‘Museum’ on West Valerio

'Museum' on West Valerio

Renovated Home is a Blast from the Past

By: Betsy J. Green
 

Address: 230 West Valerio Street

Originally Published in The Santa Barbara Independent

Link to original article here: https://www.independent.com/2021/10/21/museum-on-west-valerio/

Only a dozen or so homes in Santa Barbara have been featured in Old House Journal magazine. This is one of them. Walking into the home is like walking back in time. The furniture and décor echo the Craftsman bungalow style that was popular a century ago. This home was built in 1912 for $1,500. The owners, Robert Sponsel and Patricia Chidlaw, joke that some of their renovations cost more than that. They call the home “our museum.”

The home’s exterior colors and plantings blend smoothly with the style. A 1914 paint catalog noted, “The bungalow is distinctively a suburban house … to make it attractive, the colors as well as the architecture must harmonize with nature.” The risers on the front steps are decorated with a vine called creeping fig (Ficus pumila) that also grows on the famous Gamble House in Pasadena.

One of the most eye-catching items in the kitchen is a 1930s GE refrigerator. These appliances were commonly nicknamed “monitor” refrigerators because the round compressor on top resembled the gun turret on the USS Monitor, an ironclad Civil War vessel.

Credit: Betsy J. Green

Good News, Bad News

Imagine picking up the morning paper and reading your own obituary! That’s what happened to E.J. Peterson, the home’s first owner. The obit used his name but described the life and death of another S.B. resident named E.J. Hayward, a well-known photographer. 

I suppose that the good news about reading his own obituary notice is that he was able to contact the paper and get a correction printed the next day. The paper called it “an unfortunate mix-up,” and added that “Mr. Peterson … is very much alive and the mix-up in names kept Mr. Peterson denying that he was even ill.”

One of the home’s most interesting owners was Henry Augustus Adrian and his wife, Phila, who owned the home in the early 1920s. Adrian had served as the superintendent of schools and was the mayor of Santa Barbara in 1926 and 1927. In addition to these careers, Adrian often traveled the country as a speaker in Chautauqua assemblies. The Chautauquas were a sort of continuing education for adults that traveled from town to town. The practice began in Chautauqua (chuh-TAW-kwah), New York, in 1874. Generally, the group would set up a tent in a town and present a weeklong series of educational lectures and performances. Adrian was a friend of the botanist Luther Burbank and spoke about his plant research.

Another interesting owner was F.H. Kimball and his wife, Charlotte. Kimball was the president of the Veronica Medicinal Springs Water Company. This was a mineral spring located near Veronica Springs and Las Positas roads.

Robert Sponsel and Patricia Chidlaw | Credit: Robert Sponsel and Patricia Chidlaw

Hard Work and Luck

Here’s another example of good news and bad. When the present owners bought the house in 1980, it had been “modernized” in the 1960s by an owner who painted the woodwork white and ripped out the original cabinets. The good news was that he had taken “before and after” photos, which enabled Robert and Patricia to restore their home to its original appearance.

Apart from stripping paint, they had some lucky finds in their search for period-appropriate fixtures. Patricia happened to be walking the dog one day and found a beautiful claw-foot bathtub that had been discarded. Salvaged items from nearby demolitions also helped keep down the restoration costs. 

What advice do they have for homeowners wishing to attempt similar retro decorating? “Bob and I were fortunate that we started looking in the early ’80s before the vogue for restoring Craftsman homes. You could still find inexpensive pieces in thrift stores and at yard sales. I guess my advice would be to study the books and familiarize oneself with the style and then look at resale situations and hope to get lucky. The Stickley furniture company is still in business and making beautiful reproductions of classic designs. While these are not cheap, I imagine they could be considered a good buy because the solid oak will certainly last more than a lifetime.”

Please do not disturb the residents of 230 West Valerio Street.

An Artistic Abode

An Artistic Adobe

Moving Story of this Sunny Home

By: Betsy J. Green
 

Address:1128 Bath Street

Originally Published in The Santa Barbara Independent

Link to original article here: https://www.independent.com/2021/09/30/an-artistic-abode/

There’s no mistaking that an artist lives in this home decorated inside and out with artwork from Santa Barbara’s iconic Summer Solstice parades. It’s the domicile of Claudia Bratton, who has overseen the extravagant annual parade 16 times. The parade began in 1974 as a sally up State Street as a birthday celebration. It has since morphed into a procession of funky and fantastic floats, dancers, and stilt-walkers, ending with an inflatable one-ring circus and drawing thousands of visitors to our sunny streets.

