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Victorian Cribs of the Upper East
updated: Feb 09, 2013, 11:00 AM
By the Urban Hikers (Stacey Wright & Peter Hartmann)
The earliest days in the City of Santa Barbara saw three distinct architectural styles: huts of the Native
Americans, adobes with red tile roofs and wooden structures, which many of the newest settlers
preferred due to their economy and tradition.
Prior to 1872 when Stearn's Wharf was operational, most cargo arriving in Santa Barbara was simply off-
loaded beyond the waves and allowed to float ashore. This included lumber for many of Santa Barbara's
first wooden structures. In fact, when attempting to estimate the age of an old buildings in Santa
Barbara, many take into consideration the width of the clapboard siding; boards 8"-10" wide most likely
arrived on the tide, but with the opening of the wharf, more narrow siding began to appear. The owner
of one of the Upper East Victorians included in this story has owned his home for nearly 30 years, and
attributes the fact that he has never had a termite problem with his belief the boards used in the
construction of his home were thoroughly "treated" with saltwater on their way to Santa Barbara from
Victorian architecture is not defined by a particular style, but rather by the era in which they were built.
During the reign of England's Queen Victoria between 1838 and 1901 this style dominated. Victorian
architecture includes the frilly Queen Anne, the more simplistic Italianate, French mansards and Gothic
Today, many of Santa Barbara's earliest wooden structures are still in use as single family homes and
apartments, and many have been designated as Potential Historic Structures. Located in every part of
town, we chose just a few of the one-of a-kind Victorians in roughly the Upper East. We fudged a bit on
the boundary to include a Victorian on E. Figueroa Street because of its unique style and history. We'll
also show you one of many prefab Victorians, which were very popular in the late 1800's and early
1900's. Perhaps one day we'll devote an entire story to Santa Barbara's Victorian prefabs, some of
which came from Sears & Roebuck, Montgomery Wards and other popular merchants.
Beginning with the earliest, and working chronologically by date of construction, the following
Victorians are truly local gems.
This home, located at 1635 Garden Street is believed to have been built in 1875. Originally owned by
Wheeler Pierce, this beautiful home remained in the Pierce family for nearly seventy years. A farmer by
trade, Mr. Pierce had both crops and livestock on the property. Although it has been renovated and
additions have been made to it over the years, we love it, and especially love that the hedge stops at the
entry gate, allowing a peek into the property from the corner of and Garden and Valerio Streets.
Built a year after the Pierce House, this Victorian, at 131 E. Arrellaga Street was constructed in 1876. Its
current owners have lived in and loved this home for the past 28 years. They believe that the redwood 2
by 4's used to build it were floated down from Northern California, and that thanks to a good soaking of
saltwater, the termites have gone elsewhere for meals. Architect Peter Barber, who was at the time one
of Santa Barbara's most notable architects, designed the Italianate home for the John More (of More
Mesa) family. John was the son of T. Wallace More, a wealthy Goleta Valley rancher. Interestingly, square
nails were used, which also helps date the home's construction date.
The More family lived in the home until 1936, later leasing it to neighbor Mrs. Stanley McCormick for
her servants' quarters and guest rooms. By 1960, the home was owned by a Mr. Pollard, who also leased
it to Mrs. McCormick, until about 1968. For a period of time the house was used as a shelter for
battered women,and it was cut up into apartment-style housing. In1985 the current owners purchased
the property and have made efforts to restore it to its original condition.
This Victorian at 15 E. Valerio Street was constructed in 1883 in the French Second Empire style. As you
can see, this style of architecture features thicker, chunkier lines, bay windows and multiple dormers.
The original owner of the home was Charles W. Gorham, the manager of Santa Barbara Lumber Co. He
and his family lived in the home for about 40 years.
In 1937 the First National Trust and Savings Bank owned the property, and by 1939 a Mr. Corrill S.
Partch had legally turned it into an apartment house with five apartments and a "guest room". He later
converted the home to a simple duplex. In 1967 Margaret Littlejohn became the owner of the property
and in 1972, she, four developers and a bank applied for a conditional use permit for a commercial
development. The request was denied and the property continued to be used as an apartment building.
