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.

Architect’s Ideal Craftsman Home

Architect’s Ideal Craftsman Home

Craftsman Home Has Been Loved Through the Years​

Address: 212 West Valerio Street
Status: Not on the market

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent

Link to the original publication here : https://bit.ly/34gCNQY

 

Architect Adam Sharkey and his wife, Jill, had lived in Santa Barbara’s upper downtown neighborhood for years and had long admired the home at 212 West Valerio Street. “I imagined that one day we would live there,” said Adam. “We loved the large front porch, the architectural character of the house, the large cut-sandstone walls, and the front rose garden. So, when it was listed for sale in 2015, I told my wife that we had to buy it.”

The home at 212 West Valerio Street is a large Craftsman home, constructed in approximately 1908. The Craftsman style, popular from 1905 to 1930, typically features classic, clean lines in contrast with the ornate style of the earlier Victorian era. 

Much larger than most other Craftsman homes found in Santa Barbara, this particular home is also noticeable for its hipped roof. The classic reference book A Field Guide to American Houses, by Virginia Savage McAlester, notes that only about five percent of Craftsman homes are of the two-story, hipped-roof variety.

Nevertheless, this home has many defining characteristics of the Craftsman style: a low-pitched roof with wide eaves supported by exposed rafters, square porch posts, and clapboard and shingle siding. The slightly flared roofline and elegant curved line on the second-floor porch give it an extra dash of curb appeal.

The city’s Historic Landmarks Commission has listed this home on its Structures of Merit list, and notes that this house “is characteristic of the type of houses built for Santa Barbara’s prosperous tradesmen and middle class during the early 20th century.” Fittingly, the first resident of 212 West Valerio Street owned a jewelry store, and the second owned an automotive business, both of which were located on State Street.

When looking into the origin of the house, it appears that a couple from Calistoga, California, named Oscar and Katherine Fitch bought a house on the large lot on the northwest corner of Valerio and De la Vina Streets in 1906. Later that year, they applied for a building permit to build another house on the west side of their property. The second home’s estimated construction cost was $4,000, according to the building permit. The home does not appear on the 1907 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, so it must have been built shortly after that. While the Fitches’ original home no longer exists, this second home is the home now standing at 212 West Valerio Street.

                       Eaves Jewelry

 

According to the 1908 Santa Barbara City Directory, the Eaves family were the first residents of the home. Old city directories, available at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the Central Library, and the Genealogical Society library, provide great research tools.

The head of the family was Leonora Eaves, the owner of a jewelry and watch store established in Santa Barbara in 1883. Residing with Leonora were her daughter, also named Leonora, and her son, Albert T. Eaves, the deputy county clerk.

A few years later, the Eaves family moved out, and the Fitch family moved in. Yes, they moved from almost next door into their other house at 212 West Valerio Street. Oscar Fitch owned an automobile dealership downtown that sold REO cars, named for manufacturer Ransom Eli Olds, whose surname later morphed into Oldsmobile.

                     Vintage Newspaper Ad

 

After the Fitches moved out, the house had several subsequent owners until 1947. In that year, Harry S. Wilson, a teacher at Santa Barbara Junior High School, and his wife, Myrtle W. Wilson, bought the home. They and their descendants owned the home for an amazing 68 years, up until 2015, when it was purchased by the Sharkeys. Clearly, the Wilsons’ tenure indicates that they also considered it an ideal house.

The Sharkeys have remained true to the home’s architectural style with the updates they have made. Experts agree, since one of their bathroom makeovers was featured in Old House Journal magazine. 

Adam gives the following advice to owners of older homes: “Look to preserve and enhance the character of the best qualities of the house. Bring interior items up-to-date in ways that work with the original house.” Ideal advice, indeed!

Please do not disturb this home’s 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.

 

1875 Second Empire Home​

The dark histories behind these architectural gems are as spooky as they are beautiful… Take a tour with me as I explore stunning structures and spooky locations to discover why visitors to these haunts never want to leave – even after death.

