Probable Original Owner: Señor Gaspar Oreña
Year Built: 1868
Architect: Peter J. Barber
Perhaps Santa Barbara’s most prolific Victorian architect was mayor Peter J. Barber, whose career spanned 1868-1905. During that time, he designed many grand homes, along with commercial ventures that included Santa Barbara’s first courthouse, luxury hotels, school buildings, and business blocks. One of Barber’s first commissions was also one of his most ornate: the Gaspar Oreña mansion.
Shortly before Christmas in 1860, prominent Spanish don, trader, and rancher Señor Gaspar Oreña acquired five acres of farmland within walking distance of Mission Santa Barbara. By 1868, he had commissioned architect Barber to design and construct a highly customized, nearly five-story Victorian mansion for his wife, Maria Antonia de la Guerra Oreña. The lavish home was among the most elaborate of Barber’s career, and its numerous architectural details included intricate towers, dormers, bay windows, gables, ornate latticework, gingerbread scrollwork, and fish-scale designs.
In 1923, the estate was purchased by the local school board and razed to make way for its present occupant, Roosevelt Elementary School.