The first royal visit of note occurred in December 1882, when the Marquis of Lorne and his wife, Princess Louise, arrived. The marquis was governor general of Canada, and Louise was a daughter of Queen Victoria of England. The couple stayed at the Arlington Hotel, which spared no expense in seeing that the visitors enjoyed the very best. The royal retinue had six adjoining suites on the second floor, redecorated with new furniture, carpeting, draperies, and wallpaper. The couple enjoyed clear views of the Old Mission in one direction and the blue Pacific to the east. Servants were housed in an adjoining wing of the hotel.
During their visit to the Old Mission, Louise was allowed to enter the garden, which at that time was off-limits to women. They took carriage trips out to the Mesa, the beach, and Montecito. They attended performances at the Lobero Theatre and made the social rounds. Their 13-day stay remains the longest royal visit to Santa Barbara.
More than 500 people greeted King Kalākaua of Hawai‘i when his train arrived in January 1891. Three carriages elegantly decorated with golden harness transported the royal party to the Arlington. The king visited the Ellwood Cooper ranch in Goleta and was fascinated by its olive oil processing plant. A formal dress ball was held in the king’s honor at the Arlington with the crème de la crème of Santa Barbara society. Tickets went for three dollars. The king had taken ill earlier that day and only stayed through the first dance. He decided to cut his California tour short, but his health continued to worsen. He died at age 54 in San Francisco only two weeks after his visit here.
Some 5,000 Santa Barbarans gathered at the depot on October 11, 1919, to meet King Albert and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. The two were unassuming people and loved to mingle with the locals with a lack of security unthinkable today.
The royal couple and their son, Prince Leopold, stayed with the William Bliss family at their Montecito estate, Casa Dorinda. Almost immediately, the young royals made for the beach, where the queen enjoyed the sun and surf in a bathing suit of “foreign style.”
The next day, the king took a spin in one the Loughead brothers’ seaplanes. The Lougheads later changed the spelling of their last name to Lockheed. Prince Leopold took off on a motorcycle ride to Summerland. When the bike broke down, he tinkered with it until the engine came back to life.
Other jaunts included the Old Mission, a Goleta Valley walnut ranch (walnuts were a favorite of the king), the public library, and a walk down State Street. During the latter, Albert treated himself to an ice-cream soda. A visit to the Flying A movie studios resulted in the king being captured on film. He then watched his “performance” in that day’s “rushes.”
The entire city was entranced by the openness and energy of the Belgians. A short time after the visit, the City Council decreed that a portion of what is now Alameda Padre Serra be named King Albert Boulevard. That section of road became part of APS in 1932. The next crowned head of Europe would visit 51 years later, when Queen Elizabeth was honored by the city.