The Souza House

On the southwest corner of the intersection of Burton Drive and Center Street stands the historic building that is now occupied by Robin’s Restaurant. However, this is not the first building to occupy that site.

The land itself, like all of Cambria, was owned by Don Julian Estrada who received a Mexican Land Grant called the Rancho Santa Rosa in 1841. Nearly the entire rancho went to Domingo Pujol, an attorney, who, in 1862,  foreclosed on a loan he had made to Estrada. Pujol subdivided the rancho and this particular plot went to George E. Long in 1866, then to Samuel Pollard in 1867 and, in 1868, to George W. Proctor and George W. Davis. Eventually it came to be owned solely by Proctor who sold it to Charles and Mary Ivins in 1878 and they built a house on it which was located approximately where Robin’s garden is today. After their death, their son, Ernest, sold the house to Emma Anderson in 1901. After Emma’s death, her son, Charles, sold the house to Milton Mayfield in 1920. It was Mayfield who built the house on Center Street behind Robin’s in which Wilfred and Hazel Lyons lived for thirty years and which currently houses Wise Owl & Co.

Robin's Restaurant formerly the Grey Fox Inn

Robin’s Restaurant formerly the Grey Fox Inn

In 1934, Mayfield’s heirs sold the property to Frank and Mabel Souza. Frank was born in Cambria in 1899, the son of Manuel Souza who had come from the Azores to San Simeon to work as a whaler for Captain Clark. Mabel was also born in Cambria in 1905 but moved to San Jose when she was twelve to live with her grandparents after her father died of a heart attack. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley and completing two years of graduate school at Stanford, she was involved in an automobile accident which ended her banking career before it even got started. She moved back to Cambria and married Frank in 1932.

Frank and Mabel tore down the Ivins house and built the present structure in 1935 where they lived for thirty years along with Mabel’s mother. According to Mabel’s meticulous records, the entire cost of building the house was $2625.81 including five cents for sandpaper but not including the $42 charge for demolishing the old house. Frank worked on the construction of Hearst Castle and, in 1937, he was injured in a fall into the empty Neptune pool which crippled him for life. He died in 1964 and Mabel moved to her cattle ranch near Harmony where she lived until her death in 1993. In 1974, she sold the house to Dan and Shirley Miller who turned it into The Grey Fox Inn, one of Cambria’s finest restaurants. They closed off the front entrance and added the entry room and steps. It was the Millers who added the deck on the south side which was designed by local architect Warren Leopold, and the trumpet vine which engulfs the deck to this day.

Shirley Miller Doerr sold the restaurant business (but not the property) in 1982. That owner (whose name we do not know) sold the business to Del Clegg, Jr. All three of these owners used the name The Grey Fox Inn. Then, in the mid 1990s,  Robin and Shanny Covey leased the property from Shirley Miller Doerr and moved their restaurant into the old house. Robin’s began as a health foods store in the building now occupied by Indigo Moon on Main Street near the Bluebird Motel, and then became a restaurant occupying the Thorndyke House on Bridge Street (now the Tea Cozy) and finally moved to its present location. In November, 2000, the Coveys purchased the property.

2 Responses to “The Souza House”

  1. B&J says:

    Becky:

    Thanks very much for that information. We have updated the article to incorporate these changes.

    B&J

  2. Becky Adams says:

    I appreciate the information about Cambria’s history! As Dan and Shirley Miller’s daughter, I would like to make a small correction regarding the business. Shirley sold the business only (not the real property) in 1982, but never repossessed it; the second owner sold it to Del Clegg, Jr. It retained the name during both subsequent sales. I don’t know if Robin and Shanny bought the equipment, but they had a thriving business with Robin’s, and they leased the property from my mother until Robin bought the real property in November, 2000.

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