The home’s first owners were Joshua Snell and his wife, Anna B. They had farmed in Montecito and Carpinteria before moving to Santa Barbara. Joshua bought the land on the corner of Bath and Anapamu streets in 1886, and he probably built the home at that time. The original building permit stated that the house cost $1,500. Like many homes — including the one that I wrote about in last month’s column — this home has had a change of address. Although unlike that one, this house was actually moved.

Snell was originally from Maine and may have participated in the annual picnic for former Maine residents in Santa Barbara, some of whom called themselves “Maniacs.” He had been an investor in an ostrich farm on State and Islay streets about 1909. At the turn of the century, ostriches supplied feathers for women’s hats.

A Moving Experience

The home was originally located on Anapamu Street. Around 1910, the Snells moved it to the back of their property and turned it to face Bath Street. There is no building permit on file for moving the house, but perhaps permitting wasn’t necessary if you were moving a house from one part of your property to another at that time. 

How many houses have been moved in Santa Barbara? Who knows, but a 1922 article that I found in the local paper stated that 33 homes had been moved that year. Occasionally, people even moved homes that did not belong to them. In 1915, a man moved a home from one side of Milpas to the other — without the owner’s permission.

Homes and buildings were moved in a couple of ways. Generally, several holes were punched in the foundation in either side of the home, and beams or logs were put through the holes under the subfloor. The remainder of the foundation was then removed. For a simple move, the house was dragged along on the logs by oxen, horses, or mules.

For a more high-tech house move, the beams under the house were raised up with gigantic jackscrews, and a truck bed was placed under the house. Draft animals or motorized vehicles pulled the house. It was a slow process and might take days. 

In 1906, a house moving here outraged multiple citizens, “Before this house reaches its destination [30 blocks away] the injury it has wrought on the shade trees, the inconvenience it has caused, and the property rights it has outraged” caused people to petition the city council to place a limit on the size of homes moved around.

Attention to Details​

Credit: Betsy J. Green

Varied Occupations

There has been an interesting assortment of owners of this home. Walter A. Scott was part owner of a livery stable, which rented horses and carriages. Emma Harris, another owner, sold corsets. Her ad in 1915 stated that she had “scores of delighted patrons in Santa Barbara.” Corset wearers were sometimes nicknamed “old ironsides” because some corsets were reinforced with steel or iron rods.

Another homeowner — Cora Loretta Dowhower — owned an art shop along the Street in Spain in the El Paseo building. Her neighbors there included artists Ed Borein and Clarence Mattei. Dowhower was also a charter member of the Santa Barbara Business and Professional Women’s organization.

Not only is the house decorated with artwork, but it is also nestled in a lush garden. Bratton is not sure why her garden grows so well, but maybe the home’s history provides a clue. I found an ad in the local paper in 1914 in which the homeowner was selling chickens. Perhaps the chickens’ — ahem — “contributions” enriched the soil.

Please do not disturb the residents of 1128 Bath Street.

Postcard from The Past

Postcard from The Past

Vintage Card Leads Writer Down Rabbit Hole

Credit: Betsy J. Green
By: Betsy J. Green
 

Address: 823 East Haley Street

Originally Published in The Santa Barbara Independent

Link to original article here: https://www.independent.com/2021/07/22/postcard-from-the-past/

You never know what you might find when you open a wall in an old house. Construction work on the home at 823 East Haley Street uncovered a 1911 postcard. How or why the postcard was in the wall will probably remain a mystery, but when I saw a photo of the card posted on Facebook, I knew I had to dive down the research rabbit hole.

Way back when, Milpas Street was the edge of development on the Eastside of Santa Barbara. There were some scattered homes, the Franklin School at the corner of Milpas and Montecito, and a brick factory at Cota and Milpas. The main route to the Eastside was the streetcar that ran along Haley Street from State Street to Quarantina. By the 1920s, the tracks ran in front of this home to Milpas. The tracks are still visible when the street is being repaired.

Stephen and Harriet Naylor built this cozy home in 1901 and lived in it as the decades passed and their family grew. Naylor was an Englishman who immigrated to the United States in the 1850s. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was taken prisoner by the Confederates. After settling in Santa Barbara in the 1890s, he was active in veterans’ organizations.

Credit: Courtesy

A Home and a Barn

Naylor was a jack-of-all-trades: deliveryman, grocery store owner, and an active member of the East Side Improvement Club. The family sold hay and ducks and chickens at the home, which shows the rural nature of the area at that time. They also rented out some of their rooms.

