Pearl Chase’s Legacy

Annual Historic Homes Tour

by Michael Redmon

The Pearl Chase Society presents its 8th Annual Historic Homes Tour on Sunday, May 21, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year the society will showcase five homes in Montecito’s Hedgerow neighborhood, offering an intriguing mix of architectural styles.

The society is named after Pearl Chase (pictured), one of the major figures in social service and community activism on the South Coast. Born in Boston in 1888, she moved with her family to Santa Barbara in 1900. Pearl demonstrated a drive and intelligence early on; she graduated from Santa Barbara High School at age 14. A year later she matriculated at UC Berkeley.

She returned to Santa Barbara in 1909 a summa cum laude graduate and turned her considerable talents to bettering her community. Her early efforts concentrated on issues of public health and food quality, spearheading a drive to close down an unhealthful slaughterhouse, improving sanitation at local dairies, and cofounding the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

In the early 1920s, she began focusing on civic beautification. She was a major figure in the Plans and Planting branch of the Community Arts Association that for decades was at the center of issues of architectural design, building regulations, conservation, and historic preservation. One of her typical campaigns was a multiyear fight to keep billboards away from Santa Barbara’s roadways.

South Coast history was a passion for her. For 40 years she sat on the advisory committee to restore and operate Mission La Purísima as a historic site. In 1962 she became the first vice president of the newly formed Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, which oversaw the reconstruction of Santa Barbara’s Royal Presidio. She knew everybody and knew how to get things done. When she died in 1979 she left behind a legacy of activism in the service of civic betterment.

The Pearl Chase Society, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1995 and focuses on historic preservation and conservation. In addition to the annual Historic Homes Tours, the society conducts educational programs, sponsors cultural heritage activities, and is engaged in an ongoing photo documentation of the city’s landscape.

The Hedgerow neighborhood, the location of this year’s tour, is in the lower portion of Montecito and roughly runs from San Ysidro Road eastward to just beyond Pomar Lane. The oldest home on the tour is the charming Craftsman, El Contento, built around 1905. It sits on a portion of what was once the Hixon farm, typical of the farms that once dotted the Montecito landscape in the late 1800s.

Boscobel (“In the Midst of Beautiful Woods”) was built in about 1917 by F. M. Edwards. This Mediterranean home with Federal architectural touches cohosted the Garden Club of America in 1926, which in turn sparked a tradition of tours by the local Garden Club.

The aptly named Andalusia, a Spanish colonial revival gem, was built in the early 1920s for Mary P. Drummond. She engaged Santa Barbara’s most prominent architect, George Washington Smith, to design the home. The day she came to call on Smith, however, he was out of the office and an unsuspecting assistant sold her designs that Smith had meant for his own home. The assistant, Sidney Stacy, completed the commission and then was promptly sacked.

The ranch-style home built by Andrew McDonough dates from 1939. A rental for much of its life, the house today has been transformed into a charming artist’s home and studio, filled with art pieces and adorned with wrought iron, mullioned glass, and tile.

In 1922, Frederick L. Baxter engaged the notable firm of Soule, Murphy, and Hastings to design a home reminiscent of a country manor in Brittany. The firm’s design for Le Petit Manoir was honored with first prize in the 1923 Southern California Institute of Architects and garnered a feature in House and Garden magazine the next year. The gardens bear the unmistakable influence of local landscape architect Elizabeth de Forest.

Tickets for the Home Tour are $50, or $45 for society members and are available by mail: Pearl Chase Society, P.O. Box 5081, Santa Barbara, CA, 93150-5081. Information is available at 961-3938. A limited number of patron tickets are also available for $150. These include a champagne brunch and tour at the historic Masini Adobe, one of the oldest two-story adobes in California. For patron tickets, call 682-4415.

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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