In 1984 one of the residents was busted for running an ad in the News Press, billing the Victorian as a
bed & breakfast. The City ordered him to stop, and he agreed to do so. As of 1999 the property has six
legal units and is a very convenient little apartment building, just steps from State Street. This is how
the how the property appears today.
And this is an historic shot of it. (Courtesy of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum)
This 1885 Victorian is located at 1822 Santa Barbara Street. Like several other Upper East Victorian
homes, it was built in the Eastlake-Stick architectural style. Combining Stick elements with more
"honest" elements of Eastlake's furniture, the end result was an architectural style that emphasized the
frame of the home with significant height in both the vertical and horizontal wood patterns. One or
more steeply pitched and intersecting gable roofs, porches, lookouts, embellished trusses, and
decorations such as patterned shingles, spindle railings and a starburst pattern carved into the gables
were commonly used features in this Victorian style. This home is quintessentially Eastlake-Stick with its
many gables and other typical features, including the starburst, which is obscured in our photo by the
branches of a tree.
When constructed in 1885, the owner, Philip Rice and his family spared no expense, furnishing the
home in the most fashionable furnishings possible. Over the years, several other owners have purchased
the home, and all seem to have taken an abiding interest in keeping it as original as possible. Today the
home looks like this.
Referred to over the years as the Storke House, the Law House and the Drake House, the Victorian at 31
E. Pedregosa Street was built in 1886. Originally this home belonged to C.A. Storke and Mattie More
Storke, parents of Thomas M. Storke, the longtime publisher of the Santa Barbara News Press. Over the
years it has seen many uses, including as a home for the developmentally disabled, a boarding house
during WWII, the residence of Spanish royalty, an illegal triplex, an auto repair shop and a family home.
In 1886, the elder Storke, C.A, a local attorney and publisher of The Los Angeles Herald had the
Victorian built in an area of town that was still quite rural. Set on a large parcel of land with no
surrounding homes or neighbors, the lot was ultimately split in 1958. This amazing and beautifully
restored Victorian is something of a hybrid, with Queen Anne features and bold, dramatic elements.
Originally built as a 36-room residence, this place has seen its share of drama and intrigue. A review of
the City Planning file revealed that in 1960 a prominent local developer, along with three other men
(one being the Mayor) very nearly got the green light to develop the property into a 27-unit apartment
building. In fact, the Architectural Board of Review (ABR) had given its approval for the project, but when
public outcry drew attention to the situation, days later the ABR reconsidered the project and denied it.
We read a newspaper clipping from the Santa Barbara News Press, dated May 2, 1960, in which the
Director of the Upper Eastside Improvement Association, a Major General Blake stated, "The escrow
Indians have broken out and they are certainly raising cain". It sounds to us like the good citizens of the
Upper East put it right back on the developers, raising a little cain of their own.This is the house today.
And this is the house as it was in the 1880's. (Courtesy of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum)
Originally the home of Charles Huse, a prominent local attorney and chronicler of history, this 1887
Victorian is located at 224 E. Figueroa Street. During the 1850‘s Mr. Huse kept a daily journal, recording
the daily events of his life in Santa Barbara. His diary was later published by the SB Historical Society as
The Huse Journal, and is a great source of many interesting, offbeat and entertaining accounts of life in
Santa Barbara during that decade.
The home, located about a block from the Courthouse, was very likely the location of several important
meetings, social events and negotiations. Mr. Huse, although a prominent and powerful man wasn't a
financial success. This home, mortgaged to Alexander Shires was sold to Mr. Shires at a foreclosure sale
when Mr. Huse and his family were unable to satisfy the loan.
By 1941 Mr. Huse's home had been legally converted to fourplex, with 2 additional dwellings in the
back. As with many of the old Victorian conversions, the City kept landowners honest by sending
inspectors around to investigate reported violations. Over the years this property was the subject of
many reports and rebuttals. In 1950 the owner successfully obtained a variance to allow 3 apartment
units, "4 guest rooms", a garage and a shop in the back. This language, however caused much
consternation with a future owner, a lawyer, who permitted tenants in the"guest rooms" to have a sink
and kitchenette. In 1980 the City told him the usage was illegal and he argued that the rooms should
be grandfathered in.Ultimately, he complied, but was unhappy about the loss of the 4 "low rent" units
he was forced to give up. In a letter to the City, he shamed officials for causing hardship to his displaced
tenants who were "paying between $85 and $145 a month rent.