The Naylors’ daughter Edith married Frank B. Reily in 1890, and they raised their family here. Two of their sons served in the armed forces during World War I. The family probably hung a flag with two large stars in the front window of the home to represent their sons in the military.

Fortunately, both sons survived the war and the 1918-1919 flu pandemic. One of the sons — Claude Reily — the author of the postcard, later opened an ironwork shop at 423 North Salsipuedes. His father managed the shop.

Robert Escobar, circa 1945. | Credit: Courtesy

Attention to Details​

Claude Reily was a well-respected member of the community. “He has never feared that laborious effort which must always precede ascendancy in the business world and has many friends whose esteem he has won and retained by reason of his high principles and fine personal qualities” (History of Santa Barbara County, California, Michael James Phillips, 1927).

This Queen Anne cottage-style home is very similar to the home at 223 East Victoria that I wrote about in my March 2020 column, which was built at the same time. There are probably numerous other Santa Barbara homes built in this style.

In 1943, the Reilys sold their family home to the second owners — the Eliseo and Christina Escobar family from Stockdale, Texas. The home has remained in the family to this day. The descendants living in the home are Robert Escobar, Martha Fragosa, and John Fragosa. They have fond memories of visiting their grandparents here and attending Christmas parties. 

Credit: Betsy J. Green

There is a sandstone hitching post in front of the home. The number of these posts has dwindled over the years. A count conducted in 1942 turned up 265 hitching posts in our city. By 1975, there were only about 160. And today? I asked S.B. urban historian Nicole Hernandez. She told me that we don’t really know the present number. She suggested that counting/locating hitching posts might be a good project for a local group to undertake.

The home’s owners say they appreciate the generous 10-foot-high ceilings and the convenient location of the house. They are especially proud of the hitching post and told me that they occasionally hear people playing with the iron ring to make a ringing sound. It is a sound that brings back echoes of the past in Santa Barbara.

Please do not disturb the home’s residents.

Airplane Bungalow on East Victoria

Airplane Bungalow on East Victoria

Older Home with a Newer Address

By: Betsy J. Green
 

Address: 610 East Victoria Street

Originally Published in The Santa Barbara Independent

Link to original article here: https://www.independent.com/2021/06/17/airplane-bungalow-on-east-victoria/

As I dig into the history of interesting homes here in Santa Barbara, I sometimes discover homes with addresses that were changed because the house was moved. The home featured here, however, had a change of address, but not a change of location.

The cozy bungalow at 610 East Victoria Street has belonged to the John and Cheri McKinney family since 1993. The home originally had an address on Salsipuedes Street — number 1230. The address was changed in 1989, apparently at the owners’ request. It may have been because Victoria is easier to spell, or because Salsipuedes means “get out if you can” in Spanish. According to Neal Graffy’s book Street Names of Santa Barbara, the street got its name because the southern end was a swampy area.

A Home and a Barn

Oscar William Massee and his wife, Emma, built the home in 1912 for $1,000. Their property included a barn with a hayloft. E.J. Moody was the contractor. 

Massee was a respected plumber. “Fully cognizant of conditions in the modern commercial world and possessing the energy and resourcefulness necessary to cope with them, Oscar William Massee has become one of the successful businessmen of Santa Barbara … [together with his wife,] their attractive home has been the scene of many enjoyable social events.” —History of Santa Barbara County, California, Michael James Phillips, 1927. The local paper added, “Mr. Massee’s shop at 9 East Cota Street has a complete stock and all equipment for doing plumbing and fitting with dispatch.”

The home probably contained top-of-the-line plumbing fixtures. A 1912 book about plumbing lists the five most popular materials used at that time: porcelain, enameled iron, vitreous ware, marble, and soapstone. Surprisingly, porcelain was considered the most expensive.

In the 1940s, Ellen M. Erving, a nurse with the Visiting Nurses Association, was the owner of the home. In 2010, her grandson and his wife knocked on the front door and explained that he had lived in the house as a boy. The McKinneys showed the couple around the home and gave them some ceramic knobs from the attic as souvenirs.

The McKinneys and Steve Dowty are founding members of Santa Barbara’s Bungalow Haven Neighborhood Association, located between the Santa Barbara Bowl and Alameda Park. The McKinneys are keen to preserve their home’s character. Cheri said, “We did a lot of research in bungalow books and magazines and finally settled on the warm complementary accent colors [on the exterior] to add a little historic feel and emphasis to the interesting detailing and features of the house.” Their goal is to avoid the “bungled bungalow.”

