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People of Santa Barbara: Robert F. Winchester, Ranchero and Physician

On this date in 1845, Robert F. Winchester was born in Brewer, Maine. Winchester would become the second practicing physician in Santa Barbara.

Winchester served in the Civil War as a surgeon for the Union Army. After the war, he was drawn by the wanderlust of the West coast and moved to San Francisco. He began his practice when the smallpox epidemic drew him to San Juan Bautista and his fateful meeting with Colonel Hollister.  According to Walker A. Tomkins, “when Colonel Hollister was preparing to move his family to Santa Barbara, a devastating epidemic of smallpox broke out in the San Juan Bautista area near his sheep ranch. A young doctor, Robert Fulton Winchester, volunteered to leave his practice near San Francisco to come to the aid of the stricken community… Hollister was so impressed that he hired him to serve as the family’s personal physician and eventually set him up for business in Santa Barbara.”

As an enticement to get Dr. Winchester to come south, in 1870 Colonel Hollister purchased 1,000 acres of prime land the doctor’s name in the lush arroyo west of Ellwood Canyon. Winchester agreed to the move. After a few years, he grew tired of rural life and moved into Jose Lobero’s adobe at 110 West Carillo Street, which the Hollisters had used as temporary living quarters while the Glen Annie ranch house was being built.

In 1872, the year Stearns Wharf opened, Dr. Winchester started his practice in competition with the town’s well-established Dr. Brinkerhoff. When the Fithian Building opened at State and Ortego in 1896, Dr. Winchester leased a suite of offices. By this time, Winchester had served as Santa Barbara County coroner, county doctor and city health officer.

Dr. Wichester retired in 1925, died on March 31, 1932, and his final home was in the Trussell-Winchester Adobe, a historic landmark at 412 West Montecito Street.

October 1960 SOUTH (FRONT) ELEVATION – Trussell-Winchester, 412 West Montecito Street, Santa Barbara, CA


Fire Razed Potter Hotel on April 13, 1921

On this date in Santa Barbara history the magnificent Potter Hotel was destroyed by a fire. Crowds watched in horror as flames quickly engulfed the Potter Hotel on April 13, 1921. The hotel opened on January 19, 1903 and cost over $1 million to build.

100+ guests were safely evacuated, but with winds gusting from fifty to eighty miles per hour, the fire spread quickly and burnt the hotel to the ground within three hours. Flying debris even set fire to Stearns Wharf and to the tall palms that line the boulevard along West Beach. Only few chimneys were left of what had been one of the finest hotels on the West Coast.

Faulty wiring was found to be the cause, although many historians suspect it was arson. Several attempts were purportedly made to burn down the hotel which had been heavily insured and was steadily losing money, and the fire department believed that all the fires they extinguished has been deliberately set. Although arson was suspected, it was never confirmed.
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Santa Barbara City View

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Santa Barbara City College Panoramic View
The panoramic view of Santa Barbara from Santa Barbara City College. To give you an idea of the expanse of this beautiful vista, on the right you can see the Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf. All the way on the left where you see the red tile roof peeking out from under the fronds is the Santa Barbara Courthouse.

(Click to see the full size view to really appreciate it) -Bill Heller


View from the Top of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
View From the Top of Santa Barbara

A beautiful view over Santa Barbara. This is one of the most amazing spots in Santa Barbara. The top of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Clock Tower. From here you can see from one end of the city to the other, The Mission to the Ocean. This particular angle is overlooking the sunken gardens of the courtyard with the Pacific Ocean on the right.

But before you grab your camera and head over there, you should know that currently the tower is closed for construction work. In a few months however, you’ll be able to take the elevator all the way to the top. Which will be a great help for many people who found the tight climb up the last story above where the elevator dropped them off too much of a barrier to enjoy this amazing spot.

In the mean time I will do my best to bring the beautiful views to you.

-Bill Heller


Santa Barbara Mountain View

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
A view of the Santa Barbara hills from downtown State Street
Downtown Santa Barbara mountain view from just off State Street. The light hitting the mountains in the late afternoon really brings out their texture and makes for a beautiful backdrop to the city.

-Bill Heller


Santa Barbara Harbor Twilight

Santa Barbara photo of the week, by Bill Heller Photography, click to enlarge!
Twilight Harbor Panorama
I love to look at the boats in the Santa Barbara Harbor and think about how much fun each one would be, especially on a hot weekend like this. I’m not the worlds expert on watercraft, but I know enough to spot the nice wood sailboats that are beautiful (but a lot of work), the cruisers that look like they could almost be an apartment inside, and the beautiful racing boats. It seems like they must each have a story and they are just waiting for the next chance to go out and write another chapter. But in the evening like this they sway peacefully in their slips dreaming of the open water.

Have a wonderful weekend! Stay cool and safe.

-Bill Heller