As soon as he acquired the Rancho Santa Rosa from Don Julian Estrada, Domingo Pujol divided the rancho into smaller parcels and he sold them to many of the first settlers in the Cambria area. One of Pujol’s first customers was George E. Long who purchased three parcels from Pujol totaling 2094.6 acres on October 12, 1866. One of these parcels was 1010 acres and included virtually all of what would become Cambria. About three months later, on January 14, 1867, Long sold two of the three parcels, including the 1010 acre plot, to Samuel Pollard for $1250.
On December 26, 1867, Pollard sold a 31.5 acre portion of his land to George W. Proctor and George S. Davis for $410. Although this was a tiny portion of the 1010 acre parcel which he owned, it contained much of what eventually became Cambia’s East Village.
In September, 1869, Thomas Clendenen bought a lot (lot 12) from Proctor and Davis which had a 50 foot frontage on Center Street and extended 100 feet from Center Street to Proctor Lane. In December of that year he bought two more lots (10 and 11) from them each of which had a 50 foot frontage on Lee Street (Burton Drive), and together covered the entire 100-foot distance between Center Street and Proctor Lane. This gave him ownership of all the land between Center Street and Proctor Lane and extending 125 feet east from Lee Street. In early 1870, Clendenen built the original “saltbox” house on this property.
On August 31, 1871, Clendenen sold lots 10, 11 and 12, together with the small house he had built on those lots, to Winfield S. Whitaker and Job C. Apsey for $100. It is not known why Clendenen bought the three lots for a total of $300, built a small house on them and, in less than two years, sold the house and land for $100.
Job Edward Apsey was born in Iowa about 1847 and came to the Cambria area to become a farmer. In 1875, he bought and renovated the Cambria Hotel (sometimes called the Cosmopolitan Hotel) from George Lingo who had built it. This hotel was located on the east side of Bridge Street where the purple house presently stands. By 1878 he had sold it to J. H. Fine. He was very active in the Odd Fellows Lodge and was elected an officer in 1878 and 1879. Around 1890, Job Apsey and Winfield Whitaker’s wife, Mary, who was nine years older than Apsey, became romantically involved and she left her husband and three children to move with Apsey to Arroyo Gande where they opened another hotel. Apsey was a county supervisor from 1905-1906.
On November 11, 1873, Job Apsey sold the property with the “saltbox” house to Leonidas B. Root for $425. It is not known how Apsey acquired Whitaker’s half interest in the property. Leonidas Root, sometimes going by the name of Levi Root, was born on March 10, 1834 in Massachusetts. By the time he was 16 he was working as a laborer and living in Northampton (Hampshire County), Massachusetts. By 1860 he had moved to California and he was living in Contra Costa County. His wife, Anna, was one year younger and was born in Ireland.
On June 19, 1882, less than nine years after purchasing the property, Leonidas Root sold the property with the “saltbox” house to B. H. Franklin for $500. On April 18, 1883, Franklin sold lots 10, 11 and 12, together with the house, to Mrs. Sarah E. Guthrie for $1,000. Because Franklin sold the property ten months after he purchased it making a $500 profit, it is presumed that Franklin added the portion of the house nearest to Burton Drive.
On April 22, 1916, Sarah E. Guthrie sold lots 10, 11 and 12, together with the house, to Eugenio Bianchini for the token amount of $10. During the time that Bianchini owned the house he acquired an additional lot adjacent to the property designated as lot 13. This lot had a 50 foot frontage on Center Street and ran from that street to Proctor Lane immediately east of Lot 12. This purchase gave Bianchini ownership of all the land between Center Street and Proctor Lane and extending 175 feet east from Burton Drive.
When Eugenio Bianchini died on December 24, 1942, his wife, Louisa, had already died and his will established a trust to manage his assets. His sons, William and James, were appointed as trustees on August 21, 1944. The final accounting of Eugenio’s estate was filed on March 24, 1949 and, on April 6 of that year, the court ordered his real property interests distributed giving each of his seven children a 1/7 ownership of the house.
Tom Gerst and Jim Evans acquired a majority interest in the property through three purchases between 1965 and 1969 although the remaining interest was divided between many descendants of Eugenio Bianchini and others. In 1997 Gerst and Evans filed a “Complaint for Partition” suit against all of the other owners. The suit was settled in 1999 and the court ordered the house to be sold with the proceeds distributed to the litigants.
While the debate over ownership of the property continued for decades, the vacant Guthrie–Bianchini House began to deteriorate. Lack of paint, unkempt vegetation, vandalism and the partial failure of the foundation under the original “saltbox” portion all contributed to the formation of an eyesore in the middle of Cambria’s East Village. On January 10, 1980, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by Priscilla Comen, a Cambria resident at the time.
Following the purchase of the Guthrie–Bianchini House by the Cambria Historical Society in 2001, approximately three years elapsed while plans were drawn for restoring the house and gardens and a building permit was secured from the county. The historical society completely restored the house and it opened as The Cambria Historical Museum in December, 2008.