Attention to Details​

The McKinneys appreciate the Douglas fir wainscoting in the living room and the leaded-glass windows, and they have even preserved the push-button wall switches, which pre-date the toggle light switches that are so common today. The toggle wall switch, which allows you to flip lights on and off, was not invented until 1917. The original knob-and-tube wiring in the house has been updated. The couple’s attention to detail even extends to the heads of screws in the home. They use screw heads with a single slot. Phillips-head screws were not invented until the 1930s.

Some of the earliest bungalows in the Santa Barbara area were built in 1895 near the Miramar hotel complex. Bungalows are generally one to one-and-a-half stories, often with wide front porches. The 610 East Victoria home, with its small gabled dormer, was sometimes called an airplane bungalow, because the dormer resembled the cockpit of an early plane.

The McKinneys have enjoyed their home’s location near Santa Barbara High School and the Santa Barbara Bowl. Cheri said, “Our children, budding entrepreneurs all the way, learned to schedule their lemonade sales only on concert nights.” Their son was on the high school baseball team, and the team would often come to their home for a barbeque before games.

Please do not disturb the residents of 610 East Victoria Street.

World War I Romance on Anacapa Street

World War I Romance on Anacapa Street​

American Colonial Home in Santa Barbara Built in 1920

By: Betsy J. Green
 

Address: 1924 Anacapa Street

Originally Published in The Santa Barbara Independent

Link to original article here: https://www.independent.com/2021/06/02/world-war-i-romance-on-anacapa-street/

World War I was over, they were married six months later, and the next year, it was time to build their first home. Lieutenant Leland Morris Crawford was a young attorney from Santa Paula, California. In 1917, he was in the U.S. Army, and training at Camp Lewis near Tacoma, Washington, and fell in love with Mae Elizabeth McCormack, a young lady who lived nearby. 

He was in Belgium on November 11, 1918, the day that Armistice was declared. He and his men were poised for an attack at 9:45 in the morning. At 9:30, they got word that the war was over, and they breathed a sigh of relief.

It took a while to get the American troops back home after the war had ended. Lt. Crawford returned in May 1919. He married the young lady in Tacoma and resigned his commission. His bride was a graduate of Stanford University, and the daughter of a successful Tacoma merchant.

They settled in Santa Barbara and looked for a suitable location for their first home. They found a lot on upper Anacapa Street, just down from Mission Street. It’s not clear if the Crawfords hired a local architect, because the 1920 building permit index only lists the name of the builder. He was Elmer J. Moody, the father of the Moody sisters, who designed cottages in the 1930s. The estimated cost for the home was $4,500.

Vintage Photos Are a Treasure

Leland and Mae Crawford’s wedding photo. | Courtesy of Leland Crawford III

When I research old houses, I always look for vintage photos, but they’re not easy to find. This time, I got lucky. I managed to find the grandson of Leland Morris Crawford, who sent me some photos of his grandparents.

The relatives and descendants of former owners of your home are some of the best sources of old photos. One way to find them is by checking genealogy websites. In fact, one chapter in my book Discovering the History of Your House is titled, “Take a Genealogist to Lunch.”

Most current owners of older homes love to find old photos of their home or the families who lived there years ago. If you have old family photos of a former home, why not send a copy to the current homeowner? You could make someone very happy. 

Leland Morris Crawford was a successful attorney and also served as deputy coroner. Mae was active in local groups such as the American Association of University Women and was a charter member of the Assistance League. The Crawfords had three children when they lived in the home. To accommodate their growing family, they built a large addition on the back of the home in 1929. They lived in the home until about 1934, when they moved to a home on Junipero Plaza.

After the Crawfords moved out, a series of families occupied the home until the mid-1960s when Neil and Dorothy J. Pier bought the home. They stayed here for 10 years. In the mid-1970s, Whitney Newland bought the home as an investment, and it was occupied by renters for about 25 years. Finally, in 2001, he and his wife, Judy, moved in. They like that the home is close to town, and they are especially happy with the home’s three fireplaces. “We feel spoiled,” Judy told me.

Mae Crawford and the children: Elizabeth, Leland, and Eleanore. | Courtesy of Leland Crawford III


American Colonial Revival Style

 

The house is a Designated Structure of Merit in the City of Santa Barbara, which states, “The building exemplifies the American Colonial Revival style, which is an important style to the City. The building at 1924 Anacapa has American Colonial Revival elements beginning with the arched portico supported by slender posts and brackets, and the heavy wooden semi-arched door that helps contribute to the symmetrical appearance of the American Colonial Revival style.”

