Meet Harmony, who is not a person but 18 people. And actually it’s not just 18 people, but it’s also a winery, a pottery shop, a glass blower, post office, a creamery truck, a small wedding chapel and “a cat named Freddy who served as honorary mayor for more than 22 years.”
I would come to discover Harmony would also boast some of the cleanest restrooms I’ve ever been in. Located right off legendary Pacific Highway 1, if you were to blink or stare towards the ocean too long, you’ll miss this amazing little hamlet that is celebrating it’s 150th birthday this year.
We read about Harmony in AAA’s Westway’s magazine. My wife, an aficionado for all things unusual and weird (hence our nearly 21 years of wedded bliss), said she wanted to check it out. Located just south of the beautiful rustic town of Cambria, and about 25 miles north from San Luis Obispo, Kathleen almost changed her mind because it was going to take us about an hour out of our way.
At the end of the day, it really was the town that was worth meeting!
Harmony was founded in 1869 around several dairy ranches and the creamery. The operation changed hands repeatedly because of rivalries that led to a killing. In 1907, owners and rancher agreed to call off their feud and call the town by his present name as a symbol of their truce. all agreed to live in harmony and from this name the town was derived.
In it’s hay day the village boasted a large residence for management bunk houses for employees of the Harmony Valley Co., a general store, a livery and stable, a blacksmith and feed store, a post office and a school house. Eventually the dairy business shifted a little further south to San Luis Obispo and in the late 1950’s, Harmony Dairy closed down.
For many years the town was abandoned, with the exception of the post office. And in 1972, restoration began to bring back the beauty and vitality of the Harmony of years past. Today it’s more of an arts colony, and a winery up the hill. There are tons of spots to take pictures for Facebook and Instagram. Including a beautiful chapel and gladys’ cow friends who make up 4 of 101 cows created by local artist for the San Luis Obispo Cow Parade of 2016.
William Randolph Hearst was a familiar face around this little seaside gem. As rumor has it, he would alway stop off for his fresh dairy products on the way to his ranch, a.k.a Hearst Castle. It is also rumored that Rudolph Valentino and Pola Negri stopped there once on the way to visit the media mogul. And in 1979, KABC broadcast live from here, with Jehry Miller singing his hit song: Harmonizing in Harmony Population 18.
While we went out of the way for the story, it was the message of how this town got its name that lingered in my soul 125 miles up the Pacific Coastline. A place born on rivalry, hatred and murder Harmony now stands for what I hope all of us might achieve. It’s a peaceful and friendly place where one’s imagination goes wild creating art, ice cream and smiles. Best of all, you can rent the entire town if you want to see what such a life could look like if the entire world took the time to be more like Harmony and less like itself.