After two years on the road with Merle Haggard working with him on his documentary

and his work with me on my documentary on the Father of Country Music, I needed to

leave the road and hang with my kids in Paso Robles.  When I mentioned to Merle

that I was going to live in Paso back in 2006, he said, "Hey...What is the name of the

old Saloon there?"   I said, "Hmmmm,  Pine Street Saloon."   He said, "Yep that's

it...I remember it from my days traveling out of  Bakersfield."  


Haggard was always complaining that there are so few Saloons left, now's there only

theaters and big concert arenas.  He would say, "I'm a bar band and I am running

out of places to play, and he was glad to hear it was still a honky-tonk with live music.


On the Department of Parks and Recreation Historic Resources Inventory regarding

the Pine Street Saloon building it says, "This two story structure is one of the oldest

buildings in down town Paso."  In fact plaque on the Saloon has: 1860 circa 

However, owner Ron French says there some old dates found that lead him to

believe the original building and construction could have begun on the Saloon in

1857, thereabouts...


Rumor has it that the late1800's saw a raw wild west section of town down Pine

Street,  between 13th and 10th, where cattlemen drove herds into town, where cow-

boys, lumbermen that were working the mill just blocks down "pine" street, miners

coming in from work on the quicksilver mine not too far out of Paso, Vaqueros,

ranchers, farmers, and town folk came to the street to partake of refreshments in

one of the 15 saloons just on Pine Street.



We are still searching the date of this picture, but notice the still dirt roads...

Might be around the turn of the century, or thereabouts...

On Pine Street, also known  as "skid row," every Saturday there were horse races as entertainment for the characters listed above, as well as the many tourist that were in town for the sulfur and mud hot springs that abound in the wild west town... It is said  that these were going on during the days that

Jesse and Frank James were hanging out in town, unknown to most, it

was in fact the healing properties of the hot springs that brought the James

brothers to Paso Robles. More on Jesse and Frank little down the story...


By 1886 the railroad came to Paso and the train station was built at 800

Pine Street, where the stage coaches and horse drawn carriages would

pick up passengers bringing them to the various locations in town and

down to the coast, and North to San Francisco on the El Camino Real...


There were 3 banks in town during these days and a number of drug stores,

and because of the huge tourist business with the hot springs and hotels

there were chemist, traveling charlatans, snake doctors, medicine shows

and hucksters selling their tinctures, elixirs, cure-alls, and liniments.  With

massage parlors, health resorts/hotels and huge mud and bath house

the town grew from this great trade.



In 1888 J. Campbell operated a saloon at 1236-1238, the original site of the Pine Street Saloon before the 2003 San Simeon Earth-quake.  For many years back then it served as a saloon, a billiard parlor and a card room.  It was one of the oldest brick structures in Paso Robles.  South and right next to the building at 1234 Pine St. where now the famed Pine Street Saloon is kicking up dust nightly,  the brick building that housed the first Pine Street Saloon  was completed in 1887, if not sooner. 


"In 1971 Pat French bought the bar, when it had the only beer license and was called the Red Door.  Ms. French and Jim Johnson, the local sheriff's deputy, began collecting the mirrors, beer signs and other memorabilia that now cover the walls of this popular landmark and civic treasure."


In 1980 Pine Street went through a remodeling session and at a time the name was changed from the Red Door to what is now known as "The Pine Street Saloon".  In 1996, the Saloon started serving liquor from a full bar.  In 2001 the Saloon moved next door to its current location at 1234 Pine Street.

Right next to Ray's Card Room is the original Pine Street Saloon, just

to the right is the wood structure that is now the Pine Street Saloon

where you see the truck on the far right parked in front of the Saloon.

The two story redwood building, with the "Western False Front", which at the time, was for sure not "False" in that it was built during the

true days of the wild west.  The exact date is not known but figurin' right now might have been as early as 1858 to1862.  Back in those early

days it had a narrow balcony at the second floor level.  "Old records give some indication that the first floor was used as a saloon, and

the second floor a boarding house, and as story again tells... a Bordello.  You can just see the ladies of the night out on the balcony

luring the cowboys and ranchers up to their rooms...sometime in those early days it housed the Cosmopolitan Hotel and a saloon.  In

the 1890tys it was known as the Young Hotel.  It was a popular hotel where delicious food was served at reasonable rates.  In 1960 it

became the Estrada Bar.  But, now forever known as the Pine Street Saloon.

