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History of Cambria Pines Lodge
For more than a thousand years, Chumash
Indians lived in the Cambria area. By the mid-1850s they were largely
displaced by homesteading immigrant ranchers from northern Italy and
Cambria has been noted in the past for logging, cinnabar mining,
whaling, and as a major county seaport. By the mid-1880s, our population
approached 7,000; however, the advent of the Southern Pacific railway to
San Luis Obispo in 1894 signaled the decline of shipping, and Cambria
relaxed into a quiet village.
According to legend, Cambria Pines Lodge was built in 1927 by an
eccentric European baroness as her personal resort. She wished to live
near Hearst Castle with its opulent lifestyle. Like Hearst Castle, her
resort included a large Main Lodge building surrounded by smaller
“guest” facilities for visitors from Europe or new friends made in
The baroness’s plan, alas, was shortlived. After receiving an ultimatum
from her husband to return at once to Europe or live forever without
him, she sold her Lodge to the Cambria Development Company.
The Cambria Development Company used the Lodge as its headquarters and
as a gathering place for prospective buyers of land on Lodge Hill. By
1932, thirty-one log cabins had been added to the property.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Cambria Pines Lodge was known
as a fashionable destination resort for travelers fortunate enough to
set aside their concerns for a time. It was also a popular stopover for
Mr. Hearst’s guests when a timely completion of the trip to San Simeon
was made impossible by inclement weather.
California State Senator Elmer Rigdon of Cambria had been instrumental
in winning approval of the 1919 bond that assured construction of the
coastal highway originally known as the Roosevelt Highway (after
President Theodore Roosevelt). Now known as Scenic Highway 1, the road
that opened up the formerly impassable stretch of coastline from Carmel
to San Simeon was officially dedicated on June 27, 1937, by
then-Governor Frank Merriam. Mrs. Merriam attended a meeting at Cambria
Pines Lodge the previous evening and said a few words of personal thanks
to the people of Cambria for the hospitality they had shown during the
An airfield and a riding academy were just across from the Lodge on
Burton Drive. Guests enjoyed horseback riding, fishing, and backpacking
trips arranged through Chief Bagley’s Riding Academy.
In the 1960s, the Lodge boasted its own zoo complete with ringtail
doves, an alligator, a monkey, six Irish setters, and two hundred
pheasants. Tame peacocks and peahens were the last remnants of the
Lodge’s zoo. They roamed the grounds until the mid-1990s, showing off
their beautiful feathers and eating out of our guests’ hands.