Original Owner: Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul
Year of Construction: 1874
Architect: A. Marquis
Before Mother Teresa, there were the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. In 1857, two courageous women, Andrea Gibbs and Mary Mullane, took a ship from Maryland to the Isthmus of Panama and then embarked on another ship to San Francisco, only to complete their journey on a third boat ride down to Santa Barbara. Their mission was to open a school and help the less fortunate.
Arriving in Santa Barbara on January 5, 1858, the Sisters initially lived and began their school in an old adobe near the corner of Carrillo and State streets that is believed to have been the headquarters of General Frémont (for which the city near San Francisco is named). Within a few years, the Sisters moved their school to 360-plus acres of farmland on the Cieneguitas Ranch near the intersection of today’s San Marcos Pass and 101 freeway. There, they established the first English-speaking school in the region, naming it St. Vincent.
By 1868, the Sisters acquired property near Carrillo and De la Vina streets, where a two-story brick building was constructed, only to be torched by fire within a few years. In 1874, under the direction of Peter S. Barber, architect A. Marquis designed a three-story Italianate Victorian with a basement. For the next half-century, the Sisters’ school took in a wide diversity of less-privileged children.
In 1925, the great Santa Barbara earthquake caused structural damage to the De la Vina property. It was subsequently decided that the building’s third story would be removed. Today, it serves as private offices and has been recognized by the late architectural historian, Dr. David Gebhard, who wrote, “Due to its size and design, this is unquestionably the most important late 19th century building still standing in Santa Barbara.”