The Pine Street Saloon has had a very interesting list of pickers and grinners, actors and customers including...


Jesse James rumor has it and hear say

Frank James visited Paso several times after his brothers death and the year plus that he and Jesse hung out here

Merle Haggard great memories of Pine St Saloon

Nicolas Escarpio rode with Poncho Villa

Mel Gibson hung his hat here while doing movie near by

Sam Elliot  hung his hat here while doing movie near by

Robert Mitchum his son is in and out of town these days

Glen Campbell songwriter, music star, session guitar

Sandy Koufax

Ramblin' Jack Elliott the legendary and one and only

Gary Busey the one and only, if there is even that...

Robert Carradine of the Carradine dynasty picked here

Kacey Musgraves huge present rising country star

Bernie Taupin songwriter partner with Elton John

Chris Felver author/photographer/filmmaker

Louie Ortega Grammy Award winner

Paula Nelson Willie Nelson's daughter

Connie Nelson - ex wife of Willie Nelson

Kenny Lee Lewis Steve Miller Band's lead guitar

Nick St. Nicholas bass player for Steppenwolf

John Andrew Parks songwriter/performer

Jack Tempchin Eagle's song writer

Norm Sancho from Jack Tempchin's band

Tony James tv and music star

Rick Rosa bass player Neil Young

K.M. Williams legendary blues player

Travis Howard Miranda Lambert mega songwriter

Greg Kinnear movie actor

Bryan Lloyd great one many show on keyboards



Rising fast Country Star Kacey

Musgraves at Pine Street Saloon

Travis Howard, hit song writer for

County Mega star Miranda Lambert

Kenny Lee Lewis and Internet

sensation Laura Francisca

Nicolas Escarpio

who rode with Poncho Villa


Called the last of the "old-time beverage-purveying establishments of a bygone era in a town that once boasted dozens of such places."


Bernie Taupin and Norm Sancho

Louie Ortega, Eliza and Ramblin' Jack Elliott

Robert Carradine, actor/musician



Louie Ortega, Kenny Lee Lewis, who has been playing lead guitar for the Steve

Miller band for the past 30 years and the great John Andrew Parks on the left

Paula Nelson Band, and yepper that is the

daughter of the one and only Willie Nelson



Connie Nelson (ex Mrs. Willie Nelson) Paula Nelson, Kerry Swallum, of Willie

Nelson's Luck Films and filmmaker/author/photographer Chris Felver on Left

Merle Haggard, who told Benford he hung out some at Pine Street

some years back and his pal Benford Standley, producer/writer/carnie



Jack Tempchin, Eagles'

hit songwriter

Robert Carradine, John Andrew Parks,

Louie Ortega, and Bryan Lloyd

James Dean (is it?"walking down 12th St.

with Pine Street behind him...start the rumor



The one and only Gary Busey boards the Pine Street Saloon Lemo for a ride back to kiddin'!!!!

Tennessee Jimmy Harrell



Matt Kettmann in his article in Smithsonian Magazine talked about his six-man entourage embarking on what he called "the most authentic and

doable old-school tour of the West Coast" and saying, "Our visits to a handful of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo county’s longest continually

ale-slinging establishments would indicate that ghost stories may be as old as the saloons themselves."  A number of times in the Smithsonian

talked about the Pine Street and stories owner Ron French told them "his security cameras were picking up a presence...but was it a

mere illusion or something more ghostly," Matt asks...


The Smithsonian Magazine articles goes on to say:


First opened by Ron’s mother, Pat French, in 1971, the Pine Street Saloon ditched its old location in 2002 to move into the circa 1865 building

next door. That was just in time to avoid the massive Paso Robles earthquake of 2003, which knocked down their old brick building but only

tilted their new wooden structure. French, it turns out, might just be the most hospitable saloonkeeper on the planet, having refurbished the

upstairs brothel rooms into a boardinghouse of sorts to accommodate overly inebriated guests and purchasing a limousine to drive such

patrons home for free, so long as they’re within Paso Robles’ city limits. more: 


so...As Story Tells It and Rumor has it...Enter belly up to some Pine Street Saloon back in those Wild West and

hot sulphur and hot springs days Jesse James



Jesse James as he looked when

hiding out in Paso Robles in 1886

With all the movies, dime novels, articles and books written about Jesse James and his now

famous James Gang from back in his day to now, have all created a great and legendary tale and

makes Jesse and Frank James two of the most famous outlaws in American history.  Jesse and

Frank's uncle Drury James, is one of the founders of Paso Robles, and bought into the town and

ended up owning the hot springs, in that he thought the town would make a great health resort.  The

story goes Dury  was passing through on  a cattle drive to sell cattle to the gold miners in San

Francisco and stopped off the lay in the hot springs on Spring Street, and was so amaze at how

it healed him from his saddle sores that the idea begin to develop in his mind.


