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Neal Graffy presents “Montecito’s Hilltop Barons” at SB Genealogy Meeting

March 21, 2015 from 9:30am - 12:00pm

Neal Graffy, local writer and Santa Barbara Historian, presents “Montecito's Hilltop Barons” at the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society’s monthly meeting, Saturday, March 21st at the First Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance at State Street, 9:30 am to 12:00 pm.  


Neal 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 to 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 of Union Carbide and his estate, Asombrosso; George Owen Knapp (Arcady, Pres.Union Carbide); Frederick Forrest Peabody (Solana, Pres. Arrow Shirts); David Gray (Graholm, Vice-pres. Ford Motor Co.,) and William H. Cowles (Eucalyptus Hill, publisher).


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 earthquake.


Cottage Hospital, Sansum Clinic, Santa Barbara Medical Foundation, Santa Barbara High School, the Cabrillo Pavilion, 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 Art Museum are just a few of the many institutions and places that benefited from Montecito's Hilltop Barons.


Neal Graffy has had numerous appearances on local, state and national radio and TV including Huell Howser's California Gold, KCET TV's Life and 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 (see photo) and continues the never-ending search for the perfect bacon burger.


Special Interest Groups meet at 9:30 am 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 and the featured speaker starts at 11:00am.

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

A calendar of genealogical events can be found at the Society web site (




Media contact: Glenn Avolio, PR Chair, [email protected]  (805) 886-5438


Event Details