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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 5:03 pm | Fair 62º


Neal Graffy to Talk ‘Montecito’s Hilltop Barons’ at Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society

Neal Graffy and his 1941 Packard.
Neal Graffy and his 1941 Packard. (Graffy family photo)

Neal Graffy, local writer and Santa Barbara historian, will present “Montecito’s Hilltop Barons” at the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society’s monthly meeting.

The meeting is 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 21, at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara, 21 E. Constance St.

Graffy’s approach to history is always entertaining, fun and educational. In this presentation he answers the question “What do Gas Lamps, Newspapers, Shirt Collars and Model T Fords have in common?”

Five magnificent Montecito estates, five commanding hilltop views and five families whose philanthropy in their “adopted” city remains unmatched to this day. 

Montecito’s Hilltop Barons profiles the backgrounds, the estates and the philanthropy of C.K.G. Billings, president of Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co., and his estate, Asombrosso; George Owen Knapp, founder of Union Carbide, and his estate, Arcady; Frederick Forrest Peabody, president of Arrow Shirts, and his estate, Solana; David Gray, vice president of Ford Motor Co., and his estate, Graholm; and newspaper publisher William H. Cowles and his estate, Eucalyptus Hill.

These men and their families “adopted” Santa Barbara, and dramatically improved our health care, enhanced our schools, preserved our beachfronts, and helped rebuild the city after the 1925 earthquake.

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Sansum Clinic, Santa Barbara Medical Foundation, Santa Barbara High School, the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center​, the Girls Club, Santa Barbara Girls School, Montecito trails, the scenic highway, Montecito garden tours, East Beach, the Santa Barbara School for the Arts and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art are just a few of the many institutions and places that benefited from Montecito’s Hilltop Barons.

Graffy has had numerous appearances on local, state and national radio and TV, including Huell Howser’s California’s Gold!, KCET’s Life & Times and nationally on This Old House. He has been featured in several documentaries, including the Emmy Award-winning Impressions in Time.

He has authored numerous monographs for historical organizations, as well as articles in regional and national publications, and has published several books — Santa Barbara Then & Now, Street Names of Santa Barbara and Historic Santa Barbara.

For fun, he collects Santa Barbara memorabilia, postcards and photographs; plays guitar; enjoys cruising around town in an unrestored 1941 Packard 180 limousine; and continues the never-ending search for the perfect bacon burger.

The Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society’s Special Interest Groups meet at 9:30 a.m. March 21 for Beginning Genealogy, Civil War Genealogy, Writers’ Support Group, German Ancestry, Italian Genealogy, French Canadian Genealogy, Computer Genealogy, DNA and Jewish Genealogy. The Society Monthly meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. and the featured speaker starts at 11 a.m.

Come join us. You do not need to be a member to enjoy this wonderful free presentation.

Click here for more information about the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society. Click here for a calendar of genealogical events.

— Glenn Avolio is public relations chairman of the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society.


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