On the south side of Center Street, across from the Cambria Historical Museum (and a little to the east), lies the Greenspace Creekside Reserve. This 1.6 acre property was purchased by Greenspace – The Cambria Land Trust in 1999. It was once the focus of the Chinese community in Cambria, whose members were mainly employed harvesting seaweed and abalone for shipment to China or in the local mercury mines. The Chinese community included several buildings on an “L-shaped” piece of property running south from Center Street to Santa Rosa Creek and along the creek to Bridge Street and at least one building on the other side of Bridge Street as well. Until 1926, Bridge Street extended south to Santa Rosa Creek though there was no bridge there across the creek.
Between 1873 and 1919, the Center Street property was owned by three Cambria merchants: George Rothschild, Abraham Gans, and Samuel Frank, although the Chinese used it from at least 1880. By 1886, a large one and one-half story dwelling, probably built by Rothschild, was on the property facing Center Street but, by 1913, it had disappeared. By 1919, the Chinese had abandoned the area and the property was purchased by William Warren. Most of the buildings were in poor condition and were torn down leaving only the “Chinese Temple” also called the “Joss House” located at the south end of the property near the creek and another four-room building facing Center Street which was built around 1900. The “Joss House” would be more accurately described as an association hall.
Around 1919, a one-room structure was moved from somewhere else in Cambria, possibly the southwest corner of Main Street and Burton Drive, and joined to the back of the building facing Center Street at its southeast corner. Warren moved into this five-room structure with his wife, Lilly, and four children. In 1925, the Chinese temple was moved north from the creek and it was joined to the back of the original structure at the southwest corner. This combination of three structures became a single, six-room house, commonly called the “Red House”, which was occupied by the Warren family until 1970. It was in this house that William Warren operated the private Cambria Telephone Company.
In 1936, William Warren’s uncle, Clarence Stilts, purchased the property and lived there with his wife, Bettie, and her daughter, Clara. When Clarence died in 1944, Forrester Warren and his brother, Stuart, inherited it and, in 1953, Forrester moved into the house with his wife, Mary Ellen, and their children, Forrest and Linda. The family moved to the “White House” next door and used the “Red House” for storage but, in 1959, Linda Warren married Brad Seek and they lived in the “Red House” until 1964. From then on, the house remained unoccupied. When Forrester Warren died in 1992, the property was left to Linda and Brad Seek and they sold it to Greenspace in 1999.
In 2001, the dilapidated portions of the house were demolished leaving only the association hall which continued to be called the “Red House”. This is the only remaining structure built by the Chinese in this area and is one of only five nineteenth-century Chinese temples existing in California.
On June 29, 2007, Greenspace moved the association hall to a place nearer to its original location near Santa Rosa Creek and lovingly restored it, including building a new foundation. The property opened to the public in 2008 and will ultimately be part of the Cambria Historic Park which will embrace all of Center Street between Burton Drive and Bridge Street.