The Squibb House

Early on, the property on which The Squibb House presently stands was owned by “the usual suspects”. As part of Don Julian Estrada’s Rancho Santa Rosa, ownership reverted to Domingo Pujol, a San Francisco lawyer, in 1862 when Estrada defaulted on a loan. Pujol sold the property to George Long in 1866 and he sold it to Samuel Pollard the following year. In 1868, the property was purchased by George W. Proctor and George S. Davis and Proctor eventually sold it to Fred E. Darke in 1876.

In 1877, Fred Darke built the house which stands on the site today. Mr. Darke was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania in 1845 and, after serving in the union army, he came to San Luis Obispo County in 1868. He held several teaching positions and taught at the Hesperian school in Cambria from 1870 to 1882. He later became county Superintendent of Schools and, subsequently, county Rrecorder. He lived in the house with his wife, Agnes, also a teacher, and their eight children until 1889 when the house was sold to Alexander Paterson.

The Squibb House on Burton Drive in Cambria's East Village

The Squibb House on Burton Drive in Cambria's East Village

Paterson was a cabinet maker who made a wide variety of items out of wood including coffins which allowed him to serve as the local undertaker as well. He ran his business out of a large building which he moved from the south side of the house to the north side and then added a false front. Today, Bruce Black runs the “Shop Next Door” in this building which he has carefully restored to look much like Mr. Paterson left it.

On Mr. Paterson’s death, the property passed to his son, Alexander Paterson, Jr., and his wife, Amy. In 1919, they sold the house to Earl Van Gorden who used it to operate a general store. After it sat vacant for a few years, Paul and Louise Squibb bought the property in 1953.

Paul had been founder and headmaster of Midland School in Los Olivos, a prestigious private high school. When he retired, the Squibbs moved into the house in 1954. Paul was much interested in history and was a member of the San Luis Obispo County Historical Society for many years, serving as its president part of the time. So, he not only expended considerable effort to preserve the old house but he also documented much of the history of Cambria including interviewing many of the town’s “old timers”. Both Paul and Louise had a habit of picking up trash whenever they went walking through Cambria. This is the origin of the term “Squibbing” which means picking up trash, a custom still practiced by many locals.

Paul died in 1984 but Louise continued living in the old house until her death in 1991. Just before she died, Ken Cooper, owner of The Bluebird Motel, approached her asking if he could have Paul’s historical papers. Louise replied that she would donate them to the Cambria Historical Society and, since no such organization existed, Ken invented it. Since Louise still didn’t completely trust him, Ken enlisted the help of Wilfred Lyons who joined CHS as it’s first member and recipient of the papers.

In 1993, Paul’s nephew and niece sold the property to Bruce Black, the current owner. Bruce is a licensed contractor and is also deeply interested in history. He turned the house into a bed and breakfast called, of all things, The Squibb House and, in the process, restored the structure making only the minimum required changes in order to preserve the integrity of the house.

For more information about The Squibb House and The Shop Next Door as they exist today, go to their website.

11 Responses to “The Squibb House”

  1. B&J says:


    Thanks a lot for that additional information. We love hearing from people like you who can contribute to the ever increasing base of knowledge about Cambria history.


  2. Werner Howald says:

    Correction, Ormonde Gurley was her name.


  3. Werner Howald says:

    To my knowledge and research, it was Alex Paterson Jr that died in 1919, see Cambria’s Cemetery. Alex Jr father moved away to Los Angeles in 1914 along with two daughters, Emma and Ormando who became teachers near downtown Los Angeles. By 1920 Alex Sr moved to 2431 N. Hope st. til the time of his death in 1938, again see Cambria’s Cemetery. This location is now the Mark Taper Forum. Their daughters Emma and Ormando had their parents remains moved to Cambria, Ormando remains were also moved to Cambria as her sisters remained in Inglewood Cemetery. See also for this information.

  4. B&J says:


    Thanks for that info.


  5. Deb Walsh says:

    Frederick E. Darke’s parents were William Darke and Selina Duncan. They are buried in PA. His siblings were Selina Duncan (Darke) Dimmick, John Darke, Georgiana Montague (Dark) Way, Harriet Cathleen (Darke) Way, Charles Oliver Darke, and Leora Josephine (Darke) Gager.

  6. Mark Snook says:

    Shaun, another likely cousin here. Dale is my uncle and Mabel Gilbert/Snook was my grandmother. I have heard the Sir Francis story as well, but apparently he didn’t have any offspring, so may not be direct descendents.

  7. B&J says:


    Thanks for that insight. Every little bit helps.


  8. I am heading to San Luis with my wife and will look for the Frederick Darke grave site hope I can find it. My nephew is the fourth Gilbert to attend Cal Poly and Frederick had a lot to do with getting the local school district started.
    When he met President Taft the President asked how he would like to be addressed he said mister Darke would be fine and the President told him he could call him mister Taft, I think he got a kick out of that as the story has been passed down for generations. Frederick E Darke was my fathers great great grandfather. He was said to be a descendent of Sir Francis Drake I don’t know why or when Drake was changed to Darke. Hi cousin Dale

  9. Dale L Snook says:

    Fred Darke was the official greeter when President Taft came to San Luis Obispo by train. It was featured in centennial issue of your local paper.

  10. B&J says:

    Wonderful! Do you know anything more about Mr. Darke?


  11. DALE L SNOOK says:


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