Tickets are still available for the May 19 Pearl Chase Society Historic Homes Tour, which will visit six adobes and several Spanish Colonial style artists’ studios and apartments.
In the 1920s, a renewed interest in Santa Barbara’s Spanish past inspired citizens like Bernhard Hoffman to envision a new architecture for the town, one that hearkened back to its roots. Popularized by the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 in San Diego, the revival style swept the nation and seemed a fitting choice for Santa Barbara.
This passion for the Spanish past also led to a movement to save the city’s dwindling number of historic adobes.
The Homes Tour will visit six of the mud brick structures saved from destruction, each having its own captivating past. One of these adobes was built by José Rafael Gonzalez in 1825 for his new bride, Maria Antonia Guevara. Nearly 200 years old, the venerable adobe walls have absorbed years of fascinating history.
Rafael was born at the Santa Barbara Presidio in 1797. His father, a soldado de cuero (leather-jacketed soldier), had been given permission to farm, so he planted several fields of grain and hired young Chumash boys to scare away the crows who would eat his crop. When these little pajareros neglected their duty, half his crop was lost and he had them whipped. Soon thereafter, Rafael’s father died of poisoning under suspicious circumstances.
Rafael grew up to be a Presidio soldier and actively participated in much of Santa Barbara’s early history, from the forays of the Argentine pirate Bouchard to secularization of the missions. He also served as mayor during the Mexican Era and received an extensive land grant.
In 1866, he deeded his adobe home to his daughter Francisca Ventura who had married Cristobel Ramirez. She lived in the home until her death at age 83 in 1922. Now over 100 years old, the venerable adobe was overdue for maintenance and restoration, so in stepped Anna Louise Murphy Vhay.
An artist and architect from Detroit, Mich., Vhay and her husband had moved to Santa Barbara in 1919 and been swept up in the new city passion. She set about redesigning the simple adobe abode into a romantic hacienda. She added windows and fireplaces and doorways and converted rooms into kitchens and bedrooms. The tiles of the roof, constructed by Mission Indians, are still original, as are five of the windows.
The house has had several owners since Vhay and today is home to a most curious bookstore specializing in rare volumes. It is a National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Pearl Chase Society Historic Homes Tour will visit the Gonzalez-Ramirez Adobe as well as six other historic treasures. Special re-enactments created for the tour will highlight a visit to Casa de la Guerra, and visitors will be enchanted by the restoration and new setting for the Arellanes-Kirk Adobe, which is a private residence.
In addition to the Lugo Adobe, two studios will open their doors at the Meridian complex. At El Paseo, tour participants will visit cowboy artist Ed Borein’s former studio, two rarely seen upstairs apartments, and the famous mural in the office once used by Los Rancheros de Visitadores.
The tour is being offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19. Tickets cost $50 for members, $55 for nonmembers, and $75 for tour and first-time membership. Tickets may be purchased online by clicking here, by sending a check to Pearl Chase Society, P.O. Box 30405, Santa Barbara, CA, 93130, or by calling 805.961.3938.
— Hattie Beresford is vice president of the Pearl Chase Society.