If These Adobe Walls Could Talk

Hill-Carrillo Adobe Once Again a Philanthropy Hub

Tom Parker (seated next to Michael Redmon), president of the Hutton Parker Foundation. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Perhaps no other Santa Barbara building has as much history baked into its walls and floors as the Hill-Carrillo Adobe. Modestly situated at 11-15 Carrillo Street between two banks and across from a deli, the 195-year-old structure was home to one of California’s oldest and grandest families, is where Santa Barbara’s first child of full American heritage was born, and held the city’s first council meeting.

The adobe also served as a regional hub of philanthropy, including 83 years as headquarters of the Santa Barbara Foundation. Now, thanks to a major 10-month restoration and new ownership by the Hutton Park Foundation, it’s once again a meeting space for nonprofits. “This building surprised me,” said foundation president Tom Parker. “The more I dug into it, the more I felt embraced by its 200 years of history and of the people who have made a difference in our community. It is the embodiment of what philanthropy has meant to the town, and which continues to this day.”

A view the living room at the Huttonparker Adobe.

Parker teamed up with Michael Redmond and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum for the rehab. In the public sala (sitting room) hang original paintings of the adobe, images of the city’s earliest leaders, and photos of the building’s time as a Chinese school and laundry. Also on display is a Mission-era chair and vintage writing desk, as well as antique sabers and a bowl and pitcher. While the place vibrates with history, it’s also now equipped with modern creature comforts, like Wi-Fi and heating. 

Further inside is the boardroom, which nonprofits can reserve for meetings and other types of get-togethers. It’s especially convenient for small organizations that may not have a permanent home. “And it’s all free,” Parker explained. “The main reason we did all this was for this room.” Philanthropy doesn’t only mean older rich people throwing about their wealth, he went on. “It’s about all of us doing what we can for this community.” Parker recalled something his father, a butcher, used to tell him: “In this town, you don’t know who you’re talking to, and it doesn’t matter.”

During a recent tour, the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara had gathered in the boardroom. They sat and talked around a long table surrounded by portraits of celebrated philanthropists, including Maximilian Fleischmann, Pearl Chase, Dwight Murphy, Frederick Forrest Peabody, Huguette Clark, and others. A yearly rotating exhibit of the Santa Barbara Independent’s Local Heroes was also on display. Over the past 25 years, the Hutton Parker Foundation has supported 140 nonprofit organizations with more than $55 million. It’s also given nearly $19 million in rent discounts to office space tenants. 

A non-profit meets in the meeting room at the Huttonparker Adobe.

The Hill-Carrillo Adobe was originally built in 1825 by Daniel Hill, a Massachusetts native who arrived on the South Coast by merchant ship. He married Rafaela Luísa Ortega ― a granddaughter of José Francisco Ortega, who had served as the first comandante of the Spanish Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara in 1782 ― and moved his bride into their new home. It was one of the first buildings in the area to have wooden floors and glass windows.

After the Hills relocated to a ranch in Goleta, the adobe was sold to fur trader John Wilson. His wife, María Ramona Carrillo de Pacheco, had a son from a previous marriage who’d go on to become the first and only California governor of Hispanic heritage. A number of Carrillo family members called the adobe home over the following years. In 1916, Montecito’s Esther Fiske Hammond remodeled and refurbished the property, then in 1928, Max Fleischmann, a founder and benefactor of the Santa Barbara Foundation, saved it from becoming a movie theater.

The adobe was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and is one of nine California Historic Landmarks in Santa Barbara.

4•1•1 | To reserve the boardroom, contact Office Manager Ingrid Biancone at ibiancone@huttonfoundation.org.


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