Q: Can you give me a biography of Caroline Hazard?

Can you give me a biography of Caroline Hazard? — Arlene Kupchella

By Michael Redmon

history.jpgCaroline Hazard’s father was enchanted by Santa Barbara in the early 1880s, when he stayed at the luxurious Arlington Hotel. Soon after, he bought property up in Mission Canyon and built the estate Mission Hill in 1885. This began daughter Caroline’s own love affair with Santa Barbara, where she would spend all or part of the next 60 years.

Caroline Hazard was born in Peace Dale, Rhode Island, in 1856. The family was quite affluent and Caroline received her early education at home at the hands of private tutors. She then attended an exclusive private school, the Mary A. Shaw School in Providence, Rhode Island. After spending some time pursuing studies in Europe, she returned to the States to earn a master’s degree in art from the University of Michigan in 1899. She later received a doctorate in literature at Brown University and a doctorate in law from Tufts University. Later in life, Mills College in Oakland would bestow upon her an honorary doctorate in literature. Painting and writing became two life-long passions.

In 1899, Hazard was appointed president of Wellesley, a women’s college in Massachusetts, a post she would hold for 11 years. During these years she was also a prolific author, penning two biographies, books of poetry, and innumerable essays, reviews, and other works as well as acting as editor of a major work on women in education.

During her repeated visits to Santa Barbara, she became interested in local history, with a focus on the Spanish era. She often would climb aboard a buggy and drive out to one of the nearby missions to render it in watercolor. Some of these paintings, such as that of La Purísima, are important historical documents, capturing these monuments of California’s past before serious deterioration set in or alterations were made. For many years, her paintings were hung in the art gallery of the Santa Barbara public library during Easter time.

Hazard is perhaps best remembered locally for her early involvement with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Her brother, Rowland, was an avid collector of bird eggs. In 1916, he had built near Mission Hill the Tudor revival-style Dial House, so named for a sundial that his father had placed on an old stone wall. In 1917, he joined the board of the Museum of Comparative Oology, founded by William Leon Dawson in order to display his own extensive egg collection. The museum got its modest beginning in two small buildings on Dawson’s Mission Canyon property.

Rowland died of a heart attack in early 1918 and his sister replaced him on the museum board. There was a growing disquiet over Dawson’s narrow focus for the museum and some of his financial practices. Hazard sided with those who wanted to see the museum expand, and in 1922 she donated part of the family land for a new museum dedicated in memory of her brother, whose widow donated the funding for the new buildings.

Dawson resigned in early 1923, and the museum was given a new name, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, to reflect its expanded horizons. In ensuing years, Hazard would continue to give land and funds to the fledgling institution. She also spearheaded a drive in 1926 to purchase land south of the mission for a park. Today that land is part of Mission Historical Park.

During World War II, Hazard leased Dial House for use as a women’s shelter. She also became honorary chair of a group to fund a museum for the Santa Barbara Historical Society. Caroline Hazard died in March 1945 at Mission Hill. The two Hazard family homes are now part of a retreat for the Anglican Sisters of the Holy Nativity, known as St. Mary’s Retreat House.

Michael Redmon, director of research at the Santa Barbara Historical Society, will answer your questions about Santa Barbara’s history. Write him c/o The Independent, 122 West Figueroa St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101.

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