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Townsign for Harmony, California on SR 1
Location of Harmony, California

Harmony (pop. 24) is an unincorporated town located in San Luis Obispo County, California. It lies north of Cayucos and south of Cambria on SR 1, near the junction with SR 46. The ZIP Code is 93435. The community is inside area code 805.

History

The town of Harmony began as a dairy settlement in the late 1800s started by Swiss immigrants living near the Italian border--the same background as many of San Luis Obispo County's founders, including the Madonna Family, owners of the Madonna Inn located in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Harmony was founded in 1869 around several dairy ranches and a creamery. The operation changed hands repeatedly because of rivalries that led to a killing. In 1907, owners and ranchers agreed to call off their feud and called the town by its present name as a symbol of their truce.

The Harmony Valley Dairy Co-op was founded in 1901, and the town grew, soon hosting a dairy management office, dormitories for employees, a livery stable, blacksmith and later a gas station. Shortly, a school was built and a feed store and post office gave Harmony official status as a community. At its peak, the creamery employed 10 workers, producing high quality dairy products, including butter and cheese that gave Harmony name recognition statewide. The creamery purified butter by cooking it in the traditional Swiss way, clarifying and giving it a golden color; old-world dairymen claimed butter produced by this method never turned rancid. Tourists traveling Hwy 1 often stopped for fresh buttermilk and a famed publisher William Randolph Hearst stopped often in Harmony on his way to his opulent home in San Simeon, 12 miles northwest, as did many of the Hollywood celebrities who were frequent guests of Hearst.

Increased grazing land fees and dairy industry consolidation led to the closure of Harmony's creamery around 1955. The town, which still has a part time post office, lost population until the 1970s when it was rediscovered by California's young counter-culture population, many of whom were looking for a rural lifestyle where they could practice traditional crafts away from the pressures and technology of urban life. Many of the town's historic landmarks, including the main creamery, were restored and reopened as restaurants and shops.

In 1979 Harmony was featured by KABC in Los Angeles with a live broadcast of the Ken and Bob Company radio show. Ken Minyard and Bob Arthur were the hosts and featured singing artist Jehry Miller singing his hit song "Harmonizing in Harmony Population 18". Jehry Miller along with producer Stephen G. Scott of Los Angeles also wrote the Ken and Bob Company theme song. "Harmonizing in Harmony Population 18" continues to be popular to this day.

Since the 1970s Harmony has ridden cycles of prosperity and neglect, but has had upscale restaurants, crafts, ceramics and art. More recently, Harmony became a town in name only; a single restaurant remained, but went through several owners before closing in the late 1990s. A small cadre of artisans keep Harmony alive, with retail shops selling art objects, locally hand blown glass and pottery, but the town faces an uncertain future. Recently Harmony was put up for sale. Helping keep the town alive is Harmony Cellars, a boutique winery and tasting room about 1/4 mile south. The winery opened in 1989 and in 2006 produced about 6,000 cases of Central Coast varietals like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The new State Park acquisition, Harmony Headlands, contains the native Indian thistle (Circium brevistylum), which looks similar to the invasive bull thistle (Circium vulgare). Conyza canadensis is another native that looks similar to a weed in the same genus.

Layout

The town of Harmony, California, November 2007

Harmony consists of one street off of SR 1. To one side is a long abandoned house, a large dumpster, and a former art gallery, with some portable toilets. In front of the house is the "treecar" - an old grey Nissan Z with a tree collapsed upon it. On the other side of the street is a "U" shaped building, with the open area being a small, unfurnished plaza. On the far side of the structure is the Harmony Pottery Shop. On the near side is the post office. In the elongated center of the building is storage for the pottery shop.

There was a restaurant, but it closed in 1997. It was little more than a cafe in its food selection and atmosphere. The Harmony Pottery Shop sells pottery, T-shirts, and soft drinks. The post office was in operation until April 11th 2008. The U.S. Postal Service has scheduled a public discussion on the closure of the historic Post Office.

External links

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