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URBAN HIKE

93108
updated: Oct 15, 2011, 9:00 AM

By The Urban Hikers, Peter Hartmann & Stacey Wright

This week we continued our quest to walk all 256 miles of public streets within the city limits of Santa Barbara, and walked parts of town that many confuse as being Montecito. In reality, with the exception of Coast Village Road, these neighborhoods are and have always been a part of the City of Santa Barbara.

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Back in the day - as in the 1960's, 70's and even into the 80‘s - we can recall that the residents of our town often identified their neighborhoods in much more specific terms. If asked where you live, the response would often include the street you lived on, or the closest recognizable street to most people. So for example if you lived on or near Barker Pass you would simply reply "Barker Pass". Or you might refer to your neighborhood as "Arcady". Or "Sycamore Canyon". Or "Picacho"....Today, many people living in the tony 93108 zip code generally report that they live in Montecito. And you know what? That ain't always the truth. We hate to admit it, but it bugs these urban hikers, who like the old-fashion, more modest (and truthful) distinctions.

The fact of the matter is, the area involving the 93108 zip code boasts some of the most spectacular real estate in the world. The views are often the most prominent feature, but the pads usually aren't half bad either. And this is a tradition that goes way back. In other words, if you have an address on Cima Linda, there should be absolutely no shame in admitting that you live in Santa Barbara. In fact, back in the day, you wouldn't have found a true Montecitoan claiming to be one. Instead, the genteel amongst us simply used a return address of "Santa Barbara, 93108". That was sufficient.

The neighborhoods of the 93108 have a variety of spectacular ocean views and beautiful rural areas, and we've thoroughly enjoyed them during our required travels of this vicinity. We think they're definitely worth experiencing firsthand, and are certain many of the urban hikers amongst us include these routes in their regular hikes.

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And then there's Coast Village Road. We enjoyed this part of Santa Barbara so much that we devoted an entire column to it. So for now, we'll share with you a few of the Coast Village addresses that actually lie within the city limits, thanks to its annexation back in the 1950's.

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There are now hundreds of incredibly impressive homes in the area of Santa Barbara adjacent to Montecito. But, around the turn of the century there were just a handful. Some of the present day mansions are those same old homes which sat on the impressive estates, while others are more modern. Either way, we delighted in the properties we saw, although catching a glimpse inside the hedges or gates was often difficult if not downright impossible.

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But speaking of the handful of magnificent estates from the end of the last century, we'll now share a bit about three of the most prominent of their day, as well as something about a beautiful park. We'll also give you a bit of history about the Montecito Country Club, which ironically has never spent even a day of its existence within the boundaries of Montecito.

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Perhaps the most interesting and well documented estate among our "top three" is the C.K.G. Billings Estate. Originally 188 acres in size, the property was located at what is now Cima Linda Lane, and extended all the way to Salinas Street.

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Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings was an interesting character. Born in New York in 1861, and named after his father's business partner (later to be called "Ben" by his father after a break-up of the partnership), he first "wintered" in Santa Barbara around the turn of the century. An "Eastern financier", he had a fascination for matinee riding, which is akin to harness racing. As such, he bought his most prized horse, a mare named Lou Dillon, from a breeder in Santa Ynez. Lou Dillon was the first horse to trot a 2-minute mile, and after spending some time in New York, she came home to Santa Barbara when the Billings family relocated here in in about 1917.

A bit of an eccentric whose estate consisted of a main house and five guest houses, Mr. Billings named nearby streets in honor of his favorite horses and had lavish dinner parties to celebrate them. There is a story about a dinner party that Mr. Billings threw in 1903 to celebrate the opening of his New York stable, during which he and 36 of his best friends sat atop horses inside a New York mansion. As the story goes, the host and his guests ate from specially fashioned trays

which attached to the saddles of their mounts, and drank chilled champagne from rubber hoses that extended into champagne bottles stowed in the horses' saddle bag. Don't believe it? Mr. Billings didn't think you would, so luckily he hired a photographer to document the event.

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The Billings home and guest houses were designed by Carlton Monroe Winslow, the architect of the SB Natural History Museum and other notable buildings in Santa Barbara. Oddly, there are very few photos of the home. We found one in the late David Myrick's "Montecito and Santa Barbara; The Days of Great Estates", as well as a very sweet drawing, by a local artist dated 1938.