It is said that Jesse James took shelter with his Uncle, who hid the outlaw under the alias “Scotty”

from the militia, sheriffs and bounty hunters at his Paso Robles hotel and his ranch where Jesse

and Frank worked as Vaqueros


A number of stories tell of Jesse and Frank James coming to town to attend dances and horse races...

we can only assume and take the "dime novel liberty" to imagine that Frank and Jesse James did in

fact come into the bar at the present location of Pine Street if not for a beer or a shot of something a

little stronger, or even to frolic with one of the girls in the brothel upstairs, and substantiate the rumor

that they had come to this saloon that has been passed down for decades.  In 1885, Jesse is shot in

Nashville.  After a gun fight with the militia that had come to his mom's house he decided to head to

the West Coast to hide out.  Brother Frank James, his brother, took the train, and Jesse took a

steamer around the Horn from New York, because of his gun shot to the lungs the train or horse

back would have been too hard on the ailing outlaw.

His Uncle hid out the outlaw Jesse and his brother Frank, and story goes that Jesse came a few times a week to the hot springs from his uncle's ranch, and healed his gunshot wound in the hot sulfur waters that had been healing springs for thousands of years to the Salinan

Indian Nation who lived near. Then came the Spanish and the Catholic Church and established Casa del Paso de Robles.  In 1813, after

running the Indians off, they built a shelter over the springs.


After a year or so in Paso Robles it is told that Jesse and Frank were getting a little wild around town, and there was some saying they

had figured out who Jesse was and because of Drury's status in the town no one did anything, but he thought best to get them out of town...

so he personally took them to San Francisco where he bought them both steamer tickets around Cape Horn to New York, before it was

discovered he was hiding the famous outlaw James brothers.


A number of articles on the saloon action on Pine Street during the late 1800s, which was the exact time that  Jesse James and his

brother Frank were hanging out in Paso Robles.   During these days it is recorded that there were 15 saloons on Pine Street, and every

Saturday there were horse races, with a street dance on Saturday nights for the farmers and ranchers. 



Known as "skid row" but the reference is from the logging days when logs were laid down to have horses to pull the logs along the logs to move was prior called "skid road", where the road was a track made

of peeled logs half buried in the ground...the term was associated with loggers, as you might have guessed, such that the part of town called

that was where the loggers would hang out and spend their free time.


Just down Pine Street at 840 11th and at the corner of 11th and Pine

was the Municipal Bath House and was a huge tourist and health attraction.  This is now a candy store, but if those wall could talk...


1244 Pine Street  in 1922 originally the Highway Hotel

800 Pine Street the Paso Railroad Depot was built in 1887,

after the 1886 arrival of the railroad to Paso Robles...


1202 Pine Street around 1890, The Bank Saloon was built

then in 1901, it became the Palm Saloon.


1236-38 Pine Street Campbell/Estrada Buildings known as

two of the oldest buildings in Paso Robles, and were ran as

a card room and a saloon.  In 1971 the Pine Street Saloon

took over the 1238 Pine Street Location


1238 Pine Street Louis C. Fortini Distributor of beer and spirits

in 1941at 1238 Pine Street and advertising John Wieland's Extra Pale Larger Beer


Back in 1930tys the Paso Robles Press was on the Northeast corner of 12th and Pine

Alexander Hotel at the northwest corner of 13th and Pine Street.  Main door of

hotel opened on Pine Street and had a popular dining room



W.S. Lewis Hardware was at 13th and Pine Street in 1889

notice how similar the construction to the Pine St. Saloon

Corner of Pine and 12th Street, coach is loaded to head to the Rail Road

Station down Pine Street about four blocks...


