Veronica Springs Historical Notes by Kellam de Forest

As residents line up to cast their vote on City Measure Y, which offers a housing developer the use of city land to build a bridge across from Arroyo Burro Creek to access 20+ potential new homes in exchange for a bicycle path and park and creek restoration, it’s time to remember the history of this significant site:

The following article appears in the June issue of “The Capital,” the newsletter of the Pearl Chase Society. It was written in late May by Kellam de Forest, who was recently hospitalized and to whom we send best wishes for a speedy recovery.

These springs once played an important role in the history of Santa Barbara. Although we still drink bottled spring water, its use for medicinal purposes has almost vanished today due to the Food and Drug Agency. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, however, the bottling of mineral water for so-called medicinal use was big business.

From 1890 to 1928, the mineral water from Veronica Springs was bottled and marketed worldwide. The label prominently displayed a picture of the Mission and the name Santa Barbara. There are those that contend Veronica Springs water put Santa Barbara on the map. This contention might be overblown, but extracting and marketing of Veronica Medicinal Springs water played an important role in the development of Santa Barbara.

Photo Courtesy Hattie Beresford



In the 2005 Environmental Impact Report, Post/Hazeltine deemed that development of the site would significantly modify the physical setting of the property, which was largely undeveloped when the historic water company was active. What existed was a large barn-like structure where the water from the springs was piped into tanks. The water at first was put into casks and shipped to San Francisco for bottling. In 1913, a bottling plant was built on the corner of Montecito and Salsipuedes streets. A gazebo structure housed a fountain where visitors could sample the water.

Converting the site from open space that resembled its historic condition, to residential development would cause a substantial adverse change of the historic resource. This change would reduce the historic significance of the property and reduce opportunities to learn about the history of Santa Barbara.

The proposal to allow a developer to build a bridge across Arroyo Burro Creek so that he can build 25 homes on that currently vacant land has created controversy. The acceptance of the bridge by City voters is the subject of Proposition Y on Today’s ballot.

About Kellam de Forest

Kellam de Forest, Citizen Extraordinaire. The son of the legendary Santa Barbara couple, Lockwood and Elizabeth de Forest, his name is synonymous with the history, art and preservation of Santa Barbara. His parents published “The Santa Barbara Gardener” from 1925-1942, and were responsible for inspired landscape architecture throughout the area. His grandfather’s moonlight-inspired paintings were featured this spring in a show at Sullivan-Goss, drawing a review in the New York Times. With that legacy, the grace and beauty of Santa Barbara runs deep in Kellam. He serves as secretary of the Pearl Chase Society, where he pens the “Preservation Watch” column; he volunteered his historic expertise in the writing of the Historic Element for the General Plan, and he regularly comments on all manner of political and development issues, in person and online. Santa Barbara View is honored to have Kellam de Forest as a contributor.

6 Responses to Veronica Springs Historical Notes by Kellam de Forest

  1. ViewingSB June 4, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Hopefully Mr de Forest is out of the hospital now? If not hope he recovers soon.

  2. OldeTimes June 4, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Read between the lines – even dear Kellem doesn’t want this development. We owe this one to Kellem, the unpaid caretaker of our city’s heritage. Sell out to a developer or honor the charitable spirit that has long made Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara. Kellem, this one is for you. No on Y.

  3. When Kellam speaks, listen June 4, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    I trust Kellam on this one a lot more than the free-spending Mr. Lee, Marty Blum and Developer Dan Secord joining forces as “environmentalists” on those incessant commercials that Lee has paid a bundle for. Mr. de Forest is the true steward here.

  4. Anonymous June 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Kellan, thank you for giving us another reason to vote No. This site should be a park not a housing development. If there are going to be a few houses, they should be carefully placed to minimize damage to the historic springs. I also wish you a speedy recovery.

  5. Anonymous June 4, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    Love the historicals God Bless Mr. DeForest

  6. Art June 5, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    Great article and I do not support this proposal, but isn’t Veronica Springs about 1/2 mile up stream.

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