Address: 1809 Mira Vista Avenue
Status: On the market
One of my favorite picnic spots in Santa Barbara is the rose garden in front of the Mission. I know I’m not alone in my love of this location. On any given Saturday afternoon, you’ll find Frisbee-wielding teenagers, parents chasing toddlers across the grass, and romantic couples of all ages strolling through the roses. It’s also a great starting point for a mini-hike up to Rocky Nook Park or a self-guided house tour of one of my favorite scenic and historic neighborhoods.
The view from the rose garden encompasses the mountains to the north, all the way down to the ocean to the south. Of course the prettiest view, and the one you’ll see on many postcards, has beautiful blooming roses in the foreground, with the rolling grass lawn leading to our historic Santa Barbara Mission beyond.
I discovered a miniature version of this bucolic spot when I visited a home for sale at 1809 Mira Vista Avenue this week. The house itself is a stunning piece of Santa Barbara history, but its yard and gardens were what captured my imagination and completely charmed me.
As I climbed up the Riviera hillside streets toward the appointed address, I realized that I had never been on Mira Vista before. It’s a long cul-de-sac just above El Encanto Hotel and near Franceschi Park. It is an uncharacteristically flat street for this area and has plenty of parking, both of which are pleasant anomalies in this hilly neighborhood.
The house at 1809 Mira Vista actually occupies two separate parcels of land. The house sits on one lot, while the adjacent lot is a sweeping lawn and garden, all fenced together as one beautiful acre. The house itself looks like an English cottage, albeit a very large one. It has a steeply pitched roof that almost looks as if it is thatched, reminding me of something out of a Beatrix Potter tale. I learned that it is actually a shake-tile roof and that the house exemplifies the Tudor Revival architectural style, made popular in the United States between 1915-1940, in part from returning World War I veterans who had seen homes of this style while serving in Europe and England. So my impression of happening upon Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s cottage was not far-fetched.
One noteworthy fact about 1809 Mira Vista Avenue is that it’s been owned by the same family for its entire existence. The house was built in 1925 for Leon and Blanche Phillips, who moved to Santa Barbara from Chicago in 1922. Leon was an engineer, who, along with a business partner, founded the Puritan Ice Company. The Phillipses had two sons.
As their family grew, so did the business. Puritan Ice became one of the largest ice-producing companies in Southern California, with facilities near East Beach in Santa Barbara, as well as several other cities, providing ice for railroad cars carrying produce. During World War II, the company supplied ice to General Patton’s training center in the Mojave Desert. Leon and Blanche lived in the house until their deaths in 1958 and 1962, respectively. Shortly thereafter, their son Donald and his wife, Kathryn, moved in. Donald passed away in 2004, and Kathryn remained in the house until she passed away just last year. The house is now being sold by her estate.
The fact that this home has been inhabited by the same family for its entire 90 years might be one reason that it feels so authentic. Walking through the house, period details abound in every room. The living room fireplace has beautiful oak panels surrounding a built-in oak mantel and original stone fireplace. The kitchen boasts original wallpaper with a working O’Keefe and Merritt stove. I’m not sure whether the stove is included in the sale, but it looks like it belongs there. I would certainly want to keep it if I could.
Next to the kitchen is a mud room, a separate pantry, and a laundry room. As I poked around the various spaces and mused about how they could be used, I discovered one long, low cabinet that contains a built-in sewing machine, making me wonder what other surprises one might uncover with a little more time to explore. Push-button light switches and 1920s handles and hardware all add period character, as do the leaded glass windows throughout.
In addition to the kitchen, living room, dining room, and den, the downstairs also contains two bedrooms. A smaller bedroom at the front of the house is connected to the master bedroom by a hallway, with a large dressing room or walk-in closet, the master bathroom, and another half bath. These two rooms would form a perfect master bedroom plus guest room suite, or parents’ room with a baby’s room nearby.
At the back of the first level is the only room that has been changed over the years. A back terrace was converted into a large family room in 1970 by Donald and Kathryn to use as a music room. They were both avid musicians and supporters of the Santa Barbara Symphony. The room has a gorgeous wall of windows overlooking the view of the backyard and the ocean beyond. It was built to complement the style of the house, so its windows and steeply pitched roof blend right in.
Upstairs are two more bedrooms, a full bath, and an office. While houses of this era were often fairly short on closet space, this house is spacious enough that there is plenty of storage, including a lower level with an extra storage room in addition to the garage.
Arguably the most special thing about the house is the grounds. The gardens behind the house have mounds of flowers with colors and textures vying for attention. Brick pathways lead to a serene seating area with a stone fireplace and a bubbling fountain, all surrounded by a hedge that frames the city and ocean view. The walkway extends to the pièce de résistance “next door” — a manicured rose garden with a crushed-stone path between the blooming rosebushes. There’s ample space to admire the various specimens of roses, all set apart from the house by a gently sloping lawn. Every inch is beautifully landscaped and completely fenced.
I’m reminded that 1809 Mira Vista is two separate parcels, so there are obvious options for a potential buyer who might want to sell this second lot. But standing in the rose garden on this sunny afternoon, gazing up at the historic house in front of me, with the ocean view behind, I have to hope that the future owner of this home will keep it just as it has been for all of these years and be able to enjoy the house and its gardens and this view for many more years to come.
1809 Mira Vista Avenue is currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by Riskin Partners of Village Properties Realtors. Reach Riskin Partners at (805) 565-8600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.