
Paterson also bought another lot on which he built a carriage house and workshop. Along with his other activities Paterson made coffins—and sometimes had a corpse or two on hand awaiting his services. The dark little “morgue” still stands in the rear of the carriage house and to some visitors the past seems a little more ghostly here than elsewhere.
“Is there really a mummy in there?” a small boy once asked Squibb, perhaps echoing some local legend of long ago. It is not quite clear just how he answered the boy. Anyway, the present owner likes old things.
In 1926, Paterson sold the property to Earl Van Gorden. By the early 1950s the old home had become vacant and the Squibbs got to looking at it as they visited Cambria from their home in Santa Barbara. They knew it was the place they had to have and they bought it on Jan. 2, 1954.
Paul and Louise Squibb came west from New England in the early 1930s to found and operate a private secondary school. Around 1935 they discovered Cambria Pines Lodge and from then on spend much of their free time in the Cambria area. Seated in front of a desk that once belonged to State Senator Rigdon, Paul Squibb now fits into the Cambria scene like a stately pine.
Many members of the San Luis Obispo County Historical Society visited the Squibb home at an open house event Wednesday. To some like Miss Anita Hathway, it brought back special memories because of its association with F.E. Darke.
Darke taught in the Cambria school, then know as the Hesperian School, for 12 years and then came to San Luis Obispo where he was teacher and principal in the city schools for 19 years. He also found time to be county school superintendent at two different periods and was three times county recorder.
Darke was chosen to head a committee to greet and protect President McKinley when he visited San Luis Obispo in 1901, and from this came a story which delighted the town for weeks afterward. As Darke approached the presidential train, a secretary asked him for his “title,” “Mister is good enough for me,” Darke replied. The President overheard the remark and immediately turned, put out his hand, and said, “How do you do, Mister Darke.”
Paul Squibb has a study on the second floor of the old Darke house with a window that looks up the Santa Rosa Valley to the Santa Lucia Mountains. There is a desk there where he could do some work, but he admits that the window gets more of a workout than the desk.
So few people these days ever discover the peace and quiet of a Victorian home a picket fence and a wood burning stove.

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Related posts:

  1. Cambria 1963
  2. Christmas in the pines, Cambria dance advertisement
  3. 1968 Cambria Air Station
  4. The Chinese temple in Cambria
  5. Early days in Cambria, or Roseaville