Original owner: Mr. and Mrs. George Hernster
Architect: Peter S. Barber
Approximate Year Built: 1884
On or near the year 1884, Bavarian-born George Hernster and his Prussian-born wife commissioned Peter Barber, Santa Barbara’s mayor and leading architect of the day, to design a spacious two-story home at the corner of Cota and De la Vina streets. His signature Victorian-style homes were often two-story buildings with shiplap siding, turreted hip roof, double-hung windows, transform doors, and double brackets under the eaves. In addition to stately mansions and simple cottages, Barber’s vintage architectural treasures were also seen in many early public buildings, including City Hall, the old courthouse, and the Arlington Hotel.
Hernster was one of Santa Barbara’s early merchants and liquor dealers, and he and his family occupied the home from its construction until 1948. After the Hernsters’ reign, it was owned briefly by John Massa and his wife. By 1956, Elmer Whittaker, a builder and preservationist of historic homes, had purchased and restored the residence as a birthday gift for his wife, Barbara. They allowed the downstairs to serve as a headquarters and clubhouse for several prominent women’s organizations — including the Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Colonists, and the PEO Sisterhood — and Barbara Whittaker often referred to the residence as her “Pro-American house.”