Saving the Barnsdall Gas Station

Barnsdall Gas Station in Goleta (Photo by Tom Modugno)

It’s still there. Right where it’s been since 1929, when oil rich executives decided to build a showpiece filling station to celebrate the wild success of their Ellwood oil field and to do it in a style that would please Pearl Chase.

barnsdall 1

They spared no expense and hired an exclusive architecture firm to build a exquisite building in the Spanish colonial revival style.

fancy signIt won several awards and was a successful business for decades, until the rerouting of the highway isolated it from traffic. By the early 1950’s, the station was closed to the general public.


So there it sat, unused and abandoned, but not unnoticed.

bb9Throughout the years, generations of folks enjoyed the beauty of the little building and wondered what the future would hold for it.


In January of 2015, Goleta History started a petition to preserve the Barnsdall gas station. The response was overwhelming. This building means a lot of things to a lot of different people, and they were very passionate about it. Nearly 3,000 signatures were quickly collected, hundreds of citizens offered to help with the restoration and people came out of the woodwork with ideas and plans they had for the building.  If you take the time to read some of the comments on the petition, it’s a lot of fun. The petition got a lot of media attention, from local papers to NPR. In February, 2015, we presented the petition to the Goleta city council and several citizens spoke eloquently on behalf of the structure.


On June 11th, 2015, that same city council called a media press conference to proudly announce that they had worked out a deal to save the historic gas station for future generations.

Beanie billionaire Ty Warner, owner of the Sandpiper Golf Course and the gas station, had generously agreed to donate the building and one acre of land to the city of Goleta. He was thanked and praised and everyone celebrated a great victory. Unfortunately that didn’t work out due to some fine print in the title to the property. Learn more about that HERE.


The years flew by and we continued to wait and wonder when Ty Warner and the city of Goleta will find a way to save this iconic structure.

Well, it appears the time has come to try again! Mr. Warner would like to remodel the whole Sandpiper golf course and saving the Barnsdall station is included in his plan.

The new plan completely restores the original building inside and out, bringing it up to modern codes for earthquake, etc., while using as much of the original material as possible. Inside the building will be a historic exhibit with photos and the story of the building and the surrounding area. ( We all know there is plenty of history there.)  Additionally, they want to build a small coffee shop next-door with a large garage type door that will be open to the public. A new parking lot will be built to the east of the station and a large covered public seating area will be to the west of the station.

The folks at Sandpiper recognized that their current snack bar is very popular with bicyclists, so they’ve decided to make this new café very bike friendly to encourage that. There will be multiple bike racks all around and where the old gas pumps used to be there will now be electric bike charging stations.

Further improvements include building a sidewalk along Hollister, putting all the existing powerlines underground and building a new crosswalk to allow easy access to the neighborhood across the street. All in all, a very generous offer made by Ty Warner to save this historic structure.
Barnsdall today

The best part of this offer is Mr. Warner is offering to pay for 100% of it. We all know that if the city had accepted his donation years ago, they would still be struggling to find the funding to restore it. This avoids that whole problem.

This plan will be presented to the city of Goleta Historic Preservation Committee for review this Monday, April 15, 2024, at 5:30 P.M., City Hall, Council Chambers, 130 Cremona Drive, Suite B.

If you care about finally saving this historic structure, come to the meeting or send an email to

Let’s save this important piece of Goleta history once and for all.

“The only thing more destructive to historical landmarks than a bulldozer is procrastination on the part of preservationists.” – Walker A. Tompkins

Thanks to Ben Burkhalter and Patti Gutshall for images.


Written by tMo

Tom Modugno is a local business owner, surfer, writer, and community activist. He also runs and

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  1. Thank Gawd there are generous Billionaires like Ty Warner who give back to their communities… This Gas Station is a gem indeed and will be embraced as a local operating historic icon…Thanks again Mr. Warner.

  2. Interesting that Tom says it was closed to the general public in the early fifties. I guess I was the non general public cuz I was poor and driving my 1953 Willy’s Overland P/U. I would stop by there in 1966 and get oil there from the glass oil filled recyclable bottles. I still have one of the bottles and a galvanized inner tube repair tank from when it completely closed.

  3. This is very exciting to me! I have dreamed of putting a pub in here for decades. I actually did (fictionally) in my recent sci-fi novel, Amorphous: Breaking the Mold. I have a loving description of my idea of a redesign 45 years from now. Unfortunately, during the soft opening, something (is it a meteor? Is it a spacecraft?) takes out about 45 yards of the golf course and smashes into the back of the newly redesigned restaurant as the alien substance starts chewing its way across the golf course and a couple of folks unlucky enough to be in the way. Most of the last 1/3 of the book takes place right there. It was so much fun to write!

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