Santa Barbara History Comes to Life with New Kellam de Forest Speaker Series

The Pearl Chase Society Honors Legacy of Founding Member with New Educational Series

Kellam de Forest | Credit: Courtesy Pearl Chase Society

Pearl Chase, whose well-deserved reputation was acknowledged by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with its highest honor in 1973, was instrumental in the conservation of Santa Barbara’s beachfront and the historic Moreton Bay Fig Tree, as well as restoration of the Presidio.

Now the public has an opportunity to hear some of this history come to life as the Pearl Chase Society presents the Kellam de Forest Speaker Series, honoring the legacy of this founding member. The all-volunteer, nonprofit conservancy was established in 1995 and continues to advance the founding vision of Pearl Chase.

Credit: Courtesy Pearl Chase Society

After de Forest’s passing, as generous donations in his name came to the Society, the board decided on the creation of an ongoing educational series, which they knew he would have endorsed enthusiastically.

Board members Claudia Schou, Cheri Rae, Dennis Whelan, and Steven Dowty worked together to program this series.

“In considering possible speakers, we’d think, ‘Would Kellam and Pearl want to hear them?’” Schou said. “So they’re with us in spirit throughout the process.”

Schou moved here four years ago from Long Beach, where for 12 years she served as president of Friends of Bixby Park Board, raising funds for public safety and park renovations.

“When we moved to Santa Barbara, I was looking for a nonprofit where I could volunteer and get to know my new community. I posted a few lectures on architecture during the pandemic just to meet people who also appreciated architecture and local history,” said Schou.

When she heard the Pearl Chase Society was looking for new board members, she threw her hat in the ring and was promptly invited to join. “They told me they’d heard about my lectures and asked if I’d be interested in spearheading a new speaker series honoring Kellam de Forest. I said absolutely! I think some of Santa Barbara’s greatest strengths are its community pride and dedication to volunteerism. Moving here, I feel like I found my people.”

Credit: Courtesy Pearl Chase Society

Starting off the series on April 14 is Rick Closson with a presentation about Kellam de Forest’s life, including his lesser-known accomplishments in the Hollywood film industry.

On May 12, Cheri Rae will share a view of the historical importance of the Carrillo Recreation Center and the social work done there by Pearl Chase.

On June 9, Douglas Woods, author of The California Casa, will speak on Spanish Colonial Revival–style architecture, reportedly de Forest’s favorite.

The speaker series will continue each month, with a special celebration in November in honor of Pearl Chase’s birthday.

“This series covers the history of architecture in Santa Barbara,” Schou said. “But also its future and what that might look like. We’re carrying Pearl’s ideas forward to inspire the continuation of her preservation work in the same spirit.”

The free series takes place at 6 p.m. on the second Friday of each month at the Carrillo Recreation Center (100 E. Carrillo St.), with refreshments to follow. Reservations are requested: Call (805) 403-7053.


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