There are more than 25 Structures of Merit on Anacapa Street. Overall, there are about 400 homes and buildings on this list. Of these, only about 10 are American Colonial Style. They were built between the years of 1906 and 1938. This list is available online.

Note: Please do not disturb the residents of 1924 Anacapa Street.

Impressive Adobe Overlooking Cliff Drive

Impressive Adobe Overlooking Cliff Drive

By: Betsy J. Green
 

Address: 1528 Cliff Drive

Originally Published in The Santa Barbara Independent

Link to original article here: https://www.independent.com/2020/10/08/impressive-adobe-overlooking-cliff-drive/

 

It is easy to miss this home as you cruise along the Mesa’s main thoroughfare. It sits above the road, surrounded by lush greenery. But it’s worth slowing down and looking up the hill at this high-style Spanish-Colonial Revival house. In addition to the colorful flowers in the gardens, it has been home to several colorful residents in its 95 years of existence.

       This home is one of five adobes built on either side of La Vista del Oceano, on the north side of Cliff Drive in the mid-1920s. Fred Roskop was the builder. He had lived in Mexico for several years where he learned adobe construction before he settled in Santa Barbara in 1919. In addition to building homes, he was responsible for building the adobe Monterey-style Mihran Building at 17-21 East Carrillo Street.

Courtesy of Wally Ronchietto

Adobe bricks usually measure 20 x 12 x 4 inches, are made of mud, water, and plant materials, and then dried in the sun. But by the 1920s, the traditional method of mixing the ingredients was no longer used. “The time-honored method of working the binder into the mud … is for the workmen to divest themselves of shoes and socks and work the mud with their bare feet. This method is not employed in the present instance, however … the earth is full of pieces of glass and other sharp objects which would play havoc with unprotected soles.” (Santa Barbara Morning Press, January 19, 1922)

The home’s first owners were Thomas G. and Frances E. Ross. Thomas was in the car business, and he also owned a couple of the nearby oil wells. At first, I was shocked by the proximity of the oil well in the old photo. But I suppose if you are pumping money out of the ground, those oil derricks can start to look attractive.

       Before the oil derricks sprouted up on the Mesa in the 1920s, the area was mostly farmland punctuated by a picturesque lighthouse (near today’s La Mesa Park), and the Dibblee mansion (near present-day Santa Barbara City College). The area where the 1528 Cliff Drive home sits today was a 50-acre farm that George and Emma Gaylord bought for $1,000 in 1868. At the time, Cliff Drive was simply called Mesa Road, and was the only access to the Mesa. An article in the local paper stated, “Mr. Geo. Gaylord’s farm … yields abundantly barley, corn and squashes.” (Santa Barbara Weekly Press, June 4, 1881) The Gaylord’s neighbor on the west was Peveril Meigs. George Gaylord died in 1923, and that’s about when Fred Roskop bought the property along Cliff Drive.

Images by Betsy J. Green

The second owners were the Adams family. No, not the Addams Family from TV. They were Charles and Rachel Adams. Rachel was famous as Madame Rosinka, who had her office on Stearns Wharf where she specialized in palm, tarot card, and psychic readings. The Adams owned the home from 1962 to 2011, when they sold to Wally Ronchietto. He is the third and current owner. Wally is an Argentinian who presided over Santa Barbara’s Café Buenos Aires from 1997 to 2011.

Many historical records are unavailable now, and have been for six months, because of the COVID-19 lockdown. The closure of city offices, county offices, and libraries ​— ​while necessary ​— ​makes it hard for house detectives. Some of the information in this month’s column came from a report done by the Post/Hazeltine team for an assessment to designate this home as a City of Santa Barbara Structure of Merit. 

The Post/Hazeltine research team revealed that this home has had multiple house numbers over the years. This can make it difficult to untangle a home’s history. Fortunately, the website for the Gledhill Library at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum has Sanborn maps and city directories (old phone books) available on their website.

Please do not disturb the residents of 1528 Cliff Drive.

A Charming Adobe in the Mesa’s Utopia

Fellowship Society Left Its Mark​

This article was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent.

