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San Luis Obispo County has a diverse culture and history. Like the state of California it is a mix of those cultures that have shaped the region over the last three hundred years. This is seen in the various buildings of the area, which include the historical, the kitschy and ones that are part of true Americana.
The mission of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa , which is the among the oldest buildings in the county, dates back to 1772 when Father Junipero Serra founded the mission, which was one of 21 along the Pacific Coast. Located near the Valley of Bears, named so because of the large population of native bear wildlife, the building evokes the style of Spanish missions of the era. The present building that stands today dates in part to 1794, although there had been heavy modification with the secularization of the building in 1834. Returned to the church around 1859, the buildings were partially remodeled, but finally restored in 1934.
From the truly sacred to hallowed Americana, the very first motel in the world is located in San Luis Obispo. Los Angeles architect Arthur Heineman designed the building in 1925, and with his design he coined the term motel, as in motor hotel. Today the Motel Inn is undergoing redesign but is influenced by the Spanish style designs of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the historic site sits along a row of more modern hotels that cater to visitors looking for a place to rest for the night.
About 40 miles to the north on historic Highway 1, Hearst Castle is a home fit for the original king of the media. Built by newspaper magnet William Randolph Hearst from 1919 until final completion in 1947, today the grounds are a state park open to the public. The multi-building complex, which utilizes a mix of design motifs including that of ancient Greek and Rome, as well as a medieval cathedral, contains 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, a dozen sitting rooms, an indoor and outdoor pool, plus a movie theater and a private airfield as well as the world’s largest private zoo. The Hearst Castle offers daily tours every day, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.