‘What is the history of the Ennisbrook neighborhood in Montecito, known as Ennisbrook?’ -Matt Patterson
By Michael Redmon
On a hill commanding a grand view of the Pacific, just off San Leandro Lane, sits one of Montecito’s oldest buildings. The Dominguez adobe not only harkens back to the South Coast’s Mexican era, but also stands as the centerpiece of the residential development Ennisbrook.
In 1845, retired presidio soldier Nemecio Dominguez was granted 356 acres of Santa Barbara’s pueblo lands in Montecito. He was one of 15 children of José and Marcelina Dominguez, who for a time owned the famous giant Montecito grapevine. Although officially granted the land in that year, it is possible that Dominguez had already constructed the adobe home the previous decade. In any case, Dominguez settled down to farm a small portion of his Rancho San Leandro. About the only other improvement Dominguez made to the property was the construction of a small horse racing track behind the house. In 1868, seven years before his death, Dominguez sold Rancho San Leandro to Edward Doty who very soon after sold it to Jarvis Swift, a hotel operator from Nevada. It was under Swift, and then his son James, that major improvements were made on the ranch. Whereas Dominguez had carried on not much more than subsistence farming, the Swifts tried to make the property into a true commercial concern, raising a variety of crops. Further ownership changes followed. One owner, local attorney George Gould, was responsible for putting in the two arched stone bridges that still grace the property.
Herbert C. Cox of Toronto bought the ranch from Gould in 1916 and it was he who rechristened the property as Ennisbrook. He enlarged and remodeled the old adobe and, being a horse enthusiast, he constructed two polo fields, one complete with bleachers. The property’s association with the local polo scene intensified when Elmer J. Boeseke Jr. bought Ennisbrook in 1926.
Albert Boeseke had arrived in Santa Barbara in 1866 and opened a hardware business. A number of his sons, including Elmer (who was a physician and served two terms as mayor of Santa Barbara), were avid polo players. This love of the sport was passed on to the next generation, most notably to Elmer’s son, Elmer Jr. The latter was a nationally recognized star. He was a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 1924 and was on the team that won the 1933 National Open Championship. The following year he was ranked a 10-goal player, the highest rating possible. Ennisbrook became a center for local polo, with the Santa Barbara Polo Club using the facilities until the early 1930s.
The heyday of Ennisbrook was fairly short-lived. The Depression, the temporary abandonment of polo as an Olympic event, and the onset of World War II all combined to lessen local interest in polo. By the mid 1940s, the polo facilities at Ennisbrook were weed-filled and largely forgotten.
The property was little used and minimally maintained up through the death of Elmer Boeseke Jr. in 1965. Ennisbrook remained in the Boeseke family until sold to Jack Theimer and Pat Bourgeois in 1986. Two years later the county approved their plans to build 63 homes on the former Rancho San Leandro. This approval was contingent upon the developers opening Montecito’s first nature preserve, 44 wooded acres along San Ysidro Creek. The preserve opened to the public in 1990 and is a favorite with hikers. The Ennisbrook development, just to the east of the preserve, is ongoing. The marriage of nature preserve and residential development makes Ennisbrook unique in Montecito.
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.