Don Julian Estrada received the grant to the Rancho Santa Rosa on January 18, 1841. In the 1850s he got into financial difficulty due to the declining prices for beef, hides and tallow, bad weather, surveying costs, and increasing property taxes. Using the rancho as security, he borrowed $7,900 from Domingo Pujol, a merchant from San Francisco, but he was unable to repay the debt. On May 17, 1862, Pujol and Estrada struck a deal in which Pujol gave Estrada an additional $12,000 and took possession of the rancho.
Pujol was no rancher so, in 1873, he hired H. C. Ward to survey the rancho and divide it into smaller parcels which he sold to local land speculators. In the late 1870s, that part of the rancho which would later become Lodge Hill, Park Hill and Happy Hill was sold to the Taylor brothers, James, John and Peter. They harvested the pine trees and sold them for building materials and for fuel for the retorts at the local quicksilver mines. Fortunately, they replanted the trees producing the pine forest we see today. In 1880, John and James Taylor moved into the house at 4101 Burton (then Lee Street) which later housed Heart’s Ease and is presently occupied by Spellbound Herbs Gift Shop & Garden.
In 1927, the Taylor brothers sold their property to Harry E. Jones who, with his brothers Robert and Clarence, founded the Cambria Development Company and built the Cambria Pines Lodge.
They also subdivided their property into 12000 lots which were 25 by 70 feet and marketed them all over California as sites for vacation homes. The company had more than 200 salesmen and their radio advertisements sang the praises of the area they called “Came-bria” Pines by the Sea, giving rise to the incorrect pronunciation of the name of the village that persists to this day.
Harry Jones was a prominent developer in Hollywood and built many houses and buildings there as well as in North Hollywood and Hollywoodvale, later called Studio City. He was a member of the Hollywood Shrine, a thirty-second degree mason and the first Commander of the Hollywood Commandery of the Knights Templar. He was also the founder and first president of the Hollywood Rotatry Club in 1923.
Harry Jones died in 1950 but he left his mark on Cambria. Besides subdividing it into small lots, the accompanying map
shows that he named six streets on Lodge Hill for members of his family including his wife, Leona. His five children were named Lucille, Marjorie, Ardath, Richard and Harry, Jr., whose middle name was Ernest, the same as his father’s. Wilcombe was the middle name of two of Harry’s brothers.
Harry’s brother-in-law (Leona’s brother), Roland Houtz, came to Cambria in 1926 and became a prominent builder who built many local landmarks including the Hillcrest Motel, Soto’s Market and, of course, the Cambria Pines Lodge to which he added the two-story addition in 1938.
Houtz was one of five Lions who rescued the Fresnel lens from Piedras Blancas Light Station in 1949. Roland Houtz died in 1961. Harry’s brother, Robert Jones, built and lived in Greystone Manor, a 9600 square foot, eight-bedroom mansion at the top of Happy Hill.
At first the “lodge” was no more than a group of tents but soon the first building was constructed and, by 1932, there were 31 log cabins. The lodge was built as a place to stay for prospective buyers of Cambria lots. To this end, an airfield was built across Burton* from the lodge property, a site which is presently covered by Highway One, in order to fly clients to Cambria from all over the state. The company even hired the Goodyear blimp to fly up from the Los Angeles area, drop leaflets as it went, and film the lodge and its property from the air. It landed on the airfield.
Unfortunately for the Jones brothers, their timing was not the best. Just after the lodge was completed and the advertising program was beginning to yield results the stock market crash of 1929 occurred followed by more than a decade of the great depression. Sales slowed to a trickle and many who had bought lots reneged on their contracts. Prices plummeted and lots sold for $100 and less.
The lodge became a center for social life in Cambria. On most weekends bonfires were lit together with community singing and other forms of entertainment. It was also used as a meeting place and party venue. In 1937 it was used for the beginning ceremony for the opening of Highway One and, on that night, Governor Frank Merriam stayed there with his wife.
During World War II the lodge was occupied by the U. S. Army Signal Corps. When the Army departed in 1944, the lodge was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Eli Waller of Bakersfield who re-opened it in 1945.
Ultimately, the lodge was sold to its present owners, Moonstone Properties, who enlarged it considerably and turned it into a major attraction for lodging and dining. It is still used as a meeting place and a venue for weddings and entertainment. In a twist of irony, the Cambria Rotary Club meets there every Friday.
* This part of Burton Drive was known as El Portal at that time.