Family lore dates the Santa Barbara arrival of stonemason and musician Antonio Da Ros to 1920, give or take. The youngest of 12, he left his native Italy on or around 1912 to join his uncle in New York, building brownstones along the Hudson River by day and playing saxophone by night. Working his way across the country with his trade and talent, including a stint in the copper mines of Jerome, Arizona, Da Ros came to Santa Barbara because he’d heard the Marisol Hotel — located where Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden is today — was looking to put together a house band. Da Ros got the gig. At the same time, he launched what is now Da Ros Masonry.
Naturally, his line of work required the accumulation of masonry materials, and according to his grandson, Peter Da Ros, who now runs Da Ros Masonry, Antonio “had a yard here [on the Lower Eastside] with piles of rock and brick and stuff like that.” He sold surplus material on an honor system, wherein customers would weigh what they needed and drop payment in a bucket next to the scale. That original materials yard — given to Antonio in exchange for his forgiveness of an unpaid masonry bill — is where the business stands today, at the corner of Nopal and Mason streets. “Our roots are really in the stone industry,” said Peter, who started in the business about 50 years ago, while still in high school.
When Antonio passed away in 1941 — he succumbed to lung disease after being sprayed with mustard gas during the Battle of Verdun, in World War I — his son, Ozzie, took over the business. After spending three years in World War II, Ozzie returned to the family trade, and in 1958 launched Da Ros Stone. A decade later, he changed the name to Santa Barbara Stone. Ozzie’s daughter Kathleen Mackins (Pete’s older sister) runs that operation. “I’ve always been a numbers person,” she said. Her father recently passed away at the age of 97; hundreds of Santa Barbarans paid their respects at his memorial service.
The stonework of three generations of the Da Ros family and their crews can be spotted pretty much everywhere you look in Santa Barbara, from Clark Estate and Lotusland to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. In the 1950s, Ozzie led the team on a restoration project of Santa Barbara Mission.
In more recent years, Da Ros has also worked very closely with Giffin & Crane on a number of Montecito estates, including one of its earliest high-end custom homes, in the Ennisbrook community, nearly 30 years ago. Another standout was the Da Ros stonework on a benefit showhouse build for CALM, a child-abuse prevention and treatment center. Its Mission Revival style reflects the expertise and influence Da Ros has had on Santa Barbara architecture over the decades.