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URBAN HIKE

Coast Village Road and Then Some
updated: Apr 23, 2011, 9:45 AM

By Stacey Wright and Peter Hartmann

This week, the intrepid Urban Hikers, a middle-aged couple on a quest to walk all 256 miles of public streets within the Santa Barbara city limits, strike out to the southernmost region of the territory; Coast Village Road and environs. Unfortunately we had technical difficulties that prevented us from getting a map before our deadline, but if you map quest Coast Village Road you'll get the picture...

For those of you who may believe that Coast Village Road is in Montecito, and that by hiking it we have ventured into real estate which is not part of the City, you are simultaneously right and wrong. First the bad news - you're wrong because Coast Village Road IS part of the City, having been annexed back in the 1950's. But you are right, because while hiking this neighborhood we found it impossible to stay within the city limits. In its annexation, the city took only Coast Village Road, Coast Village Circle and little pieces of Middle, Olive Mill, Butterfly and Hermosillo. Because there is so much to see and consider if one wanders just a little off course, we did just that...aside from covering the "city streets" we also took in other parts of the following Montecito roads: Middle, Olive Mill, Butterfly, Hermosillo, Fairway and Channel.

Coast Village is a trompe l'oeil neighborhood...it fools the eye into believing that it's all about retail and little about homes. In fact there are a quite number of people living right on Coast Village Road, and a whole lot more who reside within a stone's throw of it, in neighboring Montecito. We think these folks have it all.

In talking about this area of Santa Barbara, we would be remiss if we failed to go back a few years in time, to give you a little historical perspective. In fact, it was the interesting history of this part of town that lured us off task and got us hiking on roads we had no business being on.

Montecito history is long and rich, but for now, we'll keep the details relatively short and sweet. Interestingly, Old Spanish Days, our local "Fiesta", actually has its roots in "Montecito Day", an annual fiesta that was celebrated by the people of Montecito every July 16th, until 1886. Back then, most residents lived near what is now East Galley and Para Grande, and the event was held at present day Mt. Carmel Church. We would love to see photos of the early fiestas, but sadly were unable to locate any for this article.

By 1887 Southern Pacific Railroad had extended its Coast Line service to Goleta, and in that year a station was added to serve the people of Montecito. A little train station was built near what would become the Biltmore in 1927. The station is long gone of course, but the street, appropriately named Depot, remains. We took a photo of the 1-block long street that is just off the 101 southbound at the Olive Mill exit. But we can recall not long ago, when Depot Rd. - although bisected by the 101 -connected to Coast Village Road and had it's own freeway onramp for northbound travel. Now it's just a little road off Olive Mill that bumps into the railroad tracks.

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Another bit of history (although not within the boundary of the city limits), concerns the property that is now the Music Academy of the West, on Fairway Drive, near Channel Drive. In 1894 the property was home to the Santa Barbara Country Club, and boasted a nice18-hole golf course, club house and other amenities. When the club moved, first to a location near the Andre Clarke Bird Refuge, and later to its current home on Summit Road, it changed its named to the Montecito Country Club. Ironically, today the Montecito Country Club is located within the Santa Barbara City limits, but the location of the old Santa Barbara Country Club is not - it's in Montecito. Anyway, back in the early 1900's after the country club and golf course relocated, the club house was renovated and became "Mira Flores" a private residence. After their deaths, Mr. and Mrs John P. Jefferson, left the property to Helen Marso, Mr. Johnson's personal secretary. Ms. Marso wanted to pay tribute to the Jeffersons by creating a memorial to them, and in 1951, the property, including 18 acres and a home designed by famed architect Reginald D. Johnson became the Music Academy of the West.

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And now, after all that "chatter" we begin our trek up Coast Village Road in earnest, beginning at the new traffic circle and ending at Olive Mill Road.

Today's Von's Shopping Center has a variety of shops, services and restaurants and from what we've gathered, in the old days (as in the 1930's and 40's), it was also the location of quite a few commercial establishments. One of the early restaurants was a ""supper club" called the Pink Cricket. The address may not be 100% accurate, as we think the street may have been re-numbered at some point, but the address of the Pink Cricket was 944 Coast Village Road, and todays "Starbuck Plaza" is 1046... but in any event we have a cool postcard of the Pick Cricket as it was in it's heyday. Before the Pink Cricket, the restaurant was called the Lido Cafe. There were actually a number of early Montecito restaurants located in that general vicinity, and we know of tow; Dopey's and Bird's Blue Onion, (934 Coast Village Rd/ and 862 Coast Village Rd. respectively). Unfortunately we don't have photos of these places but we'd sure love to see any that Edheads may have or know of..

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Aside from restaurants, Coast Village was home to many mid-century motels, namely Golf, Sea Captain's and De Anza (1046, 1100 and 1188 Coast Village Road)...We can both remember the De Anza, and can tell you for sure that it was located on the corner of Coast Village and Middle Roads, but we are less certain about the others...Perhaps Sea Captain's was on the corner of Coast Village and Butterfly?

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And we know that no article about Coast Village Road would be complete without at least one photo of the never-changing and very familiar sign that greets us upon entry.

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Just across from the sign, on the mountain side of the street is a mid-century apartment building that has some large old trees on the property. Sadly, on the day of our hike we noticed that a good percentage of the trees which used to surround the property had been chopped down, and there was a whole lotta firewood in their place...

