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Miramar to the Corner... and then some
updated: Aug 18, 2012, 9:30 AM

By The Urban Hikers (Stacey Wright & Peter Hartmann)

At the beginning of the summer we took a morning hike along the railroad tracks beginning just west of Miramar Beach (near Montecito Creek) to the Summerland Point, and told you about much of that hike it in our two previous stories. Today, we'll wrap up our adventure with a stroll up Eucalyptus Lane and a peek into the Miramar Hotel property. We'll show and tell you about the Ocean View Grocery, All Saints by-the-Sea Church and a Catholic chapel that once sat on the bluffs near the end of Eucalyptus Lane. And last, but not least we'll tell you about Grover Cleveland Barnes, a remarkable man who was known and loved by many during his long, long life.

We begin our journey on the way up Eucalyptus Lane from the public beach access at Miramar Beach to the 101 Freeway. These are just a few of the sights we saw along the way.

And now for a historical perspective and some photos of this little corner of Montecito. Much has been written about the Miramar Hotel, including its rich and wonderful history, the politics, the prestige and the underbelly...we don't want to rehash what's been told and we certainly don't want to show you the same old, same old photos of a severely neglected piece of property. We do want to give a very brief history of the property, show you some older images, and show you how the property appears today, hopefully from vantage points and perspectives you might not have seen recently. We'll start with a modern view and then make our way back in time.

Sadly the hotel was closed in 2000, and many have turned their backs on this wonderful gem. This is the Miramar Hotel circa summer of 2012.

The land where the Miramar Hotel now sits was originally purchased in 1876 by Josiah and Emmeline Doulton. Josiah was the younger son of John Doulton , founder of the Doulton Potteries of London, England and as the second son, set out first to Australia and then to the New World in search of his own fortune. The Doulton's first venture on the property was a farm, which they dubbed "Ocean View Farm".

In 1887, the long-awaited railroad finally made it to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles, bringing with it plenty of tourists and visitors from LA and beyond. Modernly one may wonder why the railroad crosses the old Miramar Hotel grounds so close to the beachfront, being prime real estate and all. But the fact is that when the railroad was built the Doulton property was still primarily used as a farm and the least productive land was located near the ocean. Though still a working farm, the first guest to spend time at what was to ultimately become the Miramar Hotel arrived in the summer in 1887. That date marks the beginning of the Doulton's career as hoteliers, and the beginning of a colorful chapter in Montecito history.

As the clientele grew, the hotel morphed into the Miramar we've known over the decades. It's said that an early guest of the hotel suggested to Mrs. Doulton that the property's name be changed to "Miramar", meaning "behold the sea", and that within days of the suggestion the new name was in use.

The hotel continued to gain public attention and by 1892 had sufficient business to warrant a stop for the Southern Pacific trains, which would stop at the hotel with a flag signal. A couple of years later a "proper" little station shelter was erected, and Montecito and the Miramar were officially on the map. As more and more people came to stay at the Miramar, cottages were added to the property on a yearly basis, and by 1910 the hotel consisted of approximately 30 structures including cottages, a restaurant, a boardwalk, garages and stables. From its earliest days, right up to its closure in September of 2000, the Miramar was a popular destination for day trippers from Santa Barbara, as well as the out-of- towners. Please note that the following photos are not UH photos - except for the post card, the images are part of the Doulton Collection as published in David Myrick's book Montecito; Volume 1.

Today the Miramar property is a total eyesore and the source of major disappointment for many. It has been severely neglected over the past decade and is the subject of endless discussion and banter. Like many, we're looking forward to the day the Miramar re-opens and begins to once again provide locals and travelers with the amenities and good times for which it had become so well known.

One of the legends of the Miramar was Grover Cleveland Barnes, an amazing man and an integral part of the Miramar's history. If you ever visited the hotel, surely you would have encountered this larger than life gentleman, who served as the bell captain at the Miramar for over 35 years.

