31 years ago today, the soap opera Santa Barbara originally aired. The day-time drama, which revolved around the fascinating and tumultuous life of the wealthy Capwell family of Santa Barbara, California, debuted on NBC on July 30, 1984, and last aired on January 15, 1993. Santa Barbara aired in over 40 countries, won 24 Daytime Emmy Awards, and was even watched by the Reagans in the White House.
Frozen in time since the 1950s, Bellosguardo, the estate of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark in Santa Barbara, has been kept up for $40,000 per month.
Bill Dedman, co-author of “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune,” be the first journalist to report on a tour of Bellosguardo, one of the empty estates owned by Huguette Clark, the reclusive heiress to a copper fortune that at one time rivaled that of the Rockefellers.
“The 23-acre property, with a 21,666-square-foot French mansion high on a mesa above Santa Barbara’s East Beach, has been the subject of legend here for decades, writes Dedman in this fascinating read. “Though the property has 1,000 feet of frontage on the water, and the view of the ocean is stunning, Bellosguardo is so well hidden by trees that one has to fly over the property to get a look at it.
Up close, Bellosguardo appears to be in pristine condition. The only residents during these decades have been the estate manager, his dogs, and a tame family of foxes.”
But Bellosguardo has an uncertain future, “the settlement last year of Clark’s disputed last will and testament left this home to a new foundation to foster the arts, just as her will had directed. The trustees of the Bellosguardo Foundation will be appointed by the New York attorney general, with seven of the 10 to be nominated by the mayor of Santa Barbara, Helene Schneider. Her political aide has been leading potential trustees on tours of the house, seeking those with deep pockets who will donate and raise money for the foundation.
The goal, Schneider said, “is to open the Bellosguardo house and gardens to the public as a center that will foster and promote the arts.” She called the Clark home “an amazing opportunity to create a magnificent organization that will significantly add to our strong artistic and cultural heritage.”‘
As we celebrate fourth of July weekend, here is a story with comments from the View Vault. This date in Santa Barbara history… the famous Moreton Bay Fig was planted!
Legend would have it, that on the 4th of July in 1876, a young girl living on State Street received a mysterious seedling from a sailor down at Stearns Wharf, who was returning from an Australian voyage. The sailor told the young girl to plant it and see what happens. What happened was the Moreton Bay Fig. A year later, because the young girl had to move back East, never to see Santa Barbara again, she gave the young tree to a neighboring friend, and the seedling was transplanted from 201 State Street to the same block on Chapala. Needless to say, the tree grew and grew.
Now, the famous tree’s root system encompasses an acre of ground near the train tracks and highway. The tree – dubbed the Moreton Bay Fig because it was native to Moreton Bay, Australia – really isn’t a fig tree. It has since been identified as a “ficus Macrophylla”, a cousin of the rubber tree family; however, it is believed to be the largest of its species in the world. So, plant a seed today and see what happens.
In a related note to yesterday’s 90th anniversary of the great quake, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum is currently holding an exhibition about the 1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake for only a few more days – through Saturday, July 5th to be exact. Out of the rubble would come a new Santa Barbara with the headline, “Spanish Architecture to Rise from Ruins.” Santa Barbara Historical Museum, 136 East De la Guerra Street.
Boom! At dawn on June 29, 1925, our city shook with a 6.3 earthquake leaving much of downtown destroyed or heavily damaged.
The twin towers of Mission Santa Barbara collapsed, and eighty-five percent of the commercial buildings downtown were destroyed or badly damaged. A failed dam in the foothills released forty-five million gallons of water, and a gas company engineer became a hero when he shut off the city’s gas supply, and prevented fires like those that destroyed San Francisco twenty years earlier.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Painted Cave Fire in Santa Barbara. On June 27, 1990, at 6:02 p.m. a fire started up in the mountains near a place called Painted Cave. A long drought had made the brush very dry, and a several day heat wave was further drying up the area. Just as the sun was setting, strong winds began blowing the fire down the mountain towards town.
Two hours later the fire had done the impossible. It had traveled five miles downhill cutting a swath between Goleta and Santa Barbara setting afire entire neighborhoods in it’s path. The fire jumped the combination of Santa Barbara’s six-lane freeway and the two side roads, Calle Real and Hollister and continued burning down stores, restaurants, businesses, apartment buildings, and more houses on the other side. All roads between Santa Barbara and Goleta were blocked by the fire, it was impossible to get from one side to the other.
Entire neighborhoods were burning to the ground, hundreds of houses were lost as residents evacuated with little or no time to save any of their precious belongings. It appeared nothing but the Pacific Ocean itself was going to stop this fire. Finally, later that night, the winds died down and the fire was brought to a halt at the edge of Hope Ranch, about two miles from the ocean. Dawn broke the next morning on a very eerie sight. There was nothing but ashes where entire neighborhoods had stood the day before. 5000 acres, 440 houses, 28 apartment complexes, and 30 other structures were lost. There were still visible flames on the black burnt mountain range. The fire continued to burn in the mountains for several days before finally being extinguished.
Authorities say an incendiary device was found where the fire started — it was arson, and the arsonist has never been found. This continues to be one of the worst disasters ever in the history of Santa Barbara. - Description written by David Deley
On May 29, 1955, James Dean in his Porsche Speedster, took part in the Santa Barbara Road Race. Held on airport surfaces and access roads, the Santa Barbara Road Races were the premier West Coast motorsport events during the 1950s. Legendary driver Phil Hill won the inaugural Santa Barbara race in a Ferrari 250 in 1953. The event’s proximity to Hollywood drew celebrities like Steve McQueen while this Memorial Day event was James Dean’s last race.
On this date in local history – May 24, 1855 – Santa Barbara got its first newspaper, the Santa Barbara Gazette. Printed half in Spanish and half in English, the paper offered Santa Barbara residents welcomed information ranging from legal notices and news to local happenings and bargain specials.
Today, the Arlington Theatre celebrates its 84th birthday! The Arlington Theatre opened in 1931; but before the theatre, Arlington meant the finest in hotel accommodations (photo below) and the name has been embedded in the history of Santa Barbara.
Michael Redmon, Director of Research at the SB Historical Museum, provides history:
Photo Credit: J W Collinge. The First Arlington Hotel: Solely for use on Santa Barbara View.
Believe it or not, six years ago today, the Jesusita Fire broke out. First word of a fire in the hills came around 1:45 in the afternoon, a breaking report followed… “there is a very visible fire in the hills above Santa Barbara.” Preliminary reports had the fire near Tunnel Road… the first picture of the blaze was sent in from a Viewer at La Cumbre Mall (left).
For the next two weeks, the Jesusita Fire had Santa Barbara residents on edge. The skies around Santa Barbara filled with smoke and power went out throughout the city. 1,200 homes were immediately put under a mandatory evacuation order and a proclamation of local emergency was declared by Santa Barbara County. Flames, fueled by 84 degree temperatures and sun-downer winds, were no match for brave helicopter pilots. The blaze swelled from 150 acres to 8,700+ acres burned.
By May 9th, nearly 6,000 properties were under mandatory evacuation orders.
Nearly 1,000 firefighters fought the flames from the ground. Six fixed-wing aircraft, 5 helicopters, and a DC-10 jumbo jet tanker battled the blaze from above. 100% containment of the Jesusita Fire was reached on May 18th; unfortunately, 80 homes had been destroyed. The cost to fight the blaze was put at $20 million.
As for the start of the blaze, 50-year-old Craig William Ilenstine and 45-year-old Dana Neil Larsen, were allegedly using gas powered weed cutters on the trail at the origin of the fire. Both men were eventually charged with one misdemeanor count.