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Fabled Gables: 409 State Street

Original Owner: Reverend Mrs. E.J. Scudder

Year Built: 1888-1889

Architect: Believed to be Peter J. Barber

Before the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission on East Yanonali Street, there was The Faith Mission at 409 State Street, where the Reverend Mrs. E.J. Scudder offered religious services, meals, short-term lodging, and other ways to help the less fortunate. Upon its opening in January 1890, the Weekly Independent wrote, “The Mission is doing a good work in Santa Barbara in reclaiming young men from their erring ways and pointing out to them the right path to follow to enable them to become good Christians and worthy members of society.”

Though it has never officially been confirmed, it is believed to have been designed by the celebrated Santa Barbara architect Peter J. Barber, who was involved with several early designs, including Santa Barbara College, the Upham Hotel, the second Santa Barbara County Courthouse, the Arlington Hotel, and the remodeling of the Lobero Theatre.

The Faith Mission was originally constructed from 1888 to 1889. The lower State Street address was centrally located in the hub of Santa Barbara’s commercial center, where the city was undergoing a building renaissance of many architectural styles. The property demonstrates a modest Victorian edifice with Eastlake overtones. That vernacular is named for Charles Locke Eastlake (1836-1906), an English architect and author whose designs flourished during the latter half of the 19th century, largely attributed to heavy ornamentation placed on sidings, doorways, windows, and ceilings.

One of the most unique elements is the horizontal axis of the roofline, which is covered in galvanized steel and stamped with a decorative ornamentation, giving almost a sculptural appearance. Additional features include ornamental mounts anchored above the windows and doorways, which evoke a massive and robust quality.

Within a few years, the financial constraints of running the mission proved too challenging, as Mrs. Scudder was unable to meet her current payments. In late 1895, Mr. E.H. Penfield foreclosed the mortgage, but with the aid of benefactors, the property was placed into a trust and Mrs. Scudder continued as operator. In the early 1900s, it was also home to the Associated Christian Relief Association. In years prior to World War I, the Hitchcock missionary family of Santa Barbara managed the facility.

By 1929, Kenneth Ahlman was the new owner and proprietor, and in 1931, the name Hotel Savoy appeared in the city directory. During World War II, the hotel was a favorite of servicemen who sought less-than-honorable services inside the upstairs suites. In recent years, the building has served as both office suites and as various restaurant-nightclubs, today known as the Blind Tiger. It is one of the few remaining 19th-century commercial buildings still intact that has not undergone noticeable structural or location changes, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

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