Link to original article here: https://www.independent.com/2020/09/11/charming-adobe-in-the-mesas-utopia/

Address: 2127 Red Rose Way

Just 100 years ago, a group of Christian Socialists decided that the Mesa would be the perfect site for their Utopian commune. Headed by a minister named George Elmer Littlefield, the Fellowship Society purchased 87 acres on the northwest portion of the Mesa for their dream community in the fall of 1920. The commune lasted only a few years, but it left its mark on the street names in this area: Fellowship Road, Fellowship Lane, and Fellowship Circle. Westwood Drive is named for Littlefield’s hometown. Red Rose Way and Red Rose Lane are named for Littlefield’s publishing company – Red Rose Press.

Charles Christian has lived in this one-story two-bedroom home at 2127 Red Rose Way for 44 years. He bought it in 1976 for $34,000. The price was low, even for that time, says Charles because it was a “fixer,” and had been a rental that suffered from neglect. Over the decades, he has made many improvements – inside and out – in keeping with the adobe’s original character to create a charming home. He showed me an old photo of the home before it had a front porch or garden wall.

An Adobe Surprise

Why did he buy an adobe? Charles said he did not realize his home was adobe until after he moved in and started renovations. When he removed some drywall, he discovered adobe bricks lined with pages of newspapers dated 1923. So then, he knew he had an adobe built in 1923. (This is something to look for when you or your contractors are making changes to your home. Be on the lookout for clues such as old newspapers or documents hidden in the walls.) Charles says he believes that the adobe was dug from the property because the home has a full basement. Another possible source of adobe bricks at this time was the original Lobero Theater that was being dismantled, and the adobe was offered for other construction projects.

The first building to appear on the commune’s property was Ye Fellowship Inn on Cliff Drive. It was a two-story building containing the society’s library, community kitchen and laundry, a co-operative store, and an arts and crafts department. It is still standing, and is now a home surrounded by newer homes. The plan was for families to grow their own fruits and vegetables, and share and share alike.

“The whole tract is to be a place of beauty. The winding roads – treelined – with several small parks . . . all the homes are to be designed to harmonize with this setting . . . the design of every building shall be approved by the Beautiful Homes committee under the guidance of the landscape architect . . . Most of those who are at present planning to build have adopted a semi-fireproof construction of cement, adobe or rock, with vine-shaded roof gardens and Spanish ramadas,” according to the Santa Barbara Morning Press, on May 4, 1921.

All the commune’s homes were built on Red Rose Way. The first owners of the 2127 Red Rose Way home were John J. Hoffman and his wife Emma M. who were originally from Switzerland. Settlement in the commune proceeded slowly. By 1927, there were only six other homes on this street. Nothing was built on the other streets yet.

The Utopian Dream Ends

In 1924, soon after this home was built, oil was discovered on nearby Flora Vista Drive, and practically overnight, the face of the Mesa changed — and so did the attitudes of the commune members. That same year, the California Superior Court formally dissolved the Santa Barbara Fellowship Colony at their request. The Morning Press concluded, “The quest for gold brought about the downfall of the commune. The land adjoins that from which millions are hoped to be realized by oil promoters and shortly before the first well was spudded in, the members of the colony . . . asked for dissolution.”

Please do not disturb the residents of 2127 Red Rose Way.

Betsy J. Green is a Santa Barbara historian and author of Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood, Santa Monica Press, 2002. Her website is betsyjgreen.com.

The Oldest House on the Block

The Oldest House on the Block

324 N Soledad | Credit: Courtesy
 
Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent
 

 

This c. 1900 home at 324 North Soledad Street was the only house on the block until 1917. Built on a small hill between Montecito and Gutierrez streets, on what was then the outskirts of the city, this Queen Anne–style home probably overlooked the city when there were fewer homes and trees in the area. Soledad (pronounced so-LAY-dad) means “solitary” in Spanish.

The home is painted historically appropriate earth-tone colors that owners Chris Emanuel and Paul Lommen had carefully researched. The colors accentuate the home’s original details. The steep slope of its roofline marks it as an older home among the shallower slopes of the newer homes that surround it. The home’s crowning glory is the cheerful sunburst motif that accents the front gable. This was a popular decoration for homes of this vintage. I’ve noticed it on other homes here. Keep an eye out for it as you walk around.

Built by a Pioneer Family

The Blood family posed on the front porch in the 1920s. Back row, from left to right: Addie, Carolyn, Fred, Mabel. Front row: Grace, Mary J., Ella.

The family of James Augustus Blood built the home. Blood and his wife, Mary Josephine Hall Blood, had traveled from Illinois by covered wagon in 1870 and settled in Santa Barbara. The Blood family came here because a relative, also named James A. Blood, had settled on a farm in Carpinteria in 1867. (My research was made especially challenging because both men shared the same name and died within a year of each other. The James A. Blood who built this home was referred to as James A. Blood Junior to distinguish him from the Carpinteria farmer, although the farmer was his uncle, not his father.)

