Saviors of Goleta History

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Saviors of Goleta History
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By Tom Modugno of Goleta History

Our local history stays alive through the efforts of individuals and occasionally socially conscious corporations. Certain people can see past the five minutes directly in front of them and realize the value of preserving our past for future generations. The folks at the Goleta Valley Historical Society have done a good job of this at the Stow House.

The Pacifica Suites realized the value of local history when they acquired this property. Rather than bulldozing the Sexton House to make room for their new hotel, they restored the old house and made it an attraction on their property. Check it out sometime, you can just go walk in and look around.

The King of Pampas Grass, Joseph Sexton, would be very pleased that his beautiful home has been restored and preserved forever, by a hotel chain!

Local businessman Albert Goldman recognized valuable history in 1962 when he saved the Hollister Arch from the dump. Developers wanted the “eyesore” removed, pronto, so Goldman took matters into his own hands and moved the arch to his property.

Even though his shortsighted neighbors all protested, he persevered, and set the arch up at the entrance of his Goleta property. Fast forward 60 years and we find Dante Gonzalez, co-owner of Progressive Environmental Industries looking at this unusual entrance to his family business. Dante did some research and realized the value of this unique entry gate.

Gonzalez restored Col. Hollister’s grand arch to its former glory and now it is an attractive asset to the property and the business. Most importantly, he has saved an important part of Goleta’s history for future generations to learn about.

In the late 1970’s the Goleta Train Depot was deemed obsolete and destined to be demolished. The large majority of our “civic leaders” agreed it was the right thing to do. Upward and onward. Progress can not be stopped!

Fortunately, a group of forward thinking folks led by Gary Coombs decided the train station held a lot of valuable history and needed to be saved. These regular folks put together a monumental grass roots effort to save the Train Depot.

In less than 2 years they managed to find a new location and a way to move the nearly 100 year old building to that new location. Despite all the odds and all the naysayers, regular citizens found a way to save local history.

And now we have the the South Coast Railroad Museum at the historic Goleta Depot for generations of families to enjoy and learn about our past.

Another lucky beneficiary of responsible history stewardship is the Witness Tree in Old Town Goleta.

In the late 1960s, Goleta farmers Vic and Carlo Bottiani decided they wanted to build a restaurant on their property by the San Jose Creek. They could have easily chopped down the historic old tree and moved forward with their plans, but these wise men appreciated the local history this old tree represented.

The Bottianis hired a well known architect to design their new building around the tree, preserving it for future generations. An amazing feat of forward thinking that we still can enjoy today, thank you Bottiani family! Excellent stewards of local history.

So those are some good news stories about socially conscious folks saving our history. But there are many more important pieces of our history that have yet to be saved, and time is running out. Here are some prime opportunities for people to become History Heroes….

First and foremost, a prime example of a historic gem that needs to be rescued is the Barnsdall Rio Grande gas station. Years ago we started a petition to save it and the response was overwhelming. Long time locals and recent transplants all love this unique building.

Ty Warner has owned this historic building for over 20 years and has done nothing at all to keep it from rotting. With a net worth of over $2 billion dollars, money shouldn’t be an issue here, should it? So why not fix it up Ty? The people of Goleta would love you for it and it could be a great draw to your golf course. Heck, make it a Beanie Baby museum! Or a Ty Warner museum! Anything, just save it, please. You’ll be a hero!

The city of Santa Barbara has a prime opportunity to be good stewards of history just sitting in the corner of their airport. The original Two Hangars that started the whole airport have been patiently waiting to be saved for decades.

There is so much local and aviation history in these two simple buildings, they really need to be preserved and turned into a museum. The original hangars of an airport are almost never left standing throughout history, so these are truly unique.

And what a great tourist attraction and revenue stream they could be for the city and the the airport. Sure, it will cost money today, but it will be an asset for all of the future. Hopefully the new mayor of Santa Barbara can see the value here and make this happen?

Our friends at UCSB own the Campbell Manor at Devereaux Point. It has an extravagant history complete with movie stars and international royalty. Designed by famous female architect Mary Craig, it was once a showplace. But you wouldn’t know it today by the shape it’s in.

Nancy Campbell devoted her life to fulfilling her late husband’s dream of building a working ranch estate in Goleta. But the Campbells would be disgusted to see the way their beloved home on the California coast has been neglected by the big business known as the UC system.

It would appear that little or no effort has been made to preserve the former grandeur of the Campbell Manor.

Nearby, the Campbell’s unique redwood barn, also designed by Mary Craig, has been condemned by UCSB and is slowly deteriorating. A small group of folks are trying to save it, but UCSB is stopping the effort.

So there are some examples. There are many more like the Bishop Ranch buildings, the Ellwood Queen, etc.. As Goleta continues to grow, more and more newcomers pour into our neighborhoods with little or no knowledge of the history of this area. If nothing is preserved, it ceases to exist, and it becomes a faded memory. I guess that’s what some folks call progress….

