Q: Can you give me a biography of Caroline Hazard?

Can you give me a biography of Caroline Hazard? — Arlene
Kupchella

By Michael Redmon

history.jpgCaroline Hazard’s father was enchanted
by Santa Barbara in the early 1880s, when he stayed at the
luxurious Arlington Hotel. Soon after, he bought property up in
Mission Canyon and built the estate Mission Hill in 1885. This
began daughter Caroline’s own love affair with Santa Barbara, where
she would spend all or part of the next 60 years.

Caroline Hazard was born in Peace Dale, Rhode Island, in 1856.
The family was quite affluent and Caroline received her early
education at home at the hands of private tutors. She then attended
an exclusive private school, the Mary A. Shaw School in Providence,
Rhode Island. After spending some time pursuing studies in Europe,
she returned to the States to earn a master’s degree in art from
the University of Michigan in 1899. She later received a doctorate
in literature at Brown University and a doctorate in law from Tufts
University. Later in life, Mills College in Oakland would bestow
upon her an honorary doctorate in literature. Painting and writing
became two life-long passions.

In 1899, Hazard was appointed president of Wellesley, a women’s
college in Massachusetts, a post she would hold for 11 years.
During these years she was also a prolific author, penning two
biographies, books of poetry, and innumerable essays, reviews, and
other works as well as acting as editor of a major work on women in
education.

During her repeated visits to Santa Barbara, she became
interested in local history, with a focus on the Spanish era. She
often would climb aboard a buggy and drive out to one of the nearby
missions to render it in watercolor. Some of these paintings, such
as that of La Purísima, are important historical documents,
capturing these monuments of California’s past before serious
deterioration set in or alterations were made. For many years, her
paintings were hung in the art gallery of the Santa Barbara public
library during Easter time.

Hazard is perhaps best remembered locally for her early
involvement with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Her
brother, Rowland, was an avid collector of bird eggs. In 1916, he
had built near Mission Hill the Tudor revival-style Dial House, so
named for a sundial that his father had placed on an old stone
wall. In 1917, he joined the board of the Museum of Comparative
Oology, founded by William Leon Dawson in order to display his own
extensive egg collection. The museum got its modest beginning in
two small buildings on Dawson’s Mission Canyon property.

Rowland died of a heart attack in early 1918 and his sister
replaced him on the museum board. There was a growing disquiet over
Dawson’s narrow focus for the museum and some of his financial
practices. Hazard sided with those who wanted to see the museum
expand, and in 1922 she donated part of the family land for a new
museum dedicated in memory of her brother, whose widow donated the
funding for the new buildings.

Dawson resigned in early 1923, and the museum was given a new
name, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, to reflect its
expanded horizons. In ensuing years, Hazard would continue to give
land and funds to the fledgling institution. She also spearheaded a
drive in 1926 to purchase land south of the mission for a park.
Today that land is part of Mission Historical Park.

During World War II, Hazard leased Dial House for use as a
women’s shelter. She also became honorary chair of a group to fund
a museum for the Santa Barbara Historical Society. Caroline Hazard
died in March 1945 at Mission Hill. The two Hazard family homes are
now part of a retreat for the Anglican Sisters of the Holy
Nativity, known as St. Mary’s Retreat House.

Michael Redmon, director of research at the Santa Barbara
Historical Society, will answer your questions about Santa
Barbara’s history. Write him c/o The Independent, 122 West Figueroa
St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101.

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