420 E Anapamu | Credit: Betsy J. Green

The 400 East block of Anapamu Street is one of several blocks on this street that are lined with iconic Italian stone pines. According to an article in this paper by historian Michael Redmon, the pines on this block were planted in 1929. These trees are sometimes called Doremus stone pines because Dr. Augustus Boyd Doremus of the city’s Parks Commission promoted the planting of these trees.

A Home with a Graceful Design

420 E Anapamu | Credit: Betsy J. Green

The home at 420 East Anapamu was built about 1924 by Augustus R. Drexel. He owned a lime and cement company, so it’s not surprising that the home is accented with a graceful swoop of a concrete porch railing. The Historic Structures/Sites Report for the home was written by Fermina B. Murray, who noted, “The graceful design of the porch railing topped with overhang cap and the way it curves up to meet the columns also brings to mind elements of the Japanese architecture that the renowned Greene brothers and Bernard Maybeck adapted into their Craftsman designs.”

And Then Came the Quake

Drexel and his wife, Minnie, moved to Santa Barbara in 1919 — a time when the post–World War I building boom was in full swing. He, apparently, felt that no quantity was too large or small for orders of lime or cement — his ad read, “One sack or a train load.” And Drexel was in the right place at the right time to help rebuild Santa Barbara after the 1925 earthquake.

The fireplace in 420 E Anapamu | Credit: Betsy J. Green

It’s probable that Drexel built this home. It was built shortly before the earthquake and does not seem to have been affected by that event. Because of the 1906 earthquake that caused so much damage in San Francisco, most structures in Santa Barbara that were built after that date were built with earthquakes in mind. Most of the devastation in our downtown area occurred to older structures.

This home would have been in a busy area of the city after the quake because there was a large encampment of U.S. Marines on the grounds of Santa Barbara High School just a few blocks away. I asked historian Neal Graffy for a sneak peek about the Marines from his next book, The Great Santa Barbara Earthquake — The Disaster That Built a City

Here goes: “At noon on Wednesday, July 1, 1925, 300 Marines left San Diego by train and arrived at the Santa Barbara station at 8:30 p.m. A fleet of trucks carried the rations and tents to the new Peabody Stadium at Santa Barbara High School, where ‘Marines in charge of the commissary department set up the officers’ quarters and commissary tents in the dark and then sent word to the station.’ To the delight of the public who had gathered to watch the proceedings, the marines ‘marched’ and ‘double-timed’ it up State Street to the stadium where the rest of the men had to set up their own pup tents. Within three hours of their arrival, they were out patrolling the streets.” Remember folks, you read it here first in this column.

Credit: Olive and Gold, Santa Barbara High School, 1950

A Very Good Sign

The Drexel family owned the house for 20 years. The next owners lived here for 60 years. Roy and Helen Wickstrum and their family lived in the home from 1944 to 2004. Roy was a physics teacher at — of course — Santa Barbara High School. The family liked the house just the way it was. Again, from Murray’s report, “It bodes well for the house that a family lived in it for over half a century without altering it.”

Paul and Mary Genis bought this home in 2018. They felt that their existing furniture was not compatible with this home’s Craftsman style, so they bought new furniture to match the home’s style. They asked local artist Judy Nilsen to stencil a period-appropriate floral border in the home’s main hallway. The Genises enjoy the home’s downtown location and the spacious wraparound porch, which is ideal for entertaining or just lounging and admiring the pine trees.

Please do not disturb the residents of 420 East Anapamu Street.

Stencil in the home’s main hallway | Credit: Betsy J. Green

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.

Help Wanted!
If you own a home that you would like to see in my Great House Detective column, contact me through my website: betsyjgreen.com. I’m looking for older homes in the central area of Santa Barbara.


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