Grover's personal history is as follows: He was born to John R. and Nannie Barnes on November 18, 1906 in Percialla, Texas. In 1922, at the age of 16 years old he left the family's farm and headed to Crockett, Texas where he found work as a servant in a private home. While working, he graduated from high school, earning an athletic scholarship to the prestigious Bishop College, a now defunct school which was also attended by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Jesse Jackson. While in college Grover studied history, but due to a variety of difficulties, (mostly economic) he was unable to complete his degree and graduate. The setback didn't stop Grover from gaining a deeper understanding of humanity and the history of the world, however, and he continued in this pursuit during the span of his entire life.

In the late 1930's, after working in Texas as a teacher in, Grover moved to California, first settling at Camp Cooke, which is now the Vandenberg Air Force Base. There he cleaned and ironed the soldiers' uniforms, earning roughly $1 a day for his work. Grover eventually moved to Santa Barbara and sought work in the hotel industry. Due to Grover's good nature, articulate manner and unflappable style, the Miramar Hotel's new owner, Paul Gawzner, hired him in 1942 first as a porter and later as a waiter in the lunchroom. In 1946 Grover was promoted to the prestigious and highly sought-after position of chief bellman, beating out a whole cadre of other candidates for the job. He remained in his position at the Miramar for 35 years, until his retirement in 1981. It was during these years that the UH and many other locals and visitors had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know the magnificent Grover Barnes. We can recall seeing Grover and his ready smile every time we had occasion to visit the hotel, be it to buy treats at the gift shop or take a swimming lesson in the pool. Grover was a huge part of the Miramar's history, and unlike another Miramar "legend" he was always, kind, courteous and patient with everyone who crossed his path.

Grover died in Santa Barbara in May, 2010 at the age of 103 years old. He'd led a marvelous life, living on Gutierrez Street on the lower Eastside for about half a century. All the while he continued photographing his community, collecting articles, contributing to his "causes" in a variety of ways, and documenting the highlights of his life. His beloved wife, Ethel pre-deceased him in 2006, but fortunately she lived long enough to see Grover receive the SB Independent's Local Hero Award in 2001, a proclamation by the Mayor and City Council and a Congressional Honor in 2005. Grover was truly an amazing man, who not only left his mark at the Miramar Hotel, but also left a huge legacy for the people of Santa Barbara.

In the years preceding his death, Grover Barnes, the man dubbed by Santa Barbara as "The Ambassador of Hospitality" arranged to leave a collection of his chronicles to California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives at UCSB. The collection, referred to as "Grover Barnes Papers CEMA 115" includes his photographs, correspondence, editorials, and original writings, and are now part of the university's permanent collection. We love Grover's enormous interest and curiosity in the people and world around him, and flatter ourselves by thinking we are in a way, descendants of Grover Barnes. He was clearly one of a handful of old Santa Barbara citizens who took the time to observe, love and document this unique town we call home, and we are better off for having had him in our midst.

Today "Miramar" is common around the area of the hotel, but that was not always the case. For example, Miramar Lane was called Ocean View Avenue. There were also a little grocery store and an inn located on the southeast corner of Eucalyptus Lane and what is now the 101 Freeway. The store, the Ocean View Grocery along with an adjacent boarding house, "The Bellevue", were owned and operated by Eugene and Mary Alice Kurtz. He was a native of Germany and she was a native of France. The Ocean View Grocery and the Bellevue operated from 1901 to 1906, during a time when Montecito was "out in the sticks" and there was a lot of rough and tumble happenings in that part of town. After closing the store, Eugene Kurtz left Santa Barbara for San Francisco, and later moved to Pasadena. Mary Alice Kurtz remained in Montecito, however. Her son, John de Ponce was a prominent member of the community and as Assistant Fire Chief was, in 1906, one of the founders of the present day Santa Barbara City Fire Department. The following photos show the store and Eugene Kurtz, and are from the de Ponce Family Collection.

