People, Places and Things

The Leaning Tower of Montecito

While wandering the streets of Montecito last week we came upon a relic we’ve whizzed by in our cars hundreds of times over that past decades. It’s located off of Hot Springs Road between Pepper Lane and School House Road, but closer to Pepper Lane.

Walking along with little more to do than observe and wonder, the old leaning water tower took on a beauty we’d never before known her to possess. For one thing she looked more fragile than ever, leaning much more than we’d previously noticed. We also appreciated her humble appearance and her obvious historical significance. She’s one of those things we suspect won’t last forever, and won’t be surprised if one day we pass by and she is no longer there. We think this old gal deserves a little more recognition that she gets, and we’d love to see her restored and preserved.

We referred to our library, and enlisted the help of our friend Bob Easton (one of Santa Barbara’s finest architects), in our efforts to learn more and locate historic photos of this old tower. And this is what we discovered.

The original shingled house on that property was constructed sometime during the 1880’s, according to David Myrick, in his book Montecito & Santa Barbara Volume II. This photo, belonging to Bob Eason, was taken circa 1905. We suspect the home and water tank were built about the same time, in order to provide residents of the home with the most modern plumbing amenities available. The tank would have provided the occupants with clean running water, and probably a good bit of water pressure for washing, bathing and other household uses.

In 1922, D. Gordon and Dorothy Bromfield bought the home and seven acre parcel for themselves an their family. Their intention was not to live in it as it was, and they immediately began searching for an architect to design a new home for them. Story has it that while at a social event, Mrs. Bromfield began casually speaking with George Washington Smith about her desire to build a Georgian Colonial house in Montecito. When Mr. Smith inquired why she wanted a Georgian Colonial and not a Spanish style home, she replied that she was Eastern, and therefore preferred the Colonial style over the Spanish style. Without skipping a beat, GWS accepted the assignment to build the Bromfields a Colonial house, even before a proper offer had been made to him. The only Colonial house George Washington Smith built in this area, “The Pillars” attracted the attention of a couple of the Bromfield’s neighbors. While they didn’t actually tear down and rebuild, the owners of two nearby mansions – “Tara” and “The Peppers” – had Colonial style columns added to their homes shortly after seeing how nice “The Pillars” had turned out.

“The Pillars” is still visible from the street, but not very. If you want to have a look at this historic house in its present state, you’ll have to set out on an urban hike of your own…

And finally, we leave you with a page from the Sanborn insurance map, showing the Bromfield estate. You’ll see the water tower noted in the upper left corner of the property, with a notation that it has an elevation of 30 feet. She doesn’t look like much on the map, but she sure looks great to us.

As always, we encourage you to go out and explore the neighborhoods, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all expect the unexpected.

About Peter Hartmann and Stacey Wright

We are two "fifty-something" year olds who are lifetime residents of Santa Barbara. Together, we have decided to walk each and every street within the City limits of Santa Barbara just for the fun of it. Peter is a dentist, and Stacey is a long-time County employee who helps the elderly without family to look after them. Read more

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