Fabled Gables: 1604 Laguna Street

Original Owner: Dr. Edward Thomas Balch and Sarah Foster Balch

Year Built: 1895

Architect: Attributed to Thomas Nixon

This week’s home is the 120-year-old residence of a leading physician in early Santa Barbara, Dr. Edward Thomas Balch, whose family’s genealogy can be traced back to Welsh society dating from 1023 CE.

Though descendants of the family began arriving in the New World as early as 1623, Dr. E.T. Balch was born in 1827 in London, England, and immigrated to the U.S.A. by making his way across the Atlantic in 1849 to New Orleans, where he attended the University of Louisiana and received his MD degree within three years. By 1857, he married Sarah Foster, and they adopted two sons, Edward and Byron.

Within a few years, the Civil War broke out, and Louisiana was not safe for the Balch family, due in part to the fact that Balch openly expressed sympathy with the Union. The family relocated to Weatherford, Texas, but they also found the environment as challenging as New Orleans. In time, Balch joined with the federal troops, and by 1865, he was honorably discharged in New York. By 1871, the family settled in South Bend, Washington, where they lived for more than 20 years, with Balch employed by life insurance companies as an examining physician.

In 1891, the family relocated to the Summerland and Carpinteria areas of Santa Barbara County, where Balch operated a successful practice as a physician in the Hopkins Building on State Street. Upon wife Sarah’s death, Balch married Harriet Noyes, a native of Maine, and moved into the residence at 1604 Laguna Street, which was built for them in 1895. Known for his stalwart Republican values, Dr. Balch’s other accomplishments included becoming a Mason and a leading member of the Santa Barbara Humane Society and Southern California Homeopathic Medical Society.

The Balch’s Victorian-style home is believed to be attributed to Thomas Nixon, a leading architect of the day, who was well regarded for his fine woodworking talents. Nixon developed an excellent reputation and built homes for several prominent citizens of early Santa Barbara, which included Clinton Bennett Hale, W.M. Eddy, and Judge Canfield.

The residence is one of the first to have been built on this block and one of only a handful constructed by Nixon that have remained intact.

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