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Southern U.S Folklore and the Bell Witch Haunting

 

The Bell Witch or Bell Witch Haunting is a legend from Southern United States folklore, centered on the 19th-century Bell family of northwest Robertson County, Tennessee. John Bell Sr., who made his living as a farmer, resided with his family along the Red River in an area currently near the town of Adams. According to legend, from 1817-1821, his family and the local area came under attack by a mostly invisible entity that was able to speak, affect the physical environment, and shapeshift. Some accounts record the spirit also to have been clairvoyant and capable of crossing long distances with superhuman speed (and/or of being in more than one place at a time).

In 1894, newspaper editor Martin V. Ingram published his Authenticated History of the Bell Witch. The book is widely regarded as the first full-length record of the legend and a primary source for subsequent treatments. The individuals recorded in the work were known historical personalities. In modern times, some skeptics have regarded Ingram’s efforts as a work of historical fiction or fraud. Other researchers consider Ingram’s work a nascent folklore study and an accurate reflection of belief in the region during the 19th century.

While not a fundamental element of the original recorded legend, the Bell Witch Cave in the 20th century became a source of continuing interest, belief, and generation of lore. Contemporary artistic interpretations such as in film and music have expanded the reach of the legend beyond the regional confines of the Southern United States.

An artist’s sketching of the Bell home, originally published in 1894 (shown below). In his book An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, author Martin Van Buren Ingram published that the poltergeist’s name was Kate, after the entity claimed at one point to be “Old Kate Batts’ witch,” and continued to respond favorably to the name. The physical activity centered on the Bells’ youngest daughter, Betsy, and her father, and ‘Kate’ expressed particular displeasure when Betsy became engaged to a local named Joshua Gardner.

The haunting began sometime in 1817 when John Bell witnessed the apparition of a strange creature resembling a dog. Bell fired at the animal but it disappeared. John’s son Drew Bell approached an unknown bird perched on a fence that flew off and was of “extraordinary size.” The daughter Betsy observed a girl in green dress swinging from the limb of an oak tree. Dean, a slave of the Bell family, reported being followed by a large black dog on evenings he visited his wife. Activity moved to the Bell household with knocking heard along the door and walls. The family heard sounds of gnawing on the beds, invisible dogs fighting, and chains along the floor. About this time John Bell began experiencing paralysis in his mouth. The phenomena grew in intensity as sheets were pulled from beds when the children slept. Soon the entity pulled hair and scratched the children with particular emphasis on Betsy who was slapped, pinched and stuck with pins.

The Bells turned to a family friend James Johnston for help. After retiring for the evening at the Bell home, Johnston was awakened that night by the same phenomena. That morning he told John Bell it was a “spirit, just like in the Bible.” Soon word of the haunting spread with some traveling great distances to see the witch. The apparition began to speak out loud and was asked, “Who are you and what do you want?” and the voice answered feebly, “I am a spirit; I was once very happy but have been disturbed.” The spirit offered diverse explanations of why it had appeared, tying its origin to the disturbance of a Native American burial mound located on the property, and sent Drew Bell and Bennett Porter on an unproductive search for buried treasure. With the emergence of full conversations, the spirit repeated word for word two sermons given 13 miles apart at the same time. The entity was well acquainted with Biblical text and appeared to enjoy religious arguments. As another amusement, the witch shared gossip about activities in other households, and at times appeared to leave for brief moments to visit homes after an inquiry.

John Johnston, a son of James, devised a test for the witch, something no one outside his family would know, asking the entity what his Dutch step-grandmother in North Carolina would say to the slaves if she thought they did something wrong. The witch replied with his grandmother’s accent, “Hut tut, what has happened now?” In another account, an Englishman stopped to visit and offered to investigate. On remarking on his family overseas, the witch suddenly began to mimic his English parents. Again at early morning, the witch woke him to voices of his parents worried as they had heard his voice as well. The Englishman quickly left that morning and later wrote to the Bell family that the entity had visited his family in England. He apologized for his skepticism.

