Opening of Highway One

The idea of constructing a highway from Carmel to San Simeon originated with Dr. John Roberts shortly before 1900 but funding for what would later be called Highway One was not approved until 1919. The construction was fraught with difficulties and the project took 18 years to come to fruition. At last, on June 27, 1937, the oiled and graveled highway was completed, at a cost of approximately $9,000,000.

The celebration marking the opening of the highway began with a banquet held at the Cambria Pines Lodge on Saturday June 26, which was attended by such luminaries as Mrs. Frank F. Merriam, wife of the governor; Mrs. Rigdon, widow of the late State Senator Elmer Rigdon; three members of the Highway Commission and their wives; members of the California Department of Highways; representatives of the Chambers of Commerce of San  Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Cayucos and the State  Chamber of Commerce; Manuel Sebastian of the San Simeon Merchant’s Association; and George Gillespie, Deputy Grand President of the Grand Parlor of Native Sons of the Golden West. Governor Frank F. Merriam was unable to attend the banquet due to a previous speaking engagement in Los Angeles. Speakers at the banquet included Ray W. Shamel, president of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce; Harry E. Jones, toastmaster; Mrs. Merriam; Phil Stanton, Paul Jasper and W. T. Hart, State Highway Commissioners; Mrs. J. L. Marquardt, Chairman of the Rigdon Memorial Committee; Mr. Lundborg of the State Chamber of Commerce; Mrs. Frank Gyorgy, Mayor of Cambria; Gus Thiebaud, President of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce; and R. L. White, President of the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Dedication, June 1937, Modif Yet Again

Dedication of Highway One

The following morning, June 27, 1937, a caravan departed from the Cambria Pines Lodge led by a car carrying Governor Merriam who had arrived during the night. The caravan arrived at San Simeon at 10:00 AM and the dedication ceremonies began there including speeches by Governor Merriam; Earl Lee Kelly, Director of Public Works; Senator Chris Jespersen; State Highway Commissioners Harry Hopkins, Judah, Phil Stanton, W. T. Hart, and Paul Jasper; Justus F. Craemer, assistant director of public works; Harry E. Jones, President of the Cambria Development Company; Lester Gibson, chief highway division engineer; Frank Booth, chairman of the County Planning Commission; Mrs. J. L. Marquardt, chairman of the Rigdon Memorial Committee; Mrs. Frank Gyorgy, mayor of Cambria; and Ray W. Shamel, president of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce.  In addition, Joyce Matheson, Miss Cambria Pines, and Barbara Edmundson, San Luis Obispo outdoor girl attended.

Part of car caravan following dignitaries up Highway One

Part of car caravan following dignitaries up Highway One

From there the procession of dignitaries, accompanied by hundreds of other vehicles, moved up the coast to a place about four miles north of Lucia to dedicate a roadside park and drinking fountain (which still exists) to the late Senator Rigdon. Tributes to Rigdon’s memory were given by Judge A. S. Gay, Margaret Soto and Ray Shamel. Mrs. Rigdon dedicated a silver fir to her husband’s memory and officers of The Grand Parlor of the Native Sons dedicated two sequoias. Mrs. Marquardt, with the help of her committee consisting of Margaret Soto, Henry Minetti, Mrs. Minetti, J. D. Campbell and M. L. Waltz, sealed into the monument a current issue of The Cambrian, pictures of the senator, copies of the bills passed by the legislature in 1917 and 1922 making the San Simeon to Carmel portion of the road part of the state highway system, an engraved scroll containing the names of all of the donors to the memorial and mementos and business cards of the officials present. The plaque (which is now missing) on the front of the fountain read:

Drinking fountain dedicated to Elmer Rigdon

Drinking fountain dedicated to Elmer Rigdon

“This Fountain is dedicated to Hon. Elmer S. Rigdon of Cambria, California, Born 1868, Died 1922, State  Assembly 1915-1917, State Senate 1917-22, His foresight and efforts made possible the Carmel-San Simeon-Cambria link of the Roosevelt Highway. A token of esteem from his San Luis Obispo County Friends”

After that, Governor Merriam and Earl Lee Kelly symbolically pushed a boulder off of the highway utilizing the help of a stick of dynamite and a bull dozer at Pfeiffer Redwoods State Park. This act formally opened the highway to traffic and was followed by the release of thousands of carrier pigeons and a pageant of the road depicting the Indians, the Spaniards and the early pioneers and paying tribute to Dr. Roberts.  Dignitaries present at this ceremony included Senator Ed Tickle, Mayor Emmet McMenamin of Monterey, and City Manager William Pardee of Monterey. Dr. John Roberts, who started the entire idea of the road, was present at the ceremonies but evidently did not make a speech.

