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

Become a Sponsor for the 2021 KDA Calendar

 
Every year, Kids Draw Architecture (KDA) brings children and architects together to sketch important Santa Barbara buildings.
 
This unique year of the Covid-19 Pandemic, KDA created a special Sketch From Home opportunity to keep kids drawing and working on the skill. The delightful drawings we have in store for 2021 show new images of the built environment with creativity and joy.
 

KDA Calendar Sponsors, will be included on the outside back cover of the 2021 Calendar and include AFSB membership.

Deadline: August 21

Queen Anne Cottage on the Streetcar Line

Queen Anne Cottage on the Streetcar Line

Built in 1905 for $2,000

Address: 223 East Victoria Street

Status: Not on the market

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent

Link to published article here: https://www.independent.com/category/real-estate/the-great-house-detective/

The streetcar no longer runs along Victoria Street, but it did in 1905 when widow Ella Stockton Hunter built her home at 223 East Victoria Street for $2,000. Ella and her husband had owned a lemon orchard in Montecito, but after he passed away, she relocated closer to town. Her decision was likely influenced by the presence of the streetcar line and other conveniences. Today, the house at 223 East Victoria Street is the home of Phil and Maureen Mayes.

In 1905, the streetcars in Santa Barbara had been electrified for a decade, and the tracks stretched from West Cabrillo Boulevard near the Potter Hotel, up State Street to Victoria Street near the Arlington Hotel, where the line split into two branches.

                    223 E. Victoria Streetcar.                                                Photo: Courtesy John Woodward

The western branch ran up Bath Street to Pueblo and Castillo Streets, near Cottage Hospital. The other branch ran east along Victoria Street, passing right by the house standing at 223 East Victoria Street. At Garden Street, the streetcar turned and ran uphill to the Santa Barbara Mission.

By hopping on the streetcar at the nearby stop, Ella Hunter could either travel to the stores, restaurants, and theaters downtown, or ride up to the Mission. The streetcars operated along this network until 1929.

The home at 223 East Victoria Street was built during a time period when Queen Anne–style cottages were gradually being replaced by Craftsman-style bungalows. Its large bay window in the living room and charming leafy cutouts in the trim under the eaves are features that hark back to the Victorian era.

Pre-dating Sears Catalog homes and Pacific Ready-Cut homes, this house appears to have been based instead upon a design in a national pattern book or architectural magazine. A photo of an almost identical house in Mississippi (pictured right), found in the book A Field Guide to American Houses, furthers that theory.

223 E. Victoria Street lookalike house.

Photo: A Field Guide to American Houses, Virginia and Lee McAlester, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1985

                   

Pattern books have been around for centuries. They contain drawings or photos of homes, along with floor plans. People could order the plans and give them to a local builder. Lumberyards often supplied these books in the hopes that customers would order the plans and then buy the materials for the house from the lumberyard.

Like many older homes, this house has some mysteries. A patch in the hardwood floor on the second story may indicate the position of a missing chimney. Chimneys in many local homes were toppled in the 1925 earthquake.

On the staircase leading up to the second story, the current owners discovered the outline of a doorway. The Mayes speculate that the second floor was originally accessed by a pull-down ladder and that the stairway was a later addition.

The home originally had a wraparound porch that is now enclosed. The 1907 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the original footprint of the house. These maps are available on the Gledhill Library pages of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum’s website and can be useful when researching the history of older homes.

Phil and Maureen Mayes are keeping close to home these days because of the COVID-19 virus, but they shared that they appreciate living just a few blocks from State Street. Fortunately, they are very good at keeping company with each other since they are the authors of How Two: Have a Successful Relationship.

 

223 E VIC 3 - PHIL & MAUREEN

                                            Phil and Maureen Mayes.                   Photo: Betsy J. Green

               

What do the Mayes like about their home? Maureen says, “Old houses have quirks just
like I do and this one has lots of little nooks and crannies so that it feels like there is always a new way to be in it.” Phil says, “I like old houses. I think one reason that people are subconsciously taken with antiques and old things in general is precisely because they (the antiques) have existed unchanged for a long time and hence have a feeling of constancy, a comforting feeling in an uncertain, changing world.” That’s something we can all appreciate in these strange times.

Please do not disturb the residents.

Details of the house:

                                                                                                 CREDIT: Betsy J. Green

HSDC Winners for 2020!

We are proud to announce the winners of this year’s competition!

Winners of HSDC 2020

names match from left to right*

Emilia Thomas, a junior at Santa Barbara High, won first place.

Ellie Gleason, a freshman at Dos Pueblos High in Goleta, won second place.

Luming Cao, a senior from Laguna Blanca High School in Santa Barbara won third place.