Today the Huse House appears to consist of several quaint apartments.
Three of our eleven Upper East Victorians were built in 1888. They are:
328 E. Anapamu street, which was built by Mary Hall-Woods, the one-time editor of one of Santa
Barbara's first newspapers, the Santa Barbara Independent. The one-story cottage, Italianate in design,
has had several occupants over the decades, including Mr. Calvin Long, who operated his tool
sharpening business from it.
2024 Anacapa Street was constructed of redwood on farmland that had once been owned and farmed
by Jose Moraga. In 1888 the Stewarts from Duluth , Minnesota had their home built, while living in a
smaller "cottage" on the property. The place apparently didn't suit them, despite the wonderful location,
the ocean view and the exquisite details that were included in the construction of the mansion. By 1904
it had become the home of Miss Mary Gamble's "Exclusive Home and Day School for Girls", one of
California's first academies for young ladies. After a decade of girls, in 1914, Ida Stewart, who had
recently lost her husband, began converting the home into an apartment building. She and her son
Milton, managed the property until 1948, renting 7 separate units while living in the Rose Cottage on
the property. In 1960 James Steven purchased the property and renamed it the Steven Apartments.
Several owners later, the elegant old Victorian is still home to many who no doubt enjoy the lovely
details that make this old Victorian so sweet. This is how the place looks today.
And how it did, back "then".
Local architect Thomas NIxon designed this Queen Anne Victorian for George Edwards, a prominent
banker and local businessman. He and his family lived in the home, located at 1721 Santa Barbara Street
until about 1925, when it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Byron Abraham. Mrs. Abraham, an administrator at
Santa Barbara State College - which later became UCSB - was also the sorority leader at the school. One
the UH's mothers, a co-ed and sorority girl during the mid 1950's recalled Mrs. Abraham's generous
hospitality at the home, where she hosted many socials for the girls and their dates. The Abraham's
lived in the home until about 1969, when it was sold. Much to the dismay of the neighborhood, the
home was severely neglected for many years. More recently a contractor and his wife purchased the
property and began the work of renovating it, keeping it as original as possible. While progress has
been slow, it appears that this lovely old home is nearing completion, and hopefully before long another
family will be enjoying its charm and beauty. This is how it looks now.
And this is how it looked "then", unpainted to show off the beauty of the old growth redwood. (Courtesy
of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum)
This unique Victorian is located at 1804 Cleveland. The home was constructed in 1896 by Peter Grant, a
livery stable owner and owner of Santa Barbara's first brickyard. At the time of construction, it was one
of a only a handful of non-wooden Victorian homes, of course having been constructed of brick and
stucco. Incidentally, Peter Grant's brickyard was located in his back yard, near the Old Mission and
Our most "modern " Victorian is located at 229 E. Victoria Street and was built in 1904. This structure,
located at the corner of Victoria and Garden Streets is a beautiful example of the Italianate influences
that seeped into later-constructed Victorians. Built for James Acheson, a railroad man with the
Acheson- Topeka Railroad (which later became the Santa Fe Railroad), the Acheson House was stately
and distinguished. When James and his daughter, Elizabeth arrived in Santa Barbara in 1903, he selected
the lot and had the home constructed for their personal use. Father and daughter lived in what was a
very busy part of town in those days, given that the streetcar ran along Victoria Street to and from State,
turned the corner at Victoria and Garden and headed uptown to the Old Mission. Following Mr.
Acheson's death 15 years later, Elizabeth left the home, renting it to Charles Phoenix, a city councilman,
president of the Chamber of Commerce and one of Santa Barbara's earliest druggists (proprietor of
Gutierrez Drug Store) from 1905 - 1918.
Elizabeth Acheson Baker sold the home in 1950, when it was transformed into the Lauraline Rest Home,
serving the needs of the genteel elderly citizens in town. In 1983 Pierre Claeyssens donated the Acheson
House, through the creation of the Architectural Foundation, and it has since served as the headquarters
for this organization. The Junior League of Santa Barbara also has offices in this historic Victorian home.
