Pearl Chase Remembered

"A String of Pearls" by Cheri Rae

By Penny Davies

With A String of Pearls: Pearl Chase of Santa Barbara, author Cheri Rae has meticulously crafted an inspired biography chronicling the life of Santa Barbara’s legendary activist, Pearl Chase.

I did not want this book to end. Every page was captivating. Pearl saved every piece of paper—and apparently and Cheri found them all!  The author chronicles a life well lived, at a time when women in America were told their value came only from marriage, child rearing and domestic servitude. Pearl Chase broke the mold; she never married, never had children, and instead, working with the most powerful men and most brilliant women of her time, changed the city of Santa Barbara forever.

As someone who knew Pearl Chase personally, it brought me back to a time in my life when my late husband (Terry Davies) and I worked alongside her in the1960s.  I remember fondly her fierce tenacity as we fought to prevent the construction of high-rise condominiums, resulting in what is now Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden.

Terry and I met Pearl when she came to our house, the old parsonage next door to the large Unitarian Church on East Arrellaga Street. Terry and I were in our mid 30s.  We had three small children and were refugees of the East Coast Blizzard of 1966.  When Terry obtained a job in Santa Barbara, we couldn’t believe our good luck.  We thought we had died and gone to heaven.

One day a man came to our door with a petition, asking for our support of a plan to build two large, modern, condominiums on the site of the burned-down El Mirasol Hotel.  It felt wrong to us. Terry was told that Pearl would know what to do so he phoned her, and Pearl sprang into action.  Out of our first meeting with the already legendary Pearl came plans of how to preserve this space for the betterment of the whole community.

I vividly remember walking into a city council meeting with Pearl and the uneasy hush that came over the room. She was powerful, respected, and held in awe by most.  But there were powerful people who opposed her:  Thomas Storke, owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press and Louis Lancaster, President of Santa Barbara’s most prestigious bank, each had plans to own a penthouse condo on this proposed site. The council voted in favor of the developer.  The justification was that wealthy people who lived in these apartments would use their money to shop downtown. A long court battle ensued. We raised $30,000 in small community contributions to pay for an attorney, who helped us win and thanks to citizen activism, what might have become two nine-story residential towers became instead one of Santa Barbara’s most beloved city parks.

I met Pearl when she was in her 70s.  This was one of her last battles.  A String of Pearls reveals so much her younger days and middle years. I always wondered:  How did she manage to make Santa Barbara so beautiful?  Why didn’t she marry?  Was it money that gave her power? This engrossing book answers these questions and many more.

Cheri Rae’s biography of Pearl Chase is a lively (and long overdue account) of one of the most influential women (and surely the most determined!) in Santa Barbara history.  Pearl Chase was ahead of her time.  We knew it in the 1960s and now readers will know it too.

Penny Davies was the owner of The Earthling Bookshop, a beloved downtown institution for more than two decades. Inspired by Pearl Chase’s determination, the Davies fought the city’s plans to take over their building by eminent domain. The issue became a ballot measure, and the City was defeated in another example of successful citizen activism.

NOTE: Chaucer’s will host the first book-signing of A String of Pearls: Pearl Chase of Santa Barbara on Wednesday, November 8,  6-8  p.m.

View the book trailer:

Edhat Reader

Written by Edhat Reader

Content submitted to by its readers and subscribers

What do you think?


0 Comments deleted by Administrator

Leave a Review or Comment


  1. Loved reading this book review about our Great Aunt Pearl Chase and your friendship.
    It must be the season (after too many neglected), as there is another fresh off the press biography from Miss Chase’s Great Nephew Author Simon Kerry. Simon will be in town from England signing copies of his book ‘Miss Chase Santa Barbara’s Trailblazer’ at Tecolote November 16 5-7pm hosted by Justine, Josiah and Emma Hamilton, Miss Chase’s great nephew and niece. He will also be hosting a lecture at The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

    It is a premier biography on Santa Barbara’s First Lady for anyone interested in Santa Barbara’s history and preservation and this formidable woman’s impact. Ranging from saving trees, Missions and cleaning up oil spills, to boosting local schools and colleges, to Santa Barbara’s lack of billboards, neon and high rises, Miss Chase’s efforts are still relevant today.

  2. Love hearing about the life of Pearl Chase, in Cheri Rae’s , ” A String of Pearls”.

    I also got a lot of insights into the book from the interview by our wonderful Jerry Roberts Newsmakers. Here is a link to it.. . As Newsmakers puts it: ” Mining the vast trove of Chase’s papers at the UCSB Library, she has produced a wonderful read that not only presents a character study of a fascinating woman, who overcame family tragedies and personal heartbreaks to gain influence and wield power in a domain then thoroughly dominated by men, but also provides a lively historic narrative that shows the extraordinary extent to which Chase’s vision of Santa Barbara as a singularly special place, abides today.”

    Rae will be signing and discussing her just-out book, titled “A String of Pearls: Pearl Chase of Santa Barbara,” at Chaucer’s Books this Wednesday (Nov. 8) at 6 p.m.

  3. Thank you, Penny, for sharing your interesting article with us that reminds us of the influence of Pearl Chase in Santa Barbara right to the end of her life. And thank you again for the part that you and Terry played!

Op-Ed: Heal the Ocean Responds to Ring Net Removal

Garba Gujarati Indian Dance Flash Mob