Paso Robles History
Paso Robles prides itself on its culture and early California heritage. The Downtown City Park plays a graceful host to a number of entertainment events throughout the year. Enjoyable wine festivals, relaxing summer concerts and art expositions highlight the local artisan talent of the quaint Paso Robles region. Patriotic nods to Americana, and recollections of the Pioneer era all envelop Paso Robles for separate weekends of nostalgia and remembrance, and local museums display classic mementos of times past, year round. The town is a gateway to two of the California Missions. Dating back over two hundred years these sanctuaries include artifacts from the early Native American settlements. From antique airplanes and vintage tractors, to family homestead antiques and bits of legacy from the town’s hot springs period, history is alive and well 365 days of the year in Paso Robles.
The Rancho Paso de Robles (Spanish for “Pass of Oaks”) was created in a land grant in 1844. In the decade following the Gold Rush, the nearly 26,000-acre site was purchased for $8,000 by a pair of brothers and a partner. Daniel and James Blackburn had seen enough of California in their travels to believe that this heavenly spot had just the potential they were looking for.
Within a few years James and the third partner settled into ranching, while the more savvy businessman, Daniel Blackburn, became the owner of the land that would become the site of the future town. Three years after the Civil War ended, a half-interest in the town-site was purchased by Drury James, the uncle of outlaw Jesse James.
James and Blackburn envisioned an elegant city offering first-class amenities, with the hot sulfur springs serving as the main attraction. The stagecoach line brought customers for the new bathhouse, hotel, the general store, and the small cottages built for the bathers.
Within two years, the city had incorporated itself, a luxurious bathhouse had gone up, and the city of more than 500 now boasted an opera house, train depot, and numerous stately brick buildings to house banking concerns, dry goods, hardware, services of all sorts, hotels and, naturally, numerous saloons for the parched ranchers in need of social recreation.
Paso Robles’ townspeople have invested much effort in preserving and celebrating their heritage. Today there are beautifully restored Victorian homes, a revitalized early California downtown, the hot springs flow again, and our western heritage is well acknowledged and celebrated.
Paso Robles Visitors Guide (PDF Download)