12 Responses to “Opening of Highway One”

  1. Joyce cory says:

    Found your information most enlightening. I am researching the construction of Hwy 1. I am interested in where in San Simeon the dedication ceremony was held.

    Joyce Cory, Los Osos

  2. B&J says:

    David:

    Thanks for identifying Mrs. Marquardt. We’ve updated to photo to reflect this new information.

    B&J

  3. David Houtz says:

    Another ID in the Photo of Hwy 1 opening. I am quite sure that the tall lady with the coat, in front of Frank Tetley is Mrs. Marquardt. She was a family friend and owned the land up Santa Rosa Road near the Oceano Mercury mine.

  4. B&J says:

    David;

    Thanks for that additional information. If you think of anything else, please post it.

    B&J

  5. David Houtz says:

    My Uncle, Harry Jones, Sr. was president of the Cambria Pines Development Co. which did all of the subdivision of the hills of Cambria. Fritz Frezell was the only employee of the water company, except for the accountant, whose name I have forgotten. My Dad, Roland Houtz was president of the water company before he died in 1961.

  6. B&J says:

    Dave:

    Thanks a lot for identifying your uncle, Harry Jones, in that picture. It crossed our minds to send you the picture to see if you could identify anyone and then we decided most of the people were state officials who you wouldn’t know. We were wrong!

    Also, thanks again for all the other information you sent us.

    B&J

  7. David Houtz says:

    Left of Harry Hopkins is my Uncle, Harry Jones, who was the founder and president of the Cambria Pines Development Company. He build the Lodge and had as many as 200 salespeople from San Francisco, to Bakersfield and Los Angeles selling those 25′ lots.

    As part of his promotion, he hired a blimp to drop leaflets all along the route from LA…..inviting people to come to a sale BBQ. I remember when the dropped the lines on the blimp and pulled it to the ground.

    Many of the streets are named after his children and my cousins…all now deceased: Ardath (Ardath Drive), Lucille, Marjorie, Richard and my Aunt Leona.

    My dad , Roland Houtz came up from North Hollywood to build the lodge for him and many other homes until he died in 1961

  8. Ronnie Waites says:

    You guys are quite impressive with your resources and your effort. I hope the people in Cambria appreciate the service you perform. Everything you pointed out I was able to go to. Debra and I drove right past this last year but did not know what we were looking at. In May, thanks to you, we will be able to check it out. So sorry about the loss of your friend. Her cabin is very cute. Again , thank you very much for your help.

  9. B&J says:

    Ronnie:

    We have located the lot in question and we have sent it to you in an email. This was an interesting question and we learned a lot while investigating it.

    B&J

  10. Ronnie Waites says:

    Dear B & J

    This was so kind of you to research this for us. It is very interesting. We are looking forward to coming to Cambria again this May. We tried to find where Debra’s great grandmother lived last March, but the road seems to have changed since 1934 when she bought the property. Her residence was listed as “Leona Drive & El Portal”. We wonder if the new highway went through the property. It also was listed as Lot 59, Block 18, Cambria Pines Manor unit 4. We will try again to find where she lived in May. Again, thank you so much for your help. You perform a great service.

    Ronne & Debra Waites

  11. B&J says:

    Ronnie:

    In the 1920s, the Cambria Pines Development Company was formed which acquired a large tract of land in Cambria and subdivided it into very small lots which were then sold to individuals. The Cambria Pines Service Corporation was formed by the Company to provide water and maybe some road maintenance to these individuals. Shares of stock in the Corporation were distributed to those who purchased lots so your wife’s great-grandmother presumably owned a lot in Cambria.

    As noted in the article, Ray Shamel was president of the Chamber of Commerce and he was also part of the development company. The president of the Service Corporation was, indeed, O. L. Routt. In case you’re wondering, the corporation was dissolved many years ago so the stock has no monetary value – only historical value.

    B&J

  12. Ronnie Waites says:

    My wife’s mother recently passed away and she found a $1 stock in her great grandmother’s name (she is buried in the Cambria Cemetary) from the “Cambria Pines Service Corporation” that she purchased in 1934. I can’t seem to find anything about the corporation although Ray W. Shamel signed as the Asst. Secretary. Can’t quite make out the President–looks like O.L.Routt or something. Can anyone point me in the right direction about this? Thanks.

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