PINE STREET and SKID ROW area Saloons

1901 Business Directory lists 15 in 1901

The Pine Street Saloon

Green Dragon Saloon built in 1887 between 12th & 13th where Crooked Kilt was located, later called Busis on Pine Street

Mr. Campbell's Saloon

The Plains Saloon

Rays Card Room

Ferdes - Rodeo

C & J's

Ray's Card Room Pine between 12 and 13th

Paso Pub on Pine between 12 and 13th

R.R. Saloon on Pine near the rail road station

The Welcome on 10th and Pine

The Exchange on 13th and Pine

The Alexander at 12 and Pine

The Mint Pine and 13th

The Cosmopolitan Pine between 12 and 13th

Franks Sparks Saloon Pine Street

The Lodge Pine and 13th

L Brenckel 12th near Pine

The Puck

The Bank 12 and Pine

The Palace

The Ideal

The Paso Hotel Bar

The Plains Bar and Chuck Wagon Cafe in 1930 on Pine

Columbo Cafe and Coctail Lounge on Pine




Corner of 13th and Pine in 1889





At 1031 Pine Street a house built by H.H. Soest, a chemist who studied the

mineral quality of the hot springs water in Paso Robles, and in fact would boil

the water in large vats and extract minerals that he bottled and sold to druggist. 

In 1953 was used as a physical therapy clinic...


Story tells that there were many potients, health related elixirs, homeopathic

remedies, potchents, snake doctor concoctions to cure one's ills in the drug

stores in town, and one can only imagine the medicine shows that came into

town traveling The Kings Highway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Mr. Make My Day seen on

Pine Street


Busis on Pine between 11th and 12th, which some

years back was the Crooked Kilt and back in the late 1800's was known as the Green Dragon Saloon...


When I brought Clint Eastwood to Paso Robles in 2008,

we had our first event at the Paso Robles Inn.  Later I saw

Clint walking alone toward the Kilt by himself along the

park sidewalk.  I later heard that he had gone into the bar

to have a beer.  That night he told me that he used to drink go there for a beer back in the days he was shooting Raw Hide near Paso Robles.  He told me hung out here a good bit to on trips here to visit his friend James Brolin, who is

married to Barbara Streisand.

Clint Eastwood with rising country star Kacey

Musgraves, who sang at Pine Street Saloon on

her 2 visits to the Paso Digital Film Festival to perform...



1886 the Train comes to Paso Robles

800 Pine Street is the location for the railroad depot.




Spring Street at 3rd looking North toward the town in 1900

Spring Street was once a ancient trail that came up from the ocean where Native Americans

and members of the was the "Old Spanish Mission Trail"  


El Camino Real

The Royal Highway

The Kings Highway

California Mission Trail


 road actually follows part of the San Andreas Fault.

The 101

The El Camino Real, "The Kings Highway" was established by the Franciscan Fathers in the late 1770's as they established a string of 21 Spanish Missions from San Diego to Sonoma County. The Missions were about a days ride apart and the trail they founded became a stage coach route in the 1840's. The trail was the main link between the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. When the he S.P was built in segments in the 1870's and 1880's it followed the El Camino Real.



Research from and Thanks to:

Depart. of Parks & Recreation Historic Resources Inventory

Main Street Association

Pioneer Museum

Self Guided Walking Tour of Historic Buildings

Daniel Blackburn

Paso Robles Business Directory







I began my Paso Saga with the Pine Street Saloon and just tib dits of history I've dug up living here the past 7 years...years ago I had written

a book on the history that was to be told about Austin, Texas that started with the wondering why there was so much music in the town, and that led me to the springs there and the ancient history thereof.  I started with the music history and went back in seems a

irony that I am going to start to cut this history trail with one of the top music venues in ole El Paso de Robles...and tie that to hot springs, Ignacy Jan Paderewski the famous pianist, composer, diplomat, politician, and the second Prime Minister of

the Republic of Poland who moved to Paso Robles...and like Jesse James and the

Native Americans of the Salinas Indians.


Years prior to the Saloon being the Pine Street Saloon in the building that it now resides at 1234 Pine Street the building itself said to be possible the oldest building in downtown Paso Robles, with many of the buildings that were built before most of the brick buildings that were built all around the old town made out brick.



Brothels are known under a variety of names, including bordello, cathouse, 

knocking shop, whorehouse, strumpet house, sporting house, house of ill repute, house of ill fame, house of prostitution, and pleasure house. 



Pine Street is said to be swinging back during world war two and a few, we might say, brothels along

with the number of Saloons offered the soldiers from Camp Roberts a place to drink, dance, and we'll

leave the rest to your imagination.