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Just up the street near the intersection of Coast Village and Hermosillo is a wonderful little cottage that has a rich historical background. Today it is home to a real estate company, but to us, that hardly seems right...After all, the cottage was one of the very first Moody Sisters' Cottages built in Santa Barbara. It was built in the early 20th century, and called "the English Cottage". As architects and designers, the four Moody sisters - all of whom remained single during their lifetimes - pooled their unique talents and dedication, and collectively created some of Santa Barbara, Montecito and Hope Ranch's most charming little homes. Until we began our urban hikes, we knew very little about the sisters, although we were acquainted with their work. Actually, the last surviving sister had been a patient of Peter's until shortly before her death...but we digress... The "English Cottage," like all of the other 34 local Moody Sisters' Cottages was a collaboration of efforts, and was built on land one of the sisters had purchased in 1915. When first built, the cottage served as an antique shop and public tea room, and in 1925, it also became a working studio for the sisters.

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Up the street a bit and across, at the corner of Coast Village and Butterfly Lane, is a little something that warms the heart of every urban hiker. It's a freeway underpass that takes one from "the city streets" to the doorstep of the Pacific Ocean. Of course we're talking about the entrance to the Butterfly underpass. How cool is that?

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Continuing our travel southbound, we came upon a place that we considered ducking into for a quick glance into our futures. But then we decided we'd better just carry on with the task at hand, which was completing this leg of the city. As we walked, we wondered if this little business on Coast Village can claim responsibility for any of the fortunes that have been made in this part of town...

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Further along Coast Village Road we passed Villa Fontana, an example of mid-century marvelous architecture that's been relatively unchanged for as long as we both can remember. Call it nostalgia, or call it great architecture, we just had to share with you a photo of this now "condo living at its finest". We think it's pretty special.

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When we got to Middle Road, we had a dilemma.. Figuring we had already walked the steepest part of the road, and realizing that anything further up was actually in Montecito, we decided to throw caution to the wind and carry on. Motivated by some pretty neat history that involves a community theater and a polo field, we hiked in search of the white colonnade pillars which are reportedly the only remaining sign of a theatre which was built there in 1915. The very progressive theater, built in an octagonal shape was really something, and the fact that the patrons sat in a circle around the stage and actors, made it even that much more exciting. Legend has it that the place was destroyed by fire in 1920, but the pillars remained. Without leaving the street we searched for those pillars but couldn't locate them. However, further up Middle Road we found the home that had once served as a clubhouse for a polo field built there. In 1913 William Bartlett bought 34 acres of land, and by 1916 he had transformed it into a posh polo field with grandstands, a stable and a "Mission-style" clubhouse. However like many other dreams of that era, the Great Depression killed the notion of a polo club in Montecito. The clubhouse was later renovated to serve as a private residence. Today the home is at 184 Middle Road.

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Since we had already ventured too far up Middle Road anyway, we figured it would be alright to hike just a little further up, in search of a true gem. Being naive Santa Barbarans (or just about), we both have an undying love of anything George Washington Smith. And it just so happens that we know that George's very own home was built at 240 Middle Road. So we made the hike up to admire it...We took two pictures to show off its elegance and sublime beauty.

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Then, before we knew it, we were headed EVEN FURTHER up Middle Road in search of George's assistant's, Lutah Maria Riggs' home. For those of you who may not know, Ms. Riggs was George Washington Smith's right hand woman; she designed many local projects, her favorite being The Little Town Club on Carrillo Street.We knew full well that this part of Middle Road is not within the city limits, and yet we couldn't restrain ourselves from wandering up there to take a look at this magnificent home. Unfortunately, now the home is barely visible from the street, and although we may have gotten a clever peek of the property, all we will share with you is a photo of a really interesting bird plaque which may may or may not be original.

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Despite the fact that we Urban Hikers are both working stiffs, we thought it was important enough to return to the scene of the hike to snap a quick picture of the Friday Farmers' Market . This, after all has become an important event on Coast Village Road for a lot of the Montecito, ahem, Santa Barbara residents.

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As we came to the end of Coast Village Road, before we doubled back to pick up the leg of the city that is Coast Village Circle, we stopped to admire two Santa Barbara landmarks. The first being the building that long ago was home to the one and only El Camino Pharmacy, and secondly, the Montecito Inn. Like many Coast Village Road establishments now and in times past, the Inn has a remarkable history. On this day, as we snapped a picture of the old El Camino Pharmacy , we happened to catch a very friendly patron leaving what we suspect was dinner at Montecito Cafe, (which is located in the Montecito Inn). On his way out the driveway he flashed us a smile and bid us a happy day...we aren't certain, but we think he may be the ice cream man.

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And while, once again we hate to admit our unwillingness to follow the rules of the road -Coast Village Road that is - we feel compelled to share with you one last diversion off our official city limits agenda. At the end of Coast Village Road it intersects with Olive Mill Road. If you head west, you will wind up at the beach. However, if you head east on Olive Mill towards the mountains, you will come to another historic Santa Barbara location: the old olive mill. On this location back in 1923, George and Fred Gould built an olive mill to process the olives from their nearby olive orchards. The mill, located at what is now 200 Olive Mill Road and built of stone, functioned as a working mill for many years. When it was no longer economically feasible to operate, the mill was extensively renovated into "El Molino" a private residence. Because the home sits off the street and is hidden by a large hedge, we were unable to capture anything other than the entrance to the property - and we aren't certain who now lives on the property now, but we know that at one point it was home to Lena Horne.

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So for now, we urban hikers encourage you to go out and meet your neighbors to see first hand the pride they take in their homes and neighborhoods, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all, expect the unexpected.

 

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