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Make Myself at Home: House Full of Happy Memories

501 Orena Street: An Immaculate Upper East Craftsman


It’s easy to fall in love with the Craftsman bungalow for sale at 501 Orena Street. The house is located just around the corner from the Mission Rose Garden, on a hillside right above Roosevelt Elementary School. It has charming period details like pocket doors, gleaming fir floors, wainscoting, and leaded glass windows. With a screened porch on the side and a large patio out back, it’s a great house for indoor-outdoor entertaining.

I know this home well because my friend Susan and her husband, Evan, raised their daughters, Rachel and Sophie, in this idyllic hillside bungalow. Hearing Susan’s stories of the laughter and love their family has shared makes every beam, window, and nook come to life. The family history melds with the history of the land, the neighborhood, and the house itself to create a complete picture of this happy home.

This upper east neighborhood was originally part of the mission lands, and the hillside the house is on was planted in vineyards. This subdivision to the City of Santa Barbara was filed in 1903 and known as Las Piedras, which is Spanish for “the stones.” Susan jokes that you can’t stick a shovel in the ground in this area without hitting a sandstone boulder, which is why it boasts so many of the city’s iconic sandstone walls and foundations.

The house is shown on a 1907 city fire insurance map, and a 1920 record shows that it was occupied by R.B. Kidd, who is identified as the chauffeur for the minister of the Presbyterian Church. Susan and her husband bought the house in 1991 from Elizabeth McIntyre, who grew up next door. Mr. and Mrs. Kidd had no children, and “Betty” took care of Mrs. Kidd in her later years. When Mrs. Kidd passed away, she left the house to Betty, whose own children were adults. Susan and Evan were therefore only the third owners of the house, and Rachel and Sophie were the first children to live here.

The house was originally two bedrooms and one “Jack and Jill” bathroom shared by the bedrooms on either side of it. Susan recalls that the girls would chase each other in a perfect circle, from living room into dining room into bedroom into bathroom into bedroom and back into living room. After their youngest, Sophie, was born, they demolished the bathroom and built two brand new bathrooms back to back, so each bedroom has its own bath. They also pushed out the window wall in the girls’ bedroom to accommodate two desks, which Susan says were never used because the girls always wanted to do their homework at the kitchen table. When their daughters entered high school, a rear wing with two bedrooms and another full bathroom was added. Evan is a master craftsman and did much of the work himself.

Susan has plenty of stories about raising her family in this house. “We always took the girls to Fiesta opening night at the Mission, with a picnic basket filled with Lito’s burritos and chips. We will miss our evening glass of wine while watching the sunset on the screened porch above Emerson Avenue.  It is surrounded by two rare species of eucalyptus so it feels like you’re sitting in a tree house. We celebrated countless birthdays in this house, as well as hosting our famous annual holiday party. The shoulder-to-shoulder party was always so much fun because the guest list included friends, the girls’ friends, our coworkers, neighbors, and even strangers, because the door was always open to everyone.” Another holiday tradition, Susan relates, was an annual baking marathon. “Every year, over a period of three days, all four of us would make holiday candy, fudge, toffee, caramels, and cookies and then box them all up and deliver them to friends. This became one of our most beloved family traditions.” 

Living next door to the elementary school also conjured up fond memories of watching Rachel and Sophie walk to school each morning from their porch facing Emerson Avenue. Susan says they could literally see the girls walk into their classrooms, which at the time were portable buildings. “They would stop at their classroom doors, look up to the house, and we would wave to them from the porch. It would always choke me up. Watching your kids grow up will do that, I guess.” 501 Orena Street echoes with the memories they made in their many years here. As their family moves on to new adventures, its next lucky owner will be able to continue the stories of this beautiful home, and make memories of their own.

501 Orena Street is currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by Toni Mochi of George Logan Properties. Reach Toni at tonimochi@aol.com or 636-9170. See a full photo tour online at ToniMochi.com.



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