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Architecture Inside and Out
SAH/SCC Tour: Montecito, CA
Saturday, May 03, 2008

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One of the primary elements of architectural design in Southern California is the ability to incorporate the exterior environment. This convention of Moorish traditionsrooms arranged around a courtyard joined by an arcade around a central spaceblur the separate typologies of "inside" and "outside." Filtered through Spanish settlements, this design practice came to define the California style.

Join SAH/SCC executive board member Dennis Whelan for "Architecture Inside and Outside," on Saturday, May 3rd, in Montecito. We will examine these ideas through three superb examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and landscape. Some of the most notable work of the 1920s will be revealed.

This day-long coach tour departs from a central location in the Santa Barbara area at 9:15 AM, and returns to the same location at approximately 5 PM. A gourmet box lunch and event brochure are included in the tour price. Participants will be responsible for their own transportation to and from the Santa Barbara area. Coach capacity is limited, so register early to avoid disappointment. Member price is $139 Non-Member price is $159.

Lotusland

The day begins with an insider's tour of Lotusland, where Ralph Kinton Stevens, an important early nurseryman, had his family home and commercial nursery. Many of the large palms and other trees on the estate date back to Stevens' time, between 1882 and 1896.

In 1916, the property was acquired by the Gavit family, which hired architect Reginald Johnson to design a residence for them in 1919. During the 1920s, George Washington Smith remodeled the home and designed additional buildings. The Gavits landscaped their estate, which they called Cuesta Linda, with extensive gardens, described in 1929 as "semi-formal Italian." Landscape designers were Paul Theine and Lockwood de Forest, Jr., along with horticulturist Peter Reidel.

Madame Ganna Walska, who purchased the estate in 1941, made no major changes to the buildings. She did, however, make extensive and dramatic changes to the grounds. During the 43 years that she lived at Lotusland, Madame Walska redesigned most of the Gavit-period landscaping and created many wonderful new gardens.

Most of her energy and resources were poured into making a botanical garden of rare plants using her natural artistic talents to create a fantasy world of exquisite beauty. To accomplish this she worked with a number of landscape architects and designers, including de Forest, Ralph T. Stevens, William Paylen, Oswald da Ros, and Charles Glass.

Val Verde

The second stop on the tour will be the rarely seen Val Verde estate (c.1915), planned by Boston architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Beaux-Arts formal gardens, reflecting pool, and a spare, near-modernist house influenced by Colonial Mexican village architecture grace the property. Val Verde was already an extraordinary place when C.W. Ludington bought it in 1924.

De Forest worked on a new landscape plan for Val Verde, leaving Goodhue's geometry and much of the wilderness intact. Of the 1,500 gardens created by de Forest, this is the only one remaining in its original form. Unaltered for almost 100 years, the garden is groundbreaking for its time and is just as relevant today. The garden is a designated national treasure by the American Society of Landscape Architects, and a national, state, and county landmark.

Casa del Herrero

The day will conclude with a tour of the Steedman Residence by George Washington Smith, as well as the surrounding gardens and workshop. After purchasing eleven acres in Montecito in 1922, George Steedman selected the area's premiere architect, Smith, to design this splendid example of an Andalusian-style country house surrounded by artfully planned grounds and gardens.

The house was completed in 1925, and is noted for its extensive use of Mediterranean tile, as well as splendid examples of 13th- to 18th-century Spanish furniture, antique architectural detail, and artwork. Much was purchased by Steedman on buying trips to Spain.

Few of Montecito\'s fabled estates have remained essentially unchanged. The Casa del Herrero has been in the hands of the original family since it was first constructed more than 75 years ago. It provides visitors with a glimpse into Montecito life as the Steedmans lived it in the 1930s. The gardens were designed by landscape architects Stevens, de Forest, and Reidel. Completed in 1933, seven acres of gardens are formally designed and maintained in a Spanish Moorish style.

"Architecture Inside and Outside" is a rare opportunity to experience the flora and foundations of California style. 

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