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Fabled Gables: 1910 Laguna Street

This 19th-century chalet-style home is a charming anomaly in our red-tile-roofed town.


Original owner: Christopher Tornoe

Year built: 1897

Architect/builder: Christopher Tornoe

This week’s building, constructed during the Victorian era, is distinct for Santa Barbara. Its architecture, while unique for the United States, was even more of an anomaly here.

Built in a fanciful chalet style, which is derived from Swiss and southern German motifs, the residence includes several artful uses of half-timbered patterns, which incorporate horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and curvature configurations. Additional architectural highlights include a symmetrical design with twin chimneys at each end, multipaned windows, and a low-hipped roof with a projecting balcony on the second level, which gives an almost loggia-like appearance.

The property’s origins begin with the Presbyterian Church, which sold it to George Coffin in 1889. By 1897, architect/builder Christopher Tornoe (for whom the road in Mission Canyon is named), had acquired the land and built the residence. Five years later, in 1902, Tornoe deeded the house and property to Joseph F. Stewart, who in 1905 deeded it to Mary and Michael Fox. The home remained in the Fox family for more than nine decades. Since that time, only two additional owners have occupied the residence, each continuing the tradition of immaculate care so that it remains in a virtually unaltered state.

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