At times, the spirit displayed a form of kindness, especially towards Lucy, John Bell’s wife, “the most perfect woman to walk to earth.” The witch would give Lucy fresh fruit and sing hymns to her, and showed John Bell Jr. a measure of respect.

Referring to John Bell Sr. as “Old Jack,” the witch claimed she intended to kill him and signaled this intention through curses, threats and afflictions. The story climaxes with the Bell patriarch being poisoned by the witch. Afterward the entity interrupted the mourners by singing drinking songs. In 1821, as a result of the witch’s entreatment, Betsy Bell called off her engagement to Joshua Gardner. Subsequently, the entity told the family it was going to leave, but return in seven years in 1828. The witch returned on time to Lucy and her sons Richard and Joel with similar activities as before, but they chose not to encourage it, and the witch appeared to leave again.

Several accounts say that during his military career, Andrew Jackson was intrigued with the story and his men were frightened away after traveling to investigate. In an independent oral tradition recorded in the vicinity of Panola County, Mississippi, the witch was the ghost of an unpleasant overseer John Bell murdered in North Carolina. In this tradition, the spirit falls in love with the central character ‘Mary’, leading to her death.

In the manuscript attributed to Richard Williams Bell, he wrote that the spirit remained a mystery.

“Whether it was witchery, such as afflicted people in past centuries and the darker ages, whether some gifted fiend of hellish nature, practicing sorcery for selfish enjoyment, or some more modern science akin to that of mesmerism, or some hobgoblin native to the wilds of the country, or a disembodied soul shut out from heaven, or an evil spirit like those Paul drove out of the man into the swine, setting them mad; or a demon let loose from hell, I am unable to decide; nor has any one yet divined its nature or cause for appearing, and I trust this description of the monster in all forms and shapes, and of many tongues, will lead experts who may come with a wiser generation, to a correct conclusion and satisfactory explanation.”

— Williams Bell, An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch




Graves and Gambling in Gaviota State Park

Memory and tragedy converge in the layered history of Gaviota State Park, where ghosts of different eras remain...

In the early 1800s, a great battle was said to have taken place in Gaviota between the Native Americans of the area and Spanish soldiers. Although the Native Americans had already marked the graves of their fallen with Indian totems, seashells, etc, Spanish priests later replaced these “headstones” with Christian crosses, granted supposedly out of respect and reverence for the deceased. With more than 100 graves marked thus, the area became known as Las Cruces or The Crosses.

 

Around 1850, with the area now belonging to California and the United States, the crosses were sadly removed and the area became a stage coach stop. The stage coach stop eventually became a hotel and saloon before becoming a notorious gambling hall and brothel. Over the years, the graves of over 100 Native Americans were lost, now lying unmarked. When the stage coach line closed in 1901, along with the recent railroad expansion in the area, Las Cruces began to decline. It operated briefly as a roadside cafe and gas station in the twenties, but eventually was abandoned, before becoming part of Gaviota State Park in 1967.

 

 

Very little now remains, basically the remnants of one structure, massively dilapidated, but still barely standing, holding on to what Las Cruces use to be. But ghosts still linger.

The apparitions of three prostitutes still ply their trade in the ruins of the old adobe. According to legend, two of them were strangled by an insane customer and the third committed suicide. They appear standing inside the building, oblivious to its current state, apparently still believing the building is a standing brothel. Another ghost, one wearing a knee length black coat and a wide brimmed hat, is said to have been a gunfighter who died in a gun fight on the premises. And, of course, at night the structure is surrounded and haunted by the restless spirits of the Native Americans whose graves still lie unmarked, now strangled with weeds. It is said that ghosts still dwell at this coach stop. Three of them being unsettled prostitutes. According to legend, two were strangled to death by an insane customer and one took her own life. 