Larson Ladinig, a senior and Olivia Doman, a sophomore, both from Santa Ynez Valley High were awarded Honorable Mentions. 

Congratulations on all who participated! It was a joy to have this competition despite the complications due to Covid-19 and we look forward to another year of the High School Design Competition!

For more details, visit our High School Design Competition Page through the Education tab to read an article written by our Executive Director Rocio Iribe! 

The Dark and Cryptic in Indiana

The Dark and Cryptic in Indiana

Constructed in the 1800s this phantom-rich house was built in the shape of a cross that faces east. That in itself is strange, but there is nothing else that is common to this house declared to be one of the “notoriously haunted properties in America.” The house sits on a crossroads and has a list of ghastly deaths that have occurred within its walls.

The home and land, located at 132 S Union Street in Cuyuga, Indiana is documented to have a strong Native American connection. There was a major battle very near where the house sits today. To add to its mystery, there are ancient burial sites around the area and two rivers converge in the tiny town. A strange book was found buried beneath the old floor that deals in Necromancy and other occult practices. Could all these factors contribute to the intensity of haunting in this property? Many believe it does!

Enchanting French Regency Villa​

Enchanting French Regency Villa

Montecito Gem Designed by Lutah Maria Riggs

Address: 818 Hot Springs Road

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent

Link to published article here: https://bit.ly/2yHXn0U

 

It was 1934 — the middle of the Great Depression — and the world’s economy was on its knees. Jobs were scarce, money was tight, and the building industry was cut to the bone. Santa Barbara architect Lutah Maria Riggs must have been very happy to land the assignment to design a French Regency villa in Montecito. Located at 818 Hot Springs Road, a short distance down the hill from Mountain Drive, the home was her only major project of that year. 

The original address of the residence was 1028 Hot Springs Road, but it was changed to 818 Hot Springs in the 1950s. The practice of changing a house number or name is not uncommon and is a factor that house historians keep in mind when doing research.

 

 

                                                        Lutah Maria Riggs         Photo: Santa Barbara Historical Museum

At just over two acres, the property that the home occupies was carved out of a larger estate. At the time, the home was known as Les Chênes, meaning “The Oaks” in French. The name does not seem to be in use currently.

According to an article about the home in Architectural Forum in July 1937, the oak trees on the property were instrumental in the positioning of the house: “The character of this house was set by the owner’s requirements and its layout by the character of the site. The owner wanted a modernized French design… A natural alley of live oaks determined the placement of the living room, and the strung-out plan was dictated by the contours and the view of the sea below.”

A writer for the Los Angeles Times described her visit to the home on June 21, 1939: “This is an enchanting French pavilion, a part of the French Riviera hidden away on Hot Springs Road in Montecito… There is so much that is wonderful. A two-mile view to the ocean — fireplaces in every room — marble floors throughout the house… Quite as lovely as the house are the many gardens of the estate. A formal French garden is laid out at clipped right-angles, while an adjoining camellia garden overflows informally into the patio where breakfast is served on summer mornings.” The home’s gardens are said to have been designed by Lockwood de Forest Jr. of Santa Barbara.

Dr. Volker M. Welter at the Department of History of Art & Architecture at UCSB is working on a book about Riggs. Welter visited the home and called it “one of the best houses Riggs designed in the early 1930s.” He added, “The floorplan of the originally one-story tall … home strings together a masterly sequence of a central, rectangular living room with an oval-shaped, most beautifully proportioned dining room and service spaces to one side, and an octagonal, wood-paneled library to the other side from where also to access three bedrooms.”

Welter also discovered a secret room in the home. He commented, “Riggs calls that ‘secret’ room a ‘radio room’ but from my study of the surviving drawings, I was not able to establish how one could access that room, other than squeezing an impossible thin person through a storage space inside the walls.”

        Santa Barbara Historical Museum.                       Photo: courtesy Santa Barbara Historical Museum

The home’s first owners — Allen Breed Walker and his wife, Katherine Frisbee Walker — had connections in show business. Walker was in the hotel industry, and the couple lived in La Quinta, near Palm Springs. The Walkers became close friends with actress Marie Dressler, a famous stage comedian who also worked in silent movies and sound films. She costarred with Charlie Chaplin in the 1914 film Tillie’s Punctured Romance

In 1934, Dressler fell ill and spent the last months of her life in a cottage on a Montecito estate owned by CKG Billings. The Walkers stayed and took care of her there until she passed away. The following year, they built their home under the oaks.

818 Hot Springs Road was sold at auction on February 24, 2020. The escrow is still pending. The sales price will be disclosed within 30 days of close of escrow. For more information, visit conciergeauctions.com. Please do not disturb the current residents.


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.