When visitors come to Casa del Herrero, or the “House of the Blacksmith,” they are transported back to Montecito in the 1920s and 1930s – the heyday of the original owners George Fox and Carrie Steedman.
Designed by George Washington Smith, the Casa is one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in America.
The Steedmans came to Santa Barbara in 1921 to visit George’s brother, who was seeking treatment for diabetes from Dr. William David Sansum, the founder of Sansum Clinic.
Enjoying their time away from their home in St. Louis, Missouri, and finding the climate very suitable, they purchased land to build a second home. George Steedman began working with the Architect George Washington Smith to design Casa del Herrero.
Work on the house took place from 1922 to 1925, with George moving in on June 29, 1925, the day of the great Santa Barbara earthquake. Carrie would follow shortly thereafter.
George had a heart condition, which prevented strenuous activity. He spent his days in his workshop creating beautiful pieces of silver.
Carrie loved flowers and flower arranging, and her favorite flowers (camellias and roses) can still be found in the lovely garden spaces around the estate. The Steedmans enjoyed their life in Montecito.
“The Steedmans were creative individuals, and their home in many ways is a reflection of their interests,” said Casa del Herrero Executive Director Jessica Tade. “Everything from the art collection to the amazing workshop where Mr. Steedman worked in silver to the unique garden spaces – the Steedmans were intimately involved with every decision in the completion of the estate.”
No aspect of the estate was reworked more vigorously than the garden areas. George was a perfectionist, and he made many changes to landscape architect Ralph Stevens’ original design.
The result of Steedman’s intervention is an eclectic mix of Country Place Era and Moorish-inspired gardens. Today, Casa del Herrero maintains National Historic Landmark status in part due to these unique spaces.
“When guests take the guided tour, I think they are surprised at the beautiful details seen throughout the home and the garden spaces,” said Casa del Herrero Board President Karen Jones Clark. “The gardens feel like outdoor rooms – each with unique characteristics – and most punctuated with the sound of water falling from tiled fountains.”
A distinct highlight on the tour is the Blue and White Garden with its calla lilies, iris, statice, heliotrope, and Japanese anemones.
As visitors walk out of this garden, and down the main alleé, they come to the Casa’s Arizona Garden. This garden space is filled with plants such as aloe, Mexican fencepost, and golden barrel cactus. There are also some lovely Dracaena draco (dragon) trees.
Orchards and smaller garden spaces are also a delight. Taken together, the Casa’s garden spaces are a beautiful reminder of the Steedman family’s creativity and connection to the natural world. They reaffirm George Steedman’s thoughtfulness and attention to detail as he created, in his words, a “good, satisfying home.”
Today, the 11-acre estate functions as a nonprofit organization with the goal of preserving the house and grounds, as well as the Steedman family’s collection of fifteenth and sixteenth-century fine and decorative art objects from the “Golden Age” of Spain, books, sketchbooks, drawings, and horticultural records.
“Through our preservation efforts and collaborations, we remain an important connection to local history,” Tade said. “The era of the 1920s great estates is alive and well at the Casa. It is exciting to share this important piece of Montecito history with the community.”
Casa del Herrero is preserved and stewarded for the benefit of the community, and can be visited by booking a tour. (casadelherrero.com/tours/)
We Love Our Members!
Members provide invaluable support, assisting the Casa in its ability to complete important conservation projects, maintain the home’s beautiful garden spaces, provide education to visitors, and inspire conversations around preservation, creativity, and artisanship.
Casa del Herrero is holding a membership drive in the month of February. Those individuals joining or renewing memberships in the month of February will receive an appreciation gift in addition to access to members-only specialty tours.
Check out the exciting options! (casadelherrero.com/membership/)
Some information for this article courtesy of Robert Sweeney’s book “Casa del Herrero – The Romance of Spanish Colonial,” published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., and “The Garden of Medora Bass – Casa del Herrero, Santa Barbara, California,” from The American Woman’s Garden Magazine, 1983-84.