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Gordo Feb 12, 2022 01:35 PM
Saviors of Goleta History

Thanks Tom. It's so nice to learn of the history of Goleta - my adopted town of the last 40 years.

a-1644705881 Feb 12, 2022 02:44 PM
Saviors of Goleta History

Super article and advocacy for preservation of historic landmarks. Goleta was blessed with many heroes who stood up to "common wisdom" and saved structures and land for future generations to enjoy. In 2012 Goleta city voters overwhelmingly approved a moratorium to maintain ag zoning for Bishop Ranch for 20 years . The developers will likely be back in 2032 trying once again to change from ag to residential/commercial. The last proposal in 2008 from out of town developers called for 1200 homes plus commercial. Probably many many more homes now could be built with the state's aggressive housing policies if the zoning changes. Time to begin the process of saving the property for a City recreational park or preserve. Ballfields, a skatepark, an aquatic center, etc would be possibilities, and are really needed in the growing City. Personally though, I'd vote for a preserve.

Stuart Feb 13, 2022 08:37 AM
Saviors of Goleta History

You're very right that we've been blessed with past heroes and need some current ones. Your idea of a preserve for the Bishop Ag land would make most sense. When you consider the fact that the Bishop Ranch is pretty much just across the street from Lake Los Carneros Park with a simple path near the Historic Goleta Depot crossing you could more than double the size of the Park/preserve and save for many future generations. Once developed and gone it's gone forever. Many options for building Mixed use housing along Hollister and other Goleta areas that doesn't expand the footprint into Ag zoned land. The old model of urban expansion is not efficient on all levels except for large scale developers who often are from out of our area and care nothing more than about short term profits; all while often promising jobs which usually are outsourced to non-Goleta workers. It would be interesting to know what the current value is of the Bishop Ranch waterless and on the sidelines for the next decade at a minimum. It might surprisingly be worth not much more than what the taxpayers are being asked to allocate to the Motel Super 8 project which is a needed but only a"short term solution". Long term funding allocated towards open space, parks, sport fields, picnic areas is also a wise investment in Goleta's permanent mental health as communities that have open space, parks, quiet areas tend to thrive in ways that can't be monetized.

dukemunson Feb 12, 2022 05:24 PM
Saviors of Goleta History

I’m all for keeping Goleta green and ag… and am against continual building in sb/Goleta. BUT… if we do need to add some housing (which We long term have to), and need to build X number of units, bishop ranch seems like a decent spot. It’s right next to the freeway and services and makes no sense as a preserve. I’m down on building… but if we must… this is probably the most logical spot in either town!

craigbob Feb 12, 2022 06:53 PM
Saviors of Goleta History

As per Bishop Ranch - the developer, of dubious character, is Michael Keston. He tried to buy the Goleta City Council in the form of secret, last minute campaign contributions. He succeeded with, Eric Onen (SB Airbus owner and one time Goleta Mayor) who became his advocate even as the people of Goleta came out in droves in opposition to the project. Bishop Ranch sold their ag water rights and then bemoaned the fact that there was not enough water to farm. Onen would shit shoulder to shoulder with Keston at the meetings - it was despicable. Do a SB Indy search on Bishop Ranch - great reporting through the years.

Basicinfo805 Feb 12, 2022 08:27 PM
Saviors of Goleta History

Oh hell no Duke, promoting the Bishop Ranch for development? “It makes no sense as a preserve” say you?? Wow. That’s your response to Tom’s article about Goleta preservation? Ouch.

dukemunson Feb 12, 2022 08:57 PM
Saviors of Goleta History

I could be wrong! But at first blush, if we have to build… that seems like a decent spot. It’s don’t see the “preserve”‘potential. I drove past it often and it’s nice to see empty…. But if we have to build something at some point, it seems like a decent soot. Do you have a flat open, close to freeway option b?

dukemunson Feb 12, 2022 09:19 PM
Saviors of Goleta History

Again, I could be wrong… but if we have to build some units… this seems like a better spot than any other that comes to mind. If we are stopping any/all building, ok… I can get behind that! But if we have to build some housing… this seems like a better spot than anything else that immediately comes to mind.

a-1644748829 Feb 13, 2022 02:40 AM
Saviors of Goleta History

It's good to see someone so sanguine about the future. Thanks for the report, Tom.

Bluedog Feb 13, 2022 07:19 AM
Saviors of Goleta History

What a fine article on Goleta early buildings! Thanks so much for putting this together Tom. I hope Edhat archives articles like this, as they are such an important community resource.

I have so many connections with these sites. I lived in the Sexton house about a year in 1960 with 13 other guys in a local fraternity while attending UCSB. I remember my grandma buying gas at the Barnsdall gas station: the pumps had ca. 10-gal glass cylinders one pumped up, then let the gas drain through a hose to your gas tank. The Stow house became to site of my Old Time Fiddlers' Convention, which I founded in 1972 at UCSB, then moved to Stow in 1980.

Thanks again for all the photos!

Pete Stronzo Feb 14, 2022 01:05 AM
Saviors of Goleta History

Will Bob Wingnut and the Greenland Coalition be sponsoring Measure G 2030?

tMo Feb 14, 2022 06:40 AM
Saviors of Goleta History

Amazing how the mere mention of Bishop Ranch gets all the pro-growth folks in a tizzy. They will not rest until that ugly open space is paved over. That's progress!

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