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

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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