An American Colonial Home with a Storied Past

111 W Valerio | Credit: Courtesy

The home at 111 West Valerio Street has one of the most varied histories of all the homes I’ve written about in this column. It’s been a boarding school for girls, a dormitory, and several different inns, as well as a private home.

It was designed by a local architect who had a diverse history himself. In addition to designing a number of homes here, including the Glendessary mansion in Mission Canyon, he was also a poet and a playwright.

The home is a Structure of Merit, one of only a handful in Santa Barbara built in the American Colonial Revival style. It sits on the southwest corner of Valerio and Chapala streets, where a small one-story cottage once sat.

The Cottage Is Moved

According to an 1892 map, there was a one-story cottage on the Chapala Street side of the property. About 1894, the cottage was moved, according to property owner Hannah Cushing Moor. The present home was built on the Valerio Street side of the property. The cottage may still be located somewhere in the neighborhood.

The front entrance of 111 W Valerio | Credit: Courtesy

Hannah and her sister Rebecca Spring Moor were daughters of a prosperous Maine farmer. They settled in Santa Barbara around 1885. Their northeastern U.S. connection may explain why this home was built in the American Colonial Revival style. The sisters probably brought with them their idea of what style of house they wanted.

The home’s architect, Samuel Marshall Ilsley, seemed to be a friend of the sisters and sometimes lived in the home. Ilsley designed multiple homes in Santa Barbara. He had a degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His obituary in 1946 noted that, “He was architect for many of Santa Barbara’s finest older homes.” Ilsley had also served as president of the Santa Barbara Public Library and president of the Community Arts Association.

Another East Coast connection with this home is that Daniel Hill, who built the Hill-Carrillo adobe at 11 East Carrillo was from Massachusetts, just a short drive from Cambridge where MIT is located. Hmmm. I hear you asking: What could possibly be the connection between the 1825 adobe on Carrillo and the 111 West Valerio Street home? My answer is: Check the doorway surrounds of these two homes. Both have very similar wood trim around the front door.

A Girls’ School Is Born

School founder Mary Elizabethe Gamble | Credit: Courtesy

In 1902, two teachers from San Francisco moved into the home and established Santa Barbara’s first boarding school for girls called the Blanchard-Gamble School. The founders were Elizabeth Blanchard and Mary Elizabeth Gamble. The school’s goal was to prepare young women for elite East Coast colleges. In addition to their studies, the students also participated in interesting outdoor activities. In 1907, a group of students and teachers from the school traveled on horseback up the San Marcos Pass, visited the Cold Spring Inn, and the Painted Cave.

After about 10 years, the school had outgrown this location and moved to another site. For a while, the home was a private residence. Then, in 1939, an ad in the local paper advertised a boarding house at this address called “The Vine Guest House — for the convenience of those desiring an exclusive, refined, quiet home.”

In the 1960s, this address was the location of “The French Belgian Boarding House — Excellent food.” If French food was not to your taste, the ad also noted “One block to Blue Onion restaurant.” The IHOP restaurant is there now.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the 111 West Valerio address was the location of the Bayberry Inn and Valerio Manor. Today, this address is a family home with a large private backyard, spacious living areas downstairs, and an amazing six fireplaces. The present homeowners, who asked not to be identified, said that the historic aspect of the home was very appealing to them. They knew that it was a Structure of Merit, but that was not a concern for them.

Please do not disturb the residents of 111 West Valerio 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.

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