Archive » July 26, 2007
Eye on Montecito
By John Watson
The Mira Vista Gate House
When the railroad came to Santa Barbara in 1887, it finally enabled the wealthy to travel quickly to the South Coast in comfort. As these affluent visitors began to understand Santa Barbara’s potential, they bought sizeable tracts of land in and around Montecito. What began as a trickle of wealthy investment decisions soon turned into a torrent of speculation, as others jumped on board, creating Santa Barbara’s first land boom. As with all price spikes, the market settled back after a few years, and those prices would not be seen again until the 1920s. These wealthy visitors, who were accustomed to luxurious surroundings in their East Coast and Midwestern homes, began creating grand estates for themselves here.
Mira Vista is considered a turning point in South Coast history as it represents the first transformation of what had previously been only agricultural land into a grand estate. The parcel was purchased in 1891, and at the time, contained a two-story Victorian house. Over the years, and over several cycles of remodeling, the property was transformed into an estate highlighted by its impressive three-story classically organized stone residence that can now be seen from Ashley Road. In its heyday, the estate was accessed from Sycamore Canyon Road and visitors were greeted by the small Gate House, shown here. The Gate House is a simple one-story stone building surrounded by lush landscaping. It is integrated into the site by its use of the same stone on the adjoining bridge that connects the estate to Sycamore Canyon Road, and by the stone columns supporting the iron entry gates. As with most of the early estates on the South Coast, subdivisions of the original property have resulted in the separation of the Gate House from the main residence, but the ambience of that period remains in both.
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