The Bloods raised six children in Santa Barbara — several of whom spent their adult lives in this home. The most prominent was Alice Mabel Blood, who was an accomplished painter and had been Saint Barbara and the Festival Queen in the Flower Festival parades of the 1890s.

James A. Blood was in the real estate business and was co-owner with Francis H. Knight of the House-Furnishing Emporium on State Street near Ortega. The store sold furniture — everything from baby carriages to coffins. The company once caused a controversy, according to Walker A. Tompkins. In his newspaper column in 1971, he wrote that in the 1880s, the firm of Blood and Knight put a huge sign on the side of a building facing Stearns Wharf that read: “BLOOD AND KNIGHT, UNDERTAKERS. COFFINS AT LOW PRICES.” “Since many of Santa Barbara’s winter visitors in the 1880s were in their terminal illnesses, the advertising of Blood and Knight — not too euphonious a name in itself — was enough to chill the marrow. So vociferous were the civic protests, that the controversial sign was finally removed.”

 

History from Near and Far

 

It pays to network when you are curious about the history of your house. Chris learned from a neighbor that her home’s property had been much larger in the past and that the family had several farm animals. This was corroborated by a 1909 ad that I found in the local paper for a “milch” (milk) cow for sale at the 324 N. Soledad home.

A few months after the current owners moved into the home in 1990, a woman knocked on the door and explained that her grandfather had built the home. Along with some information about the home’s past, she had a 1920s photo of the Blood family posed on the porch. A porch post can be seen next to the family members — the same post that is there today. Also original to the home is the large pair of pocket doors separating the front parlor from the family room.

Chris Emanuel remembers falling in love with the house 30 years ago. “When I saw it, I knew this was the one. The house has a very welcoming feel to it. It has been very nicely redone and still retains a lot of the original character. There is a lot of very lovely woodwork throughout the house and a great old Mexican pepper tree in the back.”

Betsy J. Green is a Santa Barbara historian and author of Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood, Santa Monica Press, 2002. Her website is betsyjgreen.com.

A Classic Colonial Revival Home

A Classic Colonial Revival Home


Cherished Santa Barbara Street House Full of Memories Galore

While the stately home at 2405 Santa Barbara Street has been owned by the Graffy family for more than 55 years, it was built about 1923 for Harvey T. and Hazel Nielson. Nielson was a three-term mayor of Santa Barbara who had roots in Michigan, which probably explains the home’s style. Colonial Revival homes are more common in the Midwest and east of the Mississippi. The home was designed by Floyd E. Brewster, who worked with George Washington Smith and Lutah Maria Riggs. While Smith and his associates are best known for Spanish Colonial Revival–style architecture, they all designed other styles as well.

Brewster was from upstate New York where he had worked as an architect before moving to California. His background on the East Coast may have been why the Nielsons asked him to design their home. The Graffys are proud possessors of the original blueprints. In addition to this home, Brewster worked on designs for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Casa del Herrero, and Santa Barbara Middle School.

Colonial Revival’s Origin

C. 1940 photo of the home

The 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia triggered the Colonial Revival style. Styles common prior to this time, such as Greek Revival, Italianate, and Gothic Revival, had used European styles as a starting point. But as our country celebrated its century mark, architects began to look back at our own past for inspiration. Colonial Revival was the most popular type of domestic architecture in the United States from 1910 to 1930. Here in Santa Barbara, however, the style was eclipsed by Spanish Colonial Revival, especially after the 1925 earthquake.

The home at 2405 Santa Barbara Street is a picture-book example of a Colonial Revival: a symmetrical facade with windows framed by shutters. The front door is topped with an elliptical fanlight window and flanked by sidelight windows. Four slender columns support a prominent entry porch.

When you walk in the front door, the main staircase rises grandly in front of you. Erin Graffy, who grew up in the house, told me that this staircase had been off limits for her and her siblings when they were kids. She led me through the kitchen and showed me the maid’s stairs in the back, which were the only ones the kids were allowed to use. The only exception was one time a year, when the children could use the main stairs to come down on Christmas morning.

The maid’s room, in the back of the house on the second floor, has a nice view of the large backyard. The room is next to the laundry chute that was used to send laundry downstairs. According to Neal Graffy, who also spent his formative years here, the chute was occasionally used for other purposes!

