Address: 610 East Victoria Street
As I dig into the history of interesting homes here in Santa Barbara, I sometimes discover homes with addresses that were changed because the house was moved. The home featured here, however, had a change of address, but not a change of location.
The cozy bungalow at 610 East Victoria Street has belonged to the John and Cheri McKinney family since 1993. The home originally had an address on Salsipuedes Street — number 1230. The address was changed in 1989, apparently at the owners’ request. It may have been because Victoria is easier to spell, or because Salsipuedes means “get out if you can” in Spanish. According to Neal Graffy’s book Street Names of Santa Barbara, the street got its name because the southern end was a swampy area.
A Home and a Barn
Oscar William Massee and his wife, Emma, built the home in 1912 for $1,000. Their property included a barn with a hayloft. E.J. Moody was the contractor.
Massee was a respected plumber. “Fully cognizant of conditions in the modern commercial world and possessing the energy and resourcefulness necessary to cope with them, Oscar William Massee has become one of the successful businessmen of Santa Barbara … [together with his wife,] their attractive home has been the scene of many enjoyable social events.” —History of Santa Barbara County, California, Michael James Phillips, 1927. The local paper added, “Mr. Massee’s shop at 9 East Cota Street has a complete stock and all equipment for doing plumbing and fitting with dispatch.”
The home probably contained top-of-the-line plumbing fixtures. A 1912 book about plumbing lists the five most popular materials used at that time: porcelain, enameled iron, vitreous ware, marble, and soapstone. Surprisingly, porcelain was considered the most expensive.
In the 1940s, Ellen M. Erving, a nurse with the Visiting Nurses Association, was the owner of the home. In 2010, her grandson and his wife knocked on the front door and explained that he had lived in the house as a boy. The McKinneys showed the couple around the home and gave them some ceramic knobs from the attic as souvenirs.
The McKinneys and Steve Dowty are founding members of Santa Barbara’s Bungalow Haven Neighborhood Association, located between the Santa Barbara Bowl and Alameda Park. The McKinneys are keen to preserve their home’s character. Cheri said, “We did a lot of research in bungalow books and magazines and finally settled on the warm complementary accent colors [on the exterior] to add a little historic feel and emphasis to the interesting detailing and features of the house.” Their goal is to avoid the “bungled bungalow.”
Attention to Details
The McKinneys appreciate the Douglas fir wainscoting in the living room and the leaded-glass windows, and they have even preserved the push-button wall switches, which pre-date the toggle light switches that are so common today. The toggle wall switch, which allows you to flip lights on and off, was not invented until 1917. The original knob-and-tube wiring in the house has been updated. The couple’s attention to detail even extends to the heads of screws in the home. They use screw heads with a single slot. Phillips-head screws were not invented until the 1930s.
Some of the earliest bungalows in the Santa Barbara area were built in 1895 near the Miramar hotel complex. Bungalows are generally one to one-and-a-half stories, often with wide front porches. The 610 East Victoria home, with its small gabled dormer, was sometimes called an airplane bungalow, because the dormer resembled the cockpit of an early plane.
The McKinneys have enjoyed their home’s location near Santa Barbara High School and the Santa Barbara Bowl. Cheri said, “Our children, budding entrepreneurs all the way, learned to schedule their lemonade sales only on concert nights.” Their son was on the high school baseball team, and the team would often come to their home for a barbeque before games.
Please do not disturb the residents of 610 East Victoria Street.
Betsy J. Green is a Santa Barbara historian and author of Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood, Santa Monica Press, 2002. Her website is betsyjgreen.com.