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Historic Casa del Herrero Public Tour Season Begins Saturday

National Historic Landmark in Montecito is considered a smaller Hearst Castle — and is easier to get to

Casa Del Herrero, one of four National Historic Landmarks in Santa Barbara, has been referred to as a “small Hearst Castle” as many of its furnishings, including medieval ceilings, doors and artwork, were purchased at the same time and locations as the San Simeon estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Docent-led 90 minute tours of Casa del Herrero’s home, gardens and workshop at 1387 East Valley Road in Montecito begin Feb. 11 and will continue at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays through mid-November.

Case del Herrero, or “The House of the Blacksmith,” was designed by noted architect George Washington Smith, although owner George Fox Steedman was involved in every aspect of the Casa’s development. The project was completed in 1925.

After acquiring the property in the early 1920s, Steedman traveled throughout Europe, particularly Spain, to purchase doors, ceilings, furniture, tiles and artwork. His companions on that trip were Arthur Byne and Mildred Stapley, who were also shopping for Hearst’s “castle” up the coast. The original furniture, artwork and architectural elements collected by Steedman are on view on the public tours.

Casa del Herrero is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in America. It is included on the National Register of Historic Places, and in January 2009 was designated a National Historic Landmark, the third in Santa Barbara, joining the Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna St.; the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St.; and the Gonzales Adobe, 835 Laguna St.

Steedman, an industrialist, engineer and amateur architect, had a vision for the house and grounds that went beyond fashion, and he assembled an extraordinary team of architects, landscape architects, antiquarians and horticulturists to produce the Casa del Herrero estate — recognized today as a masterpiece of the Country Place Era.

His participation in every detail of the property’s buildings, furnishings and gardens is the reason the property makes a single artistic statement.

The 11-acre estate includes elaborate gardens, including fountains, ponds and water features, plus fruit orchards, cactus garden, rose gardens and a native grass area. Loggias, patios and courtyards surround the home, offering panoramic views of the gardens. Tiled semicircular seating areas, called exedras, dot the landscape.

Steedman was a “Renaissance Man” who held more than 40 patents. A silversmith and metalworker, he built many elements in the house, including lamps and patio furniture. His outfitted workshop, including a forge, kiln and all his original tools and machinery, is also on the tour.

Today the entire estate is owned and operated as a historic house museum and garden by the nonprofit Casa del Herrero Foundation, with the goal of preserving the house and grounds, as well as the family’s collection of antiques, books, sketchbooks, drawings and horticultural records.

Advance reservations are required for the tours, but space on the tours is sometimes available on short notice. Tickets are $20 per person, ages 10 and older, and are by reservation only by calling 805.565.5633.

Click here for more information on Casa del Herrero, or call 805.565.5633.

— Julia McHugh represents Casa del Herrero.

Casa del Herrero's star pool is the center of attention in the estate's garden.
Casa del Herrero’s star pool is the center of attention in the estate’s garden. (Matt Walla photo / Casa del Herrero)


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