Most of the floors are white or red oak, and there is a small brass plate in the center of the dining room floor. It formerly held a button that could be stepped on to discretely summon the maid. The maid’s room has a floor made of fir — a type of conifer with a straight grain that was commonly used in kitchens and porches. The closets are lined with fragrant cedar wood — a natural moth repellent. Cove molding tops the living and dining room ceilings.

 

Original blueprint created by Floyd E. Brewster, 1923

Dr. Edward J. Lamb and his wife, Louise, the second owners, bought the home in 1936. Lamb was the founder of the Santa Barbara Children’s Medical Clinic. He was also a member of the Rancheros Visitadores, and a large backyard barbecue was the gathering place for many of the group’s members, some of whom came on horseback.

The home’s next owners were attorneys Lawrence M. Parma and Elizabeth H. Parma. In 1963, Chuck and Jeanne Graffy bought the home and raised their family of five children. Chuck had been a test pilot and Jeanne played a prominent role in city and county government. Their children have fond memories of their years in this home on Santa Barbara’s Upper Eastside.

Victorian Home Under a Majestic Tree

Victorian Home Under a Majestic Tree

The c. 1884 home of Kay and Frank Stevens is clothed in soft shades of yellow and green and nestled in an award-winning garden (Santa Barbara Beautiful, March 2012). The Stevens have lived here under the shade of the ancient camphor tree on the corner of Valerio and Laguna streets since 1996. They are only the home’s sixth owners. This Victorian farmhouse constructed of redwood with its elaborate bay windows was built by Henry and Eliza Keller. Henry was a cabinetmaker, and the interior woodwork reflects his attention to detail.

According to an 1898 bird’s-eye-view pictorial map, this was the first house on the block. The home’s original property stretched 100 feet along Valerio and 225 feet along Laguna. I checked the Sanborn maps online at the Historical Museum’s Gledhill Library website which showed this home for the years 1907, 1930, and 1950. I could see how the home became surrounded by newer homes over the years. One interesting tidbit that I learned from the maps is that there was an outhouse in the home’s backyard as late as 1907. One wonders when the home first had an indoor bathroom.

                                                                       A Troubled Time

Another source of information about older homes is newspapers – many of which are online now. I discovered several articles in the 19-teens about William and Louise Pestor, the home’s third owners. Pestor was German born, and ran into trouble during World War I because of anti-German sentiment at that time.

In 1917, Pestor applied for U.S. citizenship. He stated that he was doing so to benefit his American wife who had lost her U.S. citizenship when she married him. (Before 1922, a woman who married a non-citizen lost her citizenship status.) When asked about his attitude toward U.S. involvement in World War I, he gave some responses that were deemed unsatisfactory.

His request for citizenship was denied. The Morning Pressannounced on September 8, 1917: “WILLIAM PESTOR ALLEGIANCE IN DOUBT . . . William Pestor has been denied admission to citizenship because . . . he is not willing to give entire allegiance to our country.” In 1920, Pestor and his wife left Santa Barbara, and rented the home until selling it in 1944.

           

                                                             History Came Knocking – Twice

Sometimes you have to look for history; sometimes it finds you. About 15 years ago, a couple of women knocked on the door of this home. They explained that they had grown up in the home in the 1940s and 50s. They mentioned that their family’s bedrooms were on the first floor of the home, and that the second-floor bedrooms had been rented to girls who were studying at the college on the Riviera. The Stevens were surprised to hear that as many as nine students had lived on the second floor, sharing four bedrooms and one bathroom.

One of the former students dropped by another time, and shared interesting tales of the students’ hijinks in the home. The students attended the University of California Santa Barbara College, which was located at what is now the Riviera Theater and the Riviera Park on Alameda Padre Serra.

What do the Stevens like about their home? The home’s history is at the top of their list. Kay told me, “We are so fortunate to have good detail . . .  it was one of the earlier homes in this neighborhood and, to us, it has a lot of personality. When people see it for the first time, they are pretty impressed.”

“Also, we like the proximity to downtown. Ordinarily, that means walking to restaurants and movies. Hopefully that will happen again! Especially now . . . when we don’t have much to do, we take walks every day and have many choices of places to explore.”

What’s her advice for people considering buying an older home? “The obvious thing is to be aware of . . . the upkeep they will face in the future. Be prepared financially and with some energy to do what will be necessary.”

Please do not disturb the residents.

All photos by Betsy J. Green

335 E VALERIO - BAY WINDOW