HISTORY IN
    
SAN LUIS OBISPO
        COUNTY
 
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Features and Information:

The Castle Adobe in Morro Bay
from Morro Bay’s Yesterdays
by Dorothy L. Gates and Jane H. Bailey
Morro Bay: El Moro Publications, 1982, 1993.

[Note: This excerpt is re-printed here with the generous permission of Jane H. Bailey and of Miles Castle's daughter Nancy.   Morro Bay's Yesterdays is newly available in a third printing as of summer 2001.    --Lynne Landwehr]

            "During the 1970s, many people who were researching Morro Bay’s past sought out Miles Castle in his English-style adobe in the willows.  This country cottage, built in 1934 by Miles himself, stands a few hundred feet east of where Morro Creek either rushes or trickles beneath the road toward the sea. 

           "The friendly Briton arrived at the age of 28 on the eve of the Depression, to begin what became a checkered career-in-careers.  The 1970s found him fairly besieged by nostalgic reporters, writers, newcomers, and recent-discoverers of Morro Bay.  For his detailed accurate memories of almost every facet of Morro, its society, progress or lack of it, its comedy, its tragedy, comprise a veritable book of reference.

           "Along the way, Miles was employed by Standard Oil in various capacities, involved in numerous construction projects under the Civilian Conservation Corps, planted the eucalyptus trees around the water tank on Black Hill, laid flags [flagstones]  for private homes, had a plant nursery on his acreage, and much, much more.  The C.C.C. work included stonemasonry work in the State Park: tables, fireplaces, buildings, the wall of Monterey flagstones upholding what is now the parking lot of the Museum of natural History on White Point (at that time, the golf course’s Cabrillo Country Clubhouse terrace).  When the time came for Morro to require a garbage collector, Miles answered the call.

"In his cottage, he and his wife Jean Bennett Castle, daughter Nancy, and son Roger, maintained a weaving studio for many years.  During the 1970s, Miles added another occupation: teaching courses in tapestry weaving for Cuesta Community College.  Along the way, Miles had composed poetry and was one of the editors of the Scribblers’ Quarterly Magazine, published during Morro’s Depression years. 

"The adobe that Miles built with his hands, feet, brawn, determination and much love, was initially for baching.  To save a real estate development, foundering after the 1929 crash, Miles’ acre was sold him for $400.  It was the soil that Miles wanted for his dream home, and he sent several samples of the ‘dobe to the University of California for analysis.  The report was a recommendation, so Miles and two other Morro Bayans commenced their homes of adobe.  Those of the latter residents were of bricks, whereas Miles’ was of the tamped-earth type.  (This style needed no building permits from the county; the other style—bricks—did.)

           "According to Nadine Richards, longtime friend of Miles, and interior decorator, Miles’ “design was strictly a ‘jolly old English’ country cottage, much I suspect like the country manor house’s cottage left behind in England.  Very basic, satisfying and substantial.  Two-storied, dramatic roof pitch, lovely bay window in dining room, not to mention marvelous addition of the studio for all weaving operations.  The exterior features heavy wooden beams, a simple and good design for the fireplace, and an inside window to light the stairway to upper floor.  Also, quite remarkable and beautiful, authentic family heirloom furniture; outside a fantastic garden that still remains typically British!  A truly unique, authentic and remarkable home—and family.”

"Yes indeed. And the garden has at times cradled 67 varieties of herbs among the bright blossoms growing in true profusion.

"According to Miles, first the foundation of beach sand, pebbles, cement, went down.  Then the forms to give shape to the ‘dobe proper, he soaked the earth, waded barefoot into the resulting mud, added a bit of straw.  His tools were a heavy hoe and a wheelbarrow that antedated the rubber-tired models which would have made the labor much lighter.  The chimney, 19 feet of it, had to be done in three stages (like the great pyramids).

"Miles began building at Easter and in November finished laying the roof’s tarpaper on the eve of the rains.  A freak rainstorm had struck in midsummer, when the walls were four feet high; a thunder clap struck with suddenness, shaking the willow leaves from their branches ‘like snow.”  The winds blew in, and an inch of rain dropped on Morro in a couple of hours.

"Miles’ verses, Tudor Cottage, point out that the importance of its construction might have lain as much in its spiritual dimension as in the material dimension for its dreamer, designer, and builder.  

                      Tudor Cottage
I raised the earth that went into its ‘dobe walls
I nailed the rafters and each straight split redwood shake.
I tenderly laid the gray flagstones that are its floor,
And made the windows on each side to open wide
For sun and air, scent of flower and song of bird.
The open fire for winter nights, protected by the rocks
I hauled to build their smiling faces on the hearth,
Has blackened kettle singing on its iron crane.
And all mine, I dreamed of it till dreams came true:
But now, as I rest beneath the ancient willow
I cannot believe that I alone have built it—
For God did take my soul and weave of it a house.
 
                                                        

"Miles believed that a man should, in his lifetime, father a child, plant a garden, build a house, and write a book.  Born as the twentieth century opened, Miles died on the Fourth of July of 1981, leaving the incomplete manuscript of his book to his myriad friends between the ages of one and one hundred years of age.  His beloved house he also shared, perhaps according to the lines:

'Let me live in my house by the side of the road
 And be a friend of man.'”

J.H. Bailey © 1982.

 

 

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www.historyinslocounty.org