I met a Welsh pony named Te Quiero this week. He was all white, including his mane. As I approached his corral, he walked toward me and then stretched his head forward, sweet as could be, encouraging me to pat his nose and looking like he had something to tell me. If this sounds like a crazy Earth Day dream, believe me, it felt like one, too. But it was only one of many dreamlike details that I experienced during my recent visit to the magical estate at 130 Canyon Acres Drive in Santa Barbara last Sunday afternoon.
Just off Foothill near North Ontare, Canyon Acres Drive winds above Stevens Park in San Roque. The home at 130 Canyon Acres sits at the very top of the street, at the end of a cul-de-sac. It overlooks San Roque Canyon, over the treetops in every direction, with a view all the way to the ocean: both to the harbor and Hendry’s Beach from the backyard and to UCSB and Goleta from the front of the house.
The home was built in 1915 by renowned architect Russel Ray for Julia Watson Horne, who had moved to Santa Barbara from Pittsburgh and set out to establish a prominent residence overlooking her new community. The original estate included a tea house in the canyon so that Horne and her guests could be served tea beside the creek. The tea house reportedly survived at least until the 1960s.
The home’s storied past harks back even earlier. One large boulder on the property is historically protected because it was used as a grinding stone by the Chumash. Arrowheads have also been found on the grounds. In the 1940s, the home was converted and used as the Santa Barbara Military Academy, and in the 1950s, five acres of the property were donated to Stevens Park. The house has even had three different addresses in its lifetime, as the land and streets around it have been developed and changed.
Walking through the house today, one can see that much of the original character and period details remain. The first floor is dominated by a grand living room with coffered ceilings, sliding pocket doors, original wood floors, and a unique fireplace inlaid with Italian tile. Beyond this room lies a wide-view terrace that runs the length of the house, large enough to comprise a significant outdoor room and perfect for entertaining.
The rest of the downstairs contains the dining room, the kitchen, a butler’s pantry with a large built-in breakfast nook, an office, and a powder room. Two different sets of stairs lead up to the second floor: a grand staircase in the front of the house and a smaller utility staircase in back.
The upstairs seems to keep going and going, with two separate wings housing a total of six bedrooms and three baths that could be reconfigured in many different ways. The most appealing part of the second floor is a spiral staircase that leads up to a tower room with a cupola at the very top. This lookout tower — high up above the rest of the house — could be used as an artist’s studio, a cozy reading room, or one of the most unique playrooms ever.
The home has only changed hands a few times in its long existence and has been in the same family for almost 60 years. While it retains its period charm, the plumbing, foundation, roof, electric and heating systems, and more have all been recently upgraded. The new owner of this home will get all of the character, but at modern standards.
Before I left, I took a quick tour around the outside. The house had already captivated me, but the grounds won me over. An arched breezeway runs the length of the house downstairs. While currently used for storage, the space along this passageway could be used as a wine cellar or recreation room. No matter how it’s used, each of these arched openings frames a delightful view of bougainvillea, fruit trees, and the winding pathways of the estate’s hillside gardens. At almost an acre, there’s plenty of room for a pool and tennis court. Currently, though, the focal point of the grounds is the two-stall barn and horse corrals, where I met Te Quiero. He whinnied as I walked away, seeming to invite me to stay a while longer. I waved goodbye to my handsome new friend as I headed away from what felt like a magical castle on the hill.
130 Canyon Acres Drive is currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by Dusty Baker of Sotheby’s International Realty. Reach Dusty at (805) 570-0102 or email@example.com. More information is available at 130canyonacres.com.