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Make Myself at Home: Historic Casa Allegra on the Riviera

Take a Look Inside This House of Happiness and Stories Through the Years


Address: 1930 Mission Ridge Road

Status: On the market

Price: $3,950,000

“A nun, a clown, and an opera singer walk into a bar …” I couldn’t suppress the silly joke that popped into my head as I walked through 1930 Mission Ridge Road with its owners Bob and Patsy Fulmer. I was listening to them recount the story of their introduction to this grand house 16 years ago, replete with a reclusive soap-opera-watching owner, a former nun turned clown, an agoraphobic tenant locked into a room, a world-renowned opera star, and more. They actually bought the house without being able to see it all, because they were so charmed by its potential, its “good bones,” and its unparalleled views from almost every room.

Christened Casa Allegra or “House of Happiness” by its original owners, this home overlooks Santa Barbara, high on a Riviera hillside just steps from the Belmond El Encanto hotel, and its history began many years ago, well before the aforementioned cast of characters inhabited it. The house was built in 1917 by the daughter of B.F. Goodrich and the grandson of U.S. vice president John C. Breckinridge. The architect was Floyd E. Brewster, who also designed the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and was an associate of George Washington Smith. Like the museum, Casa Allegra takes full advantage of its striking natural setting and complements rather than competes with the land upon which it was built.

As you walk through the house today, it’s hard to imagine the disarray that Bob and Patsy saw when they first toured it. They tell tales of bare-earth floors in the pantry, dirty dishes covering every kitchen and dining surface, a big indoor fountain in the family room, and an indoor balcony used for operatic arias. Bob describes it as a cross between The Hotel New Hampshire and The World According to Garp, but the couple appreciated the size, storage, grounds, and views from the house. They started planning the changes they would make before they even made a formal offer.

Patsy is an accomplished artist, and her sensibilities guided the steps that the Fulmers took to transform the house they purchased into the showpiece estate that it is today. One walks through the front door into a central great room with soaring 20-foot ceilings and huge windows looking straight through to a backyard waterfall. At once intimate and dramatic, this space opens on one side to a cozy walled interior courtyard, and to the other side is the dining room, butler’s pantry, and kitchen beyond. Tucked behind these rooms is a separate living area with its own full bathroom and laundry. Whether for an au pair or mother-in-law’s quarters, this separate yet together setup is perfect for extended-family situations.

Back toward the entryway is the living room. Bigger than many apartments, this expansive room has hand-hewn beamed ceilings, built-in cabinets, a dramatic fireplace, and huge luxurious window seats just begging you to stop and relax. I imagine sitting there with a book but forgetting to even open it, instead becoming lost in the allure of the city, ocean, and island views. On the other side of the foyer entryway is a large suite consisting of a bedroom and full bath with a study and sitting area with its own entrance. This set of rooms provides perfect guest quarters with plenty of separation and privacy.

The second floor consists of four more bedrooms, four more bathrooms, and two other rooms to be used as offices, studios, work rooms, or whatever individual desires dictate. The rooms of the top floor meander from one to the next, and it’s easy to picture children playing hide-and-seek or guests getting lost as they traverse the myriad options. One supreme orienting factor, however, is the persistent ocean view. The second floor has three balconies that each offer a peaceful space with an unobstructed view.

The outside spaces of this home are even more dramatic than the interior. The front yard is amazingly private, being set into the uphill side of the street, with a brick patio and drought-tolerant ground cover, all surrounded by a low wall.

A huge covered rooftop patio above the garage offers the best view of all and is perfect for entertaining. The Fulmers tell stories of dinner parties with groups of up to 70 guests watching Fourth of July fireworks from this rooftop vantage point. In addition to the ever-present ocean views, the patio also overlooks the grounds of the property with many fruit trees, water features, pathways, and a terraced vegetable garden.

As Bob walks me through the backyard, he plucks a kumquat off one of the trees and offers it to me, barely pausing in his current story to make sure I know that the whole fruit is edible. As he continues talking, I realize that if the next owners of Casa Allegra meet Bob and Patsy, they will get to hear all of the nun, clown, and opera singer stories, plus new stories detailing the wonderful memories that the Fulmers themselves have built in their years of refurbishing, remodeling, and doting on this home.

As it approaches its centennial mark, Casa Allegra is a jewel on the American Riviera, historic and hospitable, just waiting for a new owner to create more stories and make it their own.

1930 Mission Ridge Road is currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by Jon Gilkeson of The Zia Group of Keller Williams Santa Barbara. Reach Jon at jon@ziagroup.com or (805) 335-4749.



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