Register Now for 2020 High School Design Competition!

We are excited to present the 2020 High School Design Competition in Santa Barbara County! 

Sharpen your pencils and get your calculators ready! 

The High School Design Competition will be kicking off this year on Tuesday, March 10th at 7:30 am at the Santa Ynez Union High School or Direct Relief, Santa Barbara.

We look forward to seeing you there! 

Lingering and Sentimental Spirits in The Merchant House

A house preserved from the 19th century, ghosts included.

 

The Merchant House, a historic row house turned museum, stands at 29 East 4th Street and today is considered one of the best preserved federal buildings in New York City. But long before tourists walked through its Greek Revival style halls, the house was occupied by the Tredwells, a wealthy Manhattan family. The five-story brick structure was purchased by Seabury Tredwell for $18,000 in 1835. During the late 1830’s, Mr. Tredwell moved his wife and children into the Merchant House and prepared for the birth of their eighth child, the only one to be born at their new home – and the only one to never leave.

As the legend goes, the youngest Tredwell, Gertrude, grew up surrounded by all the modern luxuries, ornate décor and beautiful, lavish furnishings money could buy, many still on display at the Museum. In her twenties, Gertrude fell madly in love with a Catholic doctor named Lewis Walton. However, the Tredwells were strict, God-fearing Protestants and Seabury immediately quashed the affair, separating the couple forever and breaking poor Gertrude’s heart. While her parents died shortly thereafter, Gertrude promised to never disobey her father’s wishes, and remained unwed to any mortal soul.

In 1909, at sixty-nine years old, Gertrude was the last remaining Tredwell and the House’s only occupant. She was largely considered a recluse and a spinster, wholly and faithfully committed to keeping her home in the same exact manner as it was kept during her childhood. She proceeded through life alone, barren of friends, family or romance, the house her only partner. When she finally died in 1933, Gertrude left the Merchant House in pristine period condition, making the project a quick transition from living quarters to public museum.

According to The Big Book of New York Ghost Stories, Gertrude’s spirit has been glimpsed many times lingering about the old mansion. There are countless reports of a Gertrude’s ghastly figure gliding up the stairs and through the halls, refusing to abandon her perfect home even years after her demise. Clear notes coming from the House’s broken piano have allegedly been heard streaming from the parlor window and onto the street for passersby to enjoy, even when the museum was locked and empty. Teacups have been known to uproot themselves from the shelves and scatter about the kitchen and dining room. And a cool breeze emanates throughout the upstairs room where Gertrude last laid her head.

The Schenck Mansion Lingering Residents

One of Indiana’s most outstanding examples of the Second Empire style, the Schenck Mansion is individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. “The house on the hill” is located in the beautiful Ohio River town of Vevay. Built by Benjamin Franklin Schenck, son of a fabulously wealthy “hay king” of the steamboat era, this palatial mansion was the marvel of its time with its four storied tower, thirty-five rooms from basement to attic and five baths. This house was built in 1874 at a total cost of $67,000. Its four-story tower with a mansard roof measuring 74 feet tall, bay windows, high ceilings and spacious rooms are characteristic of the architecture of the time. The architect of record was George P. Humphries of Cincinnati. Amazingly, the original architect’s plans have remained with the mansion.

In November 1874, on account of failing health, he and his family spent the winter and spring in Florida. He was able to spend the next two summers in his newly finished mansion in Vevay, but returned to Jacksonville, Florida where he died in April of 1877 at the age of 42. Mr. Schenck died before his palatial home was finished. Mrs. Celestine Schenck lived in the mansion intermittently until her death in December 1885. A ghostly lady in white Victorian dress haunts the second floor. She is said to walk the hallways, taking no notice of anyone around her. Guests also have reported hearing voices, footsteps, and something moving in their rooms at night.