Another prominent landmark on Eucalyptus Lane is All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. Initially named "Episcopal Church of All Saints", the first service was held on December 9, 1900. The church property, having been donated by the Doultons in 1898, was slated to become the home of an Episcopal Church and the parishioners had hoped to have the church dedicated on All Saints Day (November 1st), however construction was not complete by then. A few years after its dedication, the church underwent renovation and an addition, and was renamed All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. More additions and renovations were completed over the years, including work done to repair damage suffered during the 1925 earthquake. This is how the church looked in 1900, and how it appears today. The stately home is also church property located across Eucalyptus Lane.

Lastly, and speaking of churches, few people are aware, (and fewer still can remember) that a humble little Catholic chapel used to sit at the end of Eucalyptus Lane on the bluffs above the beach. The chapel was the home of Father Joseph Lavy, a priest who could reportedly speak seven languages. Between the years of 1908 and 1911 he held Mass in his little chapel for a variety of local parishioners, many of whom probably spoke a language other than English. Sadly the little chapel is no longer, but this image, a part of the de Ponce Family collection, depicts both it and Father Lavy.

We aren't certain where next we'll decide to hike, observe and discover, now that we've covered the coastal route from the city to Summerland... For now, we encourage you to go out and explore our marvelous town on foot, 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)

 ROGER DODGER agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-18 10:26 AM

Your articles are always so informative I never knew Grovers story very intresting man I remember seeing him about town. I just realized that the Miramar would make a wonderful homeless shelter there is a whole community there plus the beach. The current owner isn't doing anything with the proptery. I'm sure my neighbors would join me in helping CE move out of our neighborHOOD into Montecito. Just a though it's the thought that counts...Thanks UH..


 COMMENT 309880 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-18 10:45 AM

Great job reporting. Amazing photos and very interesting to read all the history... Thats the street that Biden was on when he was in Santa Barbara doing fundraising. Eucalyptus Lane


 COMMENT 309887 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-18 11:05 AM

Great stories and pics. Would love more of the same about Bonnymede estate and Biltmore pier.


 COMMENT 309894 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-18 11:28 AM


Thanks for going into such detail about so many people and places I fondly remember from my neighborhood. (My children have been fifth-generation residents and we are blessed).

I hope things will change so that jewels like the Sykes garage will be protected. And how about the Sykes house and All Saints by-the-Sea and the Victorian house on the corner which at one time was owned by the Jeffersons who also owned the Music Academy?


 KDEF agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-18 04:40 PM

Thanks to the urban hikers for the photos and information about the region'.s historic sites. It is encouraging to see that many residents are interested in learning about these sites and hopefully will encourage their preservation.


 COMMENT 310005 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-18 05:24 PM

One of your best articles; love and respect just eminate from it. Mr Barnes would surely be proud of you 'young people'.

Thank you for doing such detailed research. I just spent some time with someone who had stayed there and wondered what had happened to the hotel. I will be emailing him a link to this story!


 COMMENT 310034P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-18 07:35 PM

Jacques was the ever present lifeguard at the Miramar beach in the 1960's -1970's. He was a real character in his speedo and spoken English with a heavy French accent.


 SUMMERTIME agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-19 08:17 AM

thank you....


 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-19 09:31 AM

Thank you for comments about Grover, one of the dearest men you'd ever want to meet. We lived next door to the Miramar; great-grandparents bought a couple acres from the hotel in 1907. In the photo of the water tower you can see some of the huge palm trees my great-grandfather planted over 100 years ago, he was the gardner for the Jeffersons (Eucalyptus & Miramar Ave) who later bought Mira Flores (Music Academy), they wanted gramps to be their head gardner there but he didn't want to go that far from home. We can thank the board of supervisors for the condition of the Miramar today, they gave a permit to tear it down without demanding a "bond of completion", to insure there was enough money to rebuild.


 COMMENT 310173 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-08-19 12:47 PM

Thanks for the info, FLICKA. The next time I'm in the 'hood I'll take an extra long look at the palm trees your gramps planted. It's funny to think he did't take the job at Mira Flores because it was so far from home! Those were definitely simpler, gentler days...


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