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Fredrick Forrest Peabody, a shirt and collar tycoon from the East Coast also made Santa Barbara his home at the turn of the century. Designed by local architect and bon vivant Francis Underhill, Solana sat on a hill to the east of Eucalyptus Hill Road. The very impressive home served as the abode of Mr. Peabody, of a local philanthropist who built Peabody Stadium (home of Don's football) and donated the property for what is now Peabody Charter School. Today the gates of the home still bear the name "Solana" which translated means "sunny place."

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The last of our three "houses on the hills" was called Graholm, and was built by David Gray in 1920. It's perhaps best known to most as the last home of Brook's Institute in Santa Barbara. Designed by a little known architect, Roland Sauter, it's probably the most modest of the estates, and was part of a growing trend toward building Mediterranean homes and estates.

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David Gray was the son of John Gray, a self-made man, who in 1903 took the opportunity to invest $10,500 with Henry Ford. Following his father's death in 1906, avid Gray sold the stock in Ford Motor Company back to Mr. Ford in 1919 for a tidy $26 million.

Following the 1925 earthquake David Gray, along with Bernard Hoffman and George Knapp, donated $10,000 apiece to establish the architectural review board, intended to promote the Spanish style reconstruction of downtown Santa Barbara. He also funded the Cabrillo Pavilion located at East Beach. Coincidentally the pavilion's first manager was Roland Sauter, the architect who he had earlier designed Grayholm.

Hale Park is a beautiful a 13-acre unimproved park, which sits at the border of

Santa Barbara and Montecito. Kathleen Hale, the widow and second wife of Fredrick Forrest Peabody, donated the land to the city in 1954 with the instruction that it be made into a public park. We're thankful for her generosity and are happy that it's been maintained in its unimproved state.

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Last, but by no means least, we have a little bit of history to share with you about the beautiful Montecito County Club.

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In 1916 construction began on the Colonial Revival clubhouse, which was designed by architect Bertram Goodhue, and by February 1918, the club was a going concern. But after only a couple of years, things got tough for the owners, and in 1921, five local men, Misters Billings, Peabody, Knapp, Rives and Edwards, incorporated and assumed ownership of the property. They immediately hired renowned architect George Washington Smith to renovate and expand the club, and in 1922 Max Behr reconfigured the golf course. In 1947 Avery Brundage, a local who had competed in the 1912 Olympics, purchased the club and updated it with a swimming pool, tennis courts, badminton courts and a remodeled club house. Mr. Brundage then sold the property to the Sozan Tsukamoto Company in 1973. In 1998, local architect Bob Easton was enlisted to complete another reconstruction project, and in 2006, the club was purchased by Ty Warner, owner of the Santa Barbara Baltimore, Coral Casino, San Ysidro Ranch, Rancho San Marcos and Sandpiper Golf Course.

There are many wonderful homes and hidden treasures that make up the neighborhoods of "the 93108", and although we have driven most of these roads countless times, it was only by walking them that we came to fully appreciate their unique beauty and rich history. Like so many other areas of town, to walk it is to love it.

As reported last week, our project of hiking every street in the City of Santa Barbara is nearly complete. So we are planning on finishing up with a final hike in November, to which you all are hereby invited. And while our mission of walking each street in Santa Barbara is coming to an end, our wanderings about town will continue indefinitely, as will our weekly Urban Hike submissions to Edhat. In one of David Powdrell's recent Edhat articles (May 2011) he mentioned the concept of "la flaneur", which literally translated means "the person who walks in the city to experience it". We identified with this notion and now happily consider ourselves among "les flaneurs" of modern day Santa Barbara. We will continue to be the urban observers that this project has taught us to become, and will persevere with our walking, observing, documenting and reporting. We've walked many of our city streets more than once, and on subsequent hikes we always see interesting things we missed the first time around. With all that Santa Barbara has to offer, we couldn't possibly stop now. Thanks for your interest, and be sure to join us next month when we finish up with the last of our un-hiked streets. Date, time and route to be announced as soon as we know it.

 

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