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Olive Mill Road Rises Again

Take a Look Inside This Home Rising from Disaster

Address: 139 Olive Mill Road | Status: On the market | Price: $1,495,000

Address: 139 Olive Mill Road

Status: On the market

Price: $1,495,000

Life is full of coincidences. On December 4, 2017, my friend Marco stopped by my office with a present for me: a little lucky dog statuette that looked like an uncannily accurate caricature of my dog, Scout. Marco didn’t know that December 4 is my birthday. He just saw the statue, knew I would like it, and got it for me just because. He was right. I love it and keep it on a shelf in my living room.

Of course, we also didn’t know that December 4, 2017, was the date that the Thomas Fire would begin. As I was out to dinner with friends that night for my birthday, we all started getting news alerts about a fire in Ventura County. We now know what transpired over the following month, culminating on January 9, 2018, with the Montecito debris flow that stunned our already-raw community, took so many lives, and changed local history forever.

Address: 139 Olive Mill Road

People who didn’t know my friend Marco before that event soon did. Like many Montecito residents, Marco woke up that early January morning to a glow in the sky, a deep rumbling noise, and a wall of mud rushing toward his house. But unlike most other victims in the path of the debris flow, Marco recorded the event as it unfolded. The chilling footage of Marco realizing what was happening and yelling to his parents and neighbors to wake up and flee to safety was replayed internationally, and it is one of the only firsthand real-time accounts of the disaster.

Marco Farrell and his dad, Jeff, are a real-estate team. It’s fitting that the house for sale that they invited me to visit last week is their first listing since returning to work full-time since the debris flow. The house — at 139 Olive Mill Road in Montecito — is one of the first homes damaged in the disaster to be listed for sale. It’s also fitting because Marco and Jeff have lived in the house next door for almost 40 years. To say that they know the neighborhood well — and what it has been through in the past 16 months — is an understatement. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I pulled up. The house is a skeleton, but it’s the grandest, classiest skeleton I’ve ever seen. Built in 1926, it’s a classic Spanish Colonial Revival–style home, with a white stucco facade, a red tile roof, and wooden windows framed by turquoise shutters. Agave and yuccas dot the front yard, and a hill rises behind the house to surround its two-story silhouetted in greenery.

Walking through the house felt intimate, like watching a surgery in progress. Local firm Allen Construction was called in to care for the house after it was damaged. They cleared the mud and debris from the property and then removed all of the interior walls on the first floor of the house so that the redwood studs could be properly examined and cleaned. 

The house’s framework is exposed right now, but its pedigree is still evident. The scale of the living room, with a high timbered ceiling and imposing fireplace, is impressive. Two sets of French doors lead through to the brick patio and large, terraced backyard beyond.

With help, I could identify the other rooms downstairs: a formal dining room, kitchen, laundry room, two bathrooms, and two bedrooms, including the master suite. The upstairs layout is much more apparent, because the walls and beautiful hardwood floors are intact. A curved stairway leads up to three bedrooms and another bathroom. I stood at one of the bedroom windows and looked out over the beautiful patina of the roof tiles to the spot where the garage once stood and admired bright-yellow wildflowers all along the side of the house.

Before I left, Marco and I stood in the front yard talking. The house is set back on the lot, with a semicircle driveway reaching out toward the street, holding fruit trees, boulders, and more bright-yellow wildflowers in its center. When I remarked upon the flowers, Marco mentioned that they weren’t there prior to the disaster 16 months ago. Their seeds washed down from the hills and lay dormant until now, only recently surprising the neighbors with their vibrant beauty.

I reminded Marco of the timing of his accidental birthday gift to me some 16 months ago. We talked about all that has transpired since then. Life is full of coincidences, and it’s also full of unexpected surprises, like flowers appearing after a disaster. Marco and Jeff are right where they are supposed to be right now, helping to find a new owner for 139 Olive Mill Road, to blend its history with their own future story, complete with great next-door neighbors.


139 Olive Mill Road is currently for sale in Montecito, listed by Jeff and Marco Farrell of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Reach Jeff at (805) 895-5151 or jfarrell@coldwellbanker.com, or Marco at (805) 455-5362 or have2fish@gmail.com.

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