215 East Mission | Credit: Betsy J. Green
Rear Admiral Albert Williamson Bacon | Credit: Courtesy Findagrave

I’m sure the arrival of an admiral on the Upper East Side of Santa Barbara caused some waves in the neighborhood. He was Rear Admiral Albert Williamson Bacon, who had retired after a long and stellar history during his 42 years in the U.S. Navy. He began his career in the navy in 1861, when the U.S. Civil War broke out.

Bacon served as a paymaster and a naval storekeeper who managed inventories of supplies. He was on ships in the U.S., Brazil, France, and Asia. His last post was at the Navy Yard at Mare Island in Vallejo, California.

He was highly regarded by the men he served with. One of them wrote, “Rear Admiral Bacon was an officer of the highest professional attainments, of unusual resolution, of great pertinacity of purpose, and of the utmost sincerity of character. These traits were blended, both in official and personal life, with a dignity and a quiet humor that made him an unusually agreeable companion and endeared him to all with whom he came in contact. He was a man who read widely and had observed widely, and who had reflected upon what he had read and had seen in life…. The Navy has been blessed with a large number of officers possessing intelligence, ability, integrity, and personal charm — of this number Rear Admiral Bacon was one of the most eminent.”

The Admiral Settles Here

When Admiral Bacon retired in 1903, he and his wife, Kate, moved down the coast to our fair city. They bought a half-acre property at 215 East Mission Street in July 1903, and they had their house finished in early 1904. As they were both from the East Coast, this home was built in American Colonial Revival style.

I was impressed by the size of the main rooms and wondered if the home was built with a wedding reception in mind. The spacious living room and dining room both have some of the widest fireplaces that I’ve seen in Santa Barbara. The equally impressive fireplace in the den has a proverb carved in the stone lintel: East West Home Is Best. I was also happy to see that there is a hitching post on the parkway.

The Mission Connections

In early 1905, the Bacons’ daughter Alice married Thomas Driscoll at the Old Santa Barbara Mission Church. The local paper wrote, “This will be the most notable event of its kind to be observed in this city for some years. Not only the prominence of the contracting parties and the elaborate manner in which the ceremony will be conducted, but the fact that this is the only wedding that has been celebrated in the Old Mission for many years, sets it aside as a most interesting and unique affair. The wedding will be all that wealth and social prominence can make it.”

The wedding party rode in carriages to the Bacon home. “A reception was held at the bride’s home, which lasted for half an hour. The assemblage then sat down to a wedding breakfast, which was spread in a most elaborate manner.”

The Admiral and his wife died in the 1920s, and both were buried in the Old Mission. The home appeared to be vacant during the 1930s. Then in the 1940s, Kate Bacon’s younger sister Teresa Richardson lived in the home. And later, the home stayed in the family again in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, when Alice Driscoll, the Bacons’ daughter, returned to live in the home.

The current homeowners, who wished to remain anonymous, said there are many aspects of the home that appeal to them, including the spacious front porch, the two kitchen pantries, the wide front door, and the Upper East Side neighborhood.

Please do not disturb the residents of 215 East Mission 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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