The depot is open on Sunday's from 1-3PM.

Tours can be arranged by appointment by calling Linda Austin at 805-489-5446.

 

Designed and some photos
 by Melanie

 
History of Gavin’s Cabin
By Norm Hammond


Gavin's Cabin at Moy Mell
photo courtesy of
Bennett-Loomis Archives

This last photo is from the Virgil Hodges collection, it shows Gavin's Cabin at Moy Mell in the Oceano Dunes:
The view is looking northwest. The large building in the foreground was the Community House. The next building back is Gavin's Cabin. This photo was taken sometime in the early 'thirties.

Chester Alan Arthur III (“Gavin”) was the grandson of the 21st President of the United States, Chester Alan Arthur. Gavin was also the founder of Moy Mell, a Utopian colony in the sand dunes of Oceano. He began construction of the colony in September, 1931. Timber was dragged behind horses into the dunes for the first building, which was Gavin’s personal cabin. The Community House was the largest building at Moy Mell, and a house warming for its dedication was on April 29-May 1, 1933. Eventually, there would be five buildings constructed at Moy Mell.

During World War II, Gavin ceremoniously turned Moy Mell over to the U.S. Coast Guard as a contribution to the war effort. For the duration of the war, Moy Mell was used as an outpost for soldiers who were patrolling the dunes on horseback.

Gavin enlisted in the U.S. Army during the early part of the war, but was discharged before the war was over and then served in the Merchant Marine. When the war was finally over, in 1945, the high dunes had begun to move into the area of Moy Mell. Partly because of this, Gavin had abandoned Moy Mell. The taxes had not been paid and the county was about to auction it off for back taxes.

Oceano realtor Harold Guiton Sr. knew most of the people in the dunes, and he knew Gavin well. One day he happened to see the listing for the public auction notice in the court house, and the buildings at Moy Mell were on the list. He knew that Gavin had been out of the area and might not even be aware of the auction. As a gesture of friendship, he decided to pay the small amount of back taxes for Gavin.

Later, when Harold happened to run into Gavin on the street, he explained what he had done and said jokingly, “You owe me!”

Gavin laughed and said that he was no longer using Moy Mell, and that Harold could have it. They both knew the dunes were moving in and a twenty-foot dune was about to cover the two remaining buildings, and time was running out. Gavin suggested that perhaps Harold could salvage the lumber from what was left of Moy Mell, and then they would be “square.”
That seemed to be a fair agreement, so they shook hands on the deal. Later, on August 23, 1946, Harold gave Gavin an extra $100.00 for the cabins.

Around that same time, Harold dismantled the Community House for lumber. This was the largest of the buildings at Moy Mell and the only one left with a fireplace. The fireplace was salvaged and remains today in the home of Harold Guiton’s son, Harold Guiton Jr. in Oceano.
Gavin’s cabin was jacked up and skid of long timbers was placed underneath it. A bulldozer was brought in and a path was made through the dunes to the cabin. The bulldozer was chained to each side of the runners of the skid, and then the cabin was dragged through the dunes to the beach. Once the cabin was on the beach it was jacked up again and wheels were put under it. It was then taken to Oceano where sat for many years on Paso Robles Street and 15th Street.
The cabin was eventually donated to the Oceano Depot Association by owner Harlis Wall. On September 14, 2010 it was moved to the Depot grounds on Highway 1 where it remains today, as the last remaining cabin from the Dunite era…
 

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©Oceano Depot, 2007