The Daniel Hill adobe at 35 South La Patera Lane is one of the oldest buildings in the Goleta area. Hill was among the first American citizens to settle on the South Coast. He later renounced his U.S. citizenship in order to marry the love of his life, a woman from a distinguished local Spanish family.
Daniel Hill was born in a small town northwest of Boston in 1797. Although raised on a farm, Hill early on felt the call of the sea, and as a teenager, he left home to travel the world on shipboard. In 1822, he served on the Rebecca and sailed to Hawai‘i. There he signed on as first mate with another ship, The Rover. Early in 1823, The Rover dropped anchor off of Rancho Refugio, up the coast from Santa Barbara. Alta California was just emerging from decades of tightly controlled trading policies put in place by the Spanish authorities. California had come under Mexican control in 1822, and her ports were now opening up to foreign traders.
It was at Refugio that Hill first laid eyes upon Rafaela, the 13-year-old granddaughter of José Francisco Ortega, who had served as first comandante of the Spanish Royal Presidio in Santa Barbara. Hill was smitten and became determined to remain in California, win Rafaela’s heart, and marry her. He made his way to Santa Barbara and set up a mercantile store near the Old Mission. As Hill was quite handy with the tools of the carpenter and mason, he soon found ready employment in the building trade.
Hill gave up his Protestant faith, converted to Roman Catholicism, applied for Mexican citizenship, and worked diligently to learn Spanish. His suit was eventually successful, and Daniel and Rafaela were married at the Santa Barbara Mission in September 1825. The couple would have 15 children.
The next year, the Hills moved into a new adobe home. The Hill-Carrillo adobe is located at 11 East Carrillo Street and is today the headquarters for the Santa Barbara Foundation. The house boasted glass windows, which Hill had imported from Boston. The adobe also had one of the first wooden floors in the city.
In the early 1830s, the family moved to Tajiguas Canyon on the Rancho Refugio. In 1845, Hill and his son-in-law, Nicholas Den, negotiated with the last Mexican governor of Alta California, Pío Pico, to lease the Santa Barbara Mission. Since the secularization of the California missions in 1833, which allowed their lands to be sold to private citizens, a number of the missions had slid into near or total ruin. Hill and Den saw to it that this did not happen to the mission here.
In 1846, Pico granted Hill Rancho La Goleta, a parcel bounded on the west by what is today Fairview Avenue and on the east by Hope Ranch. In 1851, he purchased an additional 1,000 acres from Den, and this is where he built his final home.
Hill’s Goleta adobe boasts walls some 30 inches thick and has well withstood any number of earthquakes over the years. Still, the adobe was almost lost to posterity in the late 1800s. Hill died in 1865. Rafaela eventually remarried, and upon her death in 1879, her second husband sold the adobe home. Unoccupied during the 1890s, the adobe fell into near total ruin until restored by George Williams after his purchase of the property in 1902. Much of the modern-day appearance of the adobe is due to this restoration, including the dormer windows, the wood sheathing of the walls, and the replacement of the tile roof with one of shingles.
The Williams heirs sold the adobe in 1972, and the building is now used as office space. It is a designated Santa Barbara County Landmark and stands as one of the outstanding reminders of the Goleta Valley’s pioneer past.
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 W. Figueroa St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101.