Luckily, in the 1960's and 70's there was a renewed interest in old Victorians. Many of these homes,
lovely and spacious, (and with interesting histories), became sought-after by those wanting to embrace
tradition. Some hoped to capitalize on already built apartment style dwellings. With little renovation an
old Victorian could be transformed into a duplex, triplex or apartment building, and their value began to
outweigh developers' ideas of more modern construction, both residential and commercial. Thanks to
many foreword-thinking Santa Barbarans, many of the amazing Victorians of the 18th century survived
the threat of demolition and are here for our enjoyment.
Lastly, as promised, we have an example of a prefab Victorian. This one, just up the block on Garden
from the Acheson House was likely ordered from a catalogue and dates to 1885.
As always, we encourage you to go out and explore the neighborhoods, keep your eyes, ears and minds
open to all that you encounter, and above all expect the unexpected.
Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)
2013-02-09 11:13 AM
Thanks for the great look back, UH. Anybody know where the best place to buy Neal Graffy's new book is? Does the SB Historical Society Museum carry it yet?
2013-02-09 11:17 AM
SB Arts has it, Neal will be signing books this weekend. Today at Petrini's and tomorrow at SB Arts I think..
Chaucer's has it too
2013-02-09 11:26 AM
I loved this, UH!! I lived o west . Mitchmicheltorena in an old house that had been converted to apartments in the late 60ties. I remember it fondly.
2013-02-09 11:40 AM
Interesting to note the landscapes of the older shots. SB has become so thick with vegetation!
2013-02-09 07:01 PM
You guys are so amazing! I always appreciate all the info. that I am sure takes you hours to research. I love these old houses and their history.....thank you!
2013-02-10 08:06 AM
Thank you, UHs, for a wonderful tour; you are fantastic historians. In the 1950s Victorian homes were torn down, replaced by stucco apartments; 50s architecture was nothing to write home about. Such a shame! So glad some survived. We really need a "neighbors book" from the UHs.
2013-02-10 09:01 AM
Very detailed and readable account of part of Santa Barbara's architectural history. Is a book of your own in the offing?
2013-02-10 10:10 AM
UH here- This was a fun piece to research and write. Santa Barbara is so rich with interesting architecture and historical events. Maybe one day a book, but it seems like that would be an awfully big project. Thank you for all your support. For now we'll just keep hiking!
2013-02-10 02:25 PM
The information about the Acheson House is not entirely correct. Mr. Acheson retired in SB at the turn of the century, but had nothing to do with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, which was named after the Kansas town of Atchison.
2013-02-10 03:05 PM
Always a treat to read Urban Hikers!!! So many of the Victorians on the Upper East Side are gracious and charming. It's one of the reasons that this is such a lovely part of town.
2013-02-10 03:16 PM
The home at 15 East Valerio St. was owned by my Grandfather Corrill S. Partch until his death in 1961. He lived there with his second wife Mary Levisa Lillard Sawyers. My Father, Willard S. Partch Sr. built the 2-story duplex thats behind the original home. I lived in the original home as a boy and then again in 1958 with my new bride Barbara Panier Partch. We often drive by when in town from Santa Ynez. Love the old homes which we don't have in the valley. Thanks for posting.
2013-02-11 03:28 PM
Dear BOOKSALELADY - Thank you for keeping us honest. We went back to our source that claimed James Acheson was a railroad man, and connected to the Acheson-Topeka Railroad. Your fact checking is a good reminder to us that just because it's on the web, it's not necessarily make it correct.
This was the info we got from a website called bigcitybuzz, linked to the Santa Ynez Valley News:
In 1990, through the gift of a generous donor, the historic Acheson House became the headquarters of the Architectural Foundation. This distinguished example of Victorian Italianate residential design was originally built in 1904 for James J. Acheson of the Acheson-Topeka Railroad. Centrally located in downtown Santa Barbara, the Acheson House is the focus for the Foundation's many activities...
We should have suspected the accuracy of that info on two points: First, the spelling of Acheson v. Atchison (who was reportedly a pro-slavery senator from Missouri, and after whom the Kansas town was named); and second, because the article calls the Acheson House a "distinguished example of Victorian Italianate residential design".
Having grown up in the neighborhood, we have always heard that this house was in fact one of the many Victorian prefabs built in Santa Barbara around that time, but we haven't yet confirmed this. If it's true, then Acheson House, while distinguished in appearance, is not not necessarily distinguished as in unparalleled or extraordinary.
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