Canvases For Casa del Herrero

Casa del Herrero, designed and built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, is the celebrated result of the collaboration between Montecito’s favorite son, architect George Washington Smith, and another George: George Steedman, a St. Louis businessman who moved to Montecito after visiting his diabetic brother at the Sansum Clinic. Steedman and Smith created a series of 205 drawings covering the smallest details of the construction of the fine home on East Valley Road that Steedman moved into the very day of the Santa Barbara earthquake (June 29, 1925). The house wasn’t quite completed, but it was undamaged by the quake. The estate was dubbed “Casa del Herrero” (home of the blacksmith), and while Steedman was no blacksmith, he could fabricate metal parts – he and his brothers owned the Curtis Manufacturing Company – and his workshop and all its tools remains a prized feature of Casa del Herrero to this day.

The house is a classic example of all the elements that made George Washington Smith such a sought-after architect, including a ceiling in one of the rooms taken in its entirety from a church in Spain. Perhaps even more unique is the fact that Casa del Herrero remains essentially the same as it was more than 83 years ago.

The 11-acre grounds too, although small in comparison to most of the great estates, are a showcase, having been developed by Ralph Stevens and Peter Riedel and perfected by Montecito’s other favorite son, landscape artist, Lockwood de Forest, Jr.

In charge of the preservation of this treasure is a board of trustees, and to that end, the board has arranged for a unique event set for Sunday, August 19, from 4 pm to 7 pm. Paintings – pastels, watercolors, acrylics, and oils, over fifty in all – mostly done in plein air on the grounds of Casa del Herrero by twelve of Santa Barbara’s best artists, will be put up for sale to raise funds for the continued preservation of Casa del Herrero.

The artists are: Meredith Brooks Abbott, Whitney Abbott, Dennis Doheny, James Dow, Kathleen Elsey, Ellie Freudenstein, Rick Garcia, Glenna Hartmann, Ray Hunter, Ann Sanders, Tomas Van Stein, and Ralph Waterhouse. All are scheduled to be there on Sunday afternoon with various paintings for sale, and all the paintings will be framed and ready to be hung. Many of the artists will be at an easel, perhaps putting the finishing touches to one of their canvases, and 40% of the proceeds of any art sold will go directly to Casa del Herrero Foundation.

Along with the art for sale (this is not an auction; each painting will sport a price tag), the afternoon will also feature food catered by Fresco!, wine from Sunstone Winery, ale from Telegraph Brewing, music by acoustic jazz threesome Bon Trio, and of course, valet parking. Tickets are $125 for non-members; $100 for members. Tickets are limited to 150 and nearly 100 have already been sold.

Molly Barker was named Casa del Herrero’s Executive Director in October 2006; she had a similar position at the 654-acre Filoli Estate in the San Francisco Bay Area. “We have done art shows in the past,” she explains, “but the theme – Preserving Precious Spaces – is the idea that we are stewards, and that we regard the artists as partners in preservation, because they preserve it by recording and interpreting it in a permanent way.” Molly advises those planning to attend that, “It’s a Garden Party, so dress is casual.” She adds that, “paving here is pretty uneven, so it’s always best to wear sensible shoes.”

Preserving Precious Spaces co-chairs are Joan Jackson and Diane Sassen; the event’s corporate underwriter is Griffith and Thornburgh, and corporate sponsor is U.S. Trust. Because the entire event has been underwritten, every dollar collected is earmarked directly to Casa del Herrero Foundation.

You can join this group of art lovers and preservationists (and tour the house and grounds) on Sunday, August 19, from 4 pm to 7 pm by mailing a check to Casa del Herrero Foundation, 1387 East Valley Road, Montecito, CA 93108, or by calling (805) 565-5653.