June 23, 2005 - This Old House
At the top of the hill, at the end of the road, there is a house with one of the best views in Santa Barbara. The view is so good, that it’s often listed on Top Ten lists of Most Romantic Places in Town. It’s right up there with the El Encanto, Butterfly Beach, and State Street. It’s a good place to sit in the car and snuggle up with the one you love. It’s better if you have bench seats, but few of us do any more. Benches, it seems, have been replaced with cup holders.
Yesterday, the dedicated staff of edhat.com was at Franceschi Park to see just where Ed took that picture for the Wednesday Where Is It contest.
It turns out that the picture was taken on the patio behind the Franceschi House, that sits in the corner of the park. The house is a multi-million dollar Santa Barbara fixer. Originally built by the famous horticulturist, Dr. Francesco Franceschi, the house was last remodeled in the 1920’s. A real estate ad would say, “Quaint cottage, beautiful views, large lot, needs TLC, imagine the potential.”
Franceschi’s claim to fame is that, between 1894 and 1913, he imported over 900 species of plants from around the world, and cultivated them in Santa Barbara. Among his successes is the importation of Sycamore trees and Pitasporum, non-natives that have thrived in our warm coastal climate. He built the house on the hill in 1904, calling it Montarioso, Italian for “Airy Mountain”. Franceschi eventually returned to Italy. His remaining family eventually sold the house to Alden Freeman, a wealthy heir and descendant of folks who arrived in this country on the Mayflower.
Freeman was active in liberal politics. Today he would be a progressive and an active listener to Pacifica radio.
After Mr. Freeman purchased the property, he remodeled. The most visible signs of his effort are the 63 dinner-plate sized medallions placed haphazardly around the exterior of the building (yes, we counted). The medallions pay tribute to people and places - some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of. The theme that runs through all the medallions seems to be peace and progressive politics. There is even a medallion recognizing Emma Goldman, a well-known anarchist Freeman befriended when he lived in New Jersey.
Going along with the peace theme, the text on the statue in yesterday’s picture says,
I am a man.
No men are foreigners to me.
Of one blood are all nations.
Nation shall not lift sword against nation.
Neither shall they learn war any more.
A little child shall lead them.
Mr. Freeman gave Montarioso to the city in 1931. Since then, it seems that little has gone on but decay and neglect.
Through the years, there have been unsuccessful efforts to restore the property. But within the last couple of years, the Pearl Chase Society has been given the go-ahead by the City to raise money and restore the property to its 1931 condition. Some day soon, the house will host an interpretive center, a meeting room for up to 30 people, and some offices – all surrounded by the best views in Santa Barbara.
But, if you have never been there, don’t wait. The park is still a great place to park your car and take in the sights (or whatever else you want to do).
In yesterday’s contest, 8 very smart dedicated subscribers were able to identify the location of the statue. They are GEGH, bekus, jennjoe, DC, JukinJay, indigo, Je2ry, and sbkah. The Edhat dog, who only knows a lot about both food and love, was called into action to break the tie. Eight easy pieces of dog biscuits were placed on the floor. Sbkah’s biscuit was the first to go, signifying him/her as the winner of two tickets to Sunday Polo at the Polo Club.
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