Photos © Debbie Stock
Los Alamos is Spanish for "the cottonwoods" and describes
graceful trees lining the banks of the San Antonio Creek. Located in a
valley bounded on the south by oak studded Purisima Hills and on the north
by Solomon Hill, Los Alamos is an interesting side tour off Highway 101.
Halfway between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, the historic town which
was once a stage stop has two historic hotels, several restaurants, antique
shops, a winery and an annual street celebration in September.
When Mexico broke free of Spanish rule in 1821, Los Alamos
valley was granted to Antonio De La Guerra y Noriega who controlled 49,000
acres known as "Rancho Los Alamos". The hills
above his town served as a hideout for highway bandito, Solomon Pico,
whose escapades were popularized by the character "Zorro". As cousin
to Mexican governor Pio Pico, he enjoyed immunity from the law. Skulls
with bullet holes found in isolated canyons and stories
about Pico fueled legends. This lawless character who frequented
the region during the 1840s was said to terrorize gringos, even wearing
a necklace made of his victims' ears.
The Victorian Mansion (above) was built in 1864. It currently operates as a
resort hotel offering theme rooms which include hidden bathrooms, spiral
staircases, hot tubs, swaying sea lanterns, a chariot and a 1956 Cadillac.
Remote control units operate some of each room's special effects.
Egyptian Room: Persian rugs, images of sand dunes and palm trees and a
life-size King Tut hides the entry to your bathroom. The 50's, Roman,
French, Gypsy and Pirate are your choices. Selected as a #1 favorite
by magazines in the US and France, guests find this fantasy retreat a
diversion from their busy lifestyles. 362 Bell Street, Los Alamos,
California 93440 Rooms are also available next door at the
|Gussied Up in
349 Bell Street
Antiques, Collectibles, Vintage Curiosities, Falderal and
Nonsense. The shop is owned
by Jan Klaft, who also is your point of contact for information on Historic
Days in September. (805) 344-2504.
Los Alamos was founded in 1876 when John S. Bell and Dr.
J.B. Shaw purchased property released from Spanish land grant after California
became a state. Its location and distance from the Los Olivos stage stop
created a need for lodging so Union Hotel was built and the town also became
a stage stop.
The Wells Fargo stagecoach began making daily trips from
the Union Hotel in Los Alamos to Los Olivos and then to Santa Barbara.
Hold-ups and robberies were common so passengers traveled at their own
risk. Historical data includes reports of highwaymen along
this route demanding valuables, watches, and the Wells Fargo strong box
on several occasions.
Stagecoach, horse and buggy, wagons, and horseback were
the only means of transportation to and from Los Alamos until the opening
of the Pacific Coast Railway in the early 1880's.
Oil was discovered at the turn of the 20th century and
a few years later in 1902, an earthquake destroyed all but a few buildings
Los Alamos now has about 1,000 residents and a variety
of shops, including a winery.