People, Places and Things

88 Acres – Or is it 80 Acres?

With Earth Day celebrations in full gear in our backyard, we decided to head to a quieter hike zone in Montecito. Originally we had planned to hike a few of the streets, in our quest to walk every street in Montecito. But soon we discovered that much of the most delightful hiking in Montecito is found along trails that intersect the public roadways.

We started by exploring the Hedgerows, and soon wound up on San Leandro Lane, which happens to be the old stompin’ grounds for the UH back in the late 1960’s and 70’s. And so, we happily headed up a trail that took us into the heart of the old “88 Acres”. Some old-times refer to this property as “80 Acres” and we aren’t sure how damn many acres it consisted of at the time it was named, but “88” is what we called it, so “88” it is. Parts of 88 Acres has become what is now Ennisbrook, and another part has become Las Entradas.

This is the part of the Montecito Trail Foundation trail we hiked that day.

This is the entrance on San Leandro Lane, to the west of Crane School.

As we hiked along, we knew we’d found ourselves the best place in town to celebrate Earth Day and honor Mother Earth.

Just after crossing this little stone bridge (which we suspect was built in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s) we came to this sign.

The bridge made us curious about the history of the property. Who had lived here and what events had taken place on this magical piece of land? We agreed we’d have to look into that… And then we came upon the sign, indicating the landowner and the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County had collaborated to keep the area safe for future generations. What a gift, to know that this ancient riparian forrest will be protected for all creatures who care to utilize it. We imagine that it is, and will remain much as it was 500 years ago when grizzly bears and native peoples co-existed, living on the land. And of course we kept hiking.

We came upon wild gooseberries, but alas they had not yet ripened.

Of course the rock wall isn’t ancient, but it’s simple and lovely and a reminder of our past.

This is how we recall much of “88 Acres” back in the day.

And this photo shows where the old road was that led up to the original Dominguez Adobe, later dubbed Ennisbrook.

And now a bit of history. This map, taken from local historian David Myrick’s book, Montecito and Santa Barbara Volume I, shows the land ownership in 1871. The pink line is our trail.

According to Mr. Myrick, back in 1845 retired Presidio soldier Demecio Dominguez was given one of the largest Pueblo Land grants. He was part of a large local family, and was one of the 15 children of Jose and Marcelina, owners of the famous Para Grande grapevine. It’s believed that in 1835-1836 Sr. Dominguez built an adobe on his 356 acre ranch, and though the property has passed through many hands, and the adobe has been extensively modified, it remains as one of Santa Barbara’s last original Spanish adobe homes. It’s currently listed for sale – for $12,5000 you get the house and 6 acres of land. This photo taken in the 1980’s shows the tree-lined drive up to the house. More on that later…

And this is part of the house today, taken right off the web. It shows the original part of the home. If you want to see more, google Rancho San Leandro or 308 Ennisbrook Drive. It’s really quite a lovely home.

Along the trail we came to the entry to the adobe, which we have always known as the “Boeseke Adobe” (Ba-see-key), but clearly Mr. and Mrs. Boeseke were not the first, nor the last to live in the home. The drive is the same one visible in the b&w photo above.

More beautiful sights along the trail…

Another sweet adobe style building.

More beauty.

And this is exactly as we recall the majority of the amazing property we used to play on and explore on long, lazy afternoons…

This image shows how well the Montecito Trails Foundation takes care of the trails. We are incredibly fortunate to have this completely volunteer and non-profit organization in our community. The MTF was formed in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s to preserve historic Indian and Spanish trails in Southern SB County, to acquire and develop new trails and to maintain the trails for use by hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners and equestrians. In all there are about 200 miles of these trails in Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria and the backcountry, many which would have been lost without the efforts of the MTF. We love the fact that these trails, located throughout Montecito, are beautiful, utilitarian and historic. What more could you ask for in a trail?

A few more sights along the trail.

A couple of really quaint homes along the trail.

More beauty.

The dreaded poison oak, which is all over along the trails and in the brush.

More images of the forest.

A little place to squeeze though as the trail goes right between two trees

Example of two types of giant trees you’ll see – a Cottonwood(?) and a Laurel. The photos don’t show scale well, but these trees are truly impressive in their size.

Heading home, back over the little bridge.

This historic property has had many owners, since the Dominguez family lived and worked the ranch they called Rancho San Leandro. After building the adobe, and a racetrack behind the house, Sr. Dominguez cleared about six acres, which he planted with grain. A plentiful water supply from two springs and a nearby creek would always supply the ranch with sufficient water to grow a variety of crops, orchards, gardens and trees.

In 1868, when he was almost 80 years old, Sr. Dominguez sold his ranch and moved to a smaller location very near his old home. The buyer of the property, a Mr. Edward Doty, immediately sold the property to Jarvis Swift, a transplant from the East Coast who had arrived with his wife and three adult sons in 1867.

Jarvis Swift experienced a lot of legal problems with the property, which ultimately led to his economic failure. In the 12 years he and his family had lived and worked the ranch, he had built a large wooden house and cleared over 150 acres which he planted with flax, hay, barley, corn, other vegetables and a variety of fruit trees. This photo shows the Swift House, courtesy of the Montecito History Committee, by way of David Myrick’s book.

After Jarvis Swift’s death in 1880, his son James was able to save the property from foreclosure, and by 1881, he owned the entire ranch. The “boys” and their mother continued to live on the ranch and work it, with the exception of an 11-acre plot that they leased to a Chinese vegetable gardener. In addition to crops, flowers and chickens, they also had a dairy which produced 100 – 130 pounds of butter each week.

By the mid-1880’s James Swift was flush, and deeded his two brothers, Charles and William, each a 51- acre parcel on the west side of the creek. In 1887 James then cashed in big by selling his 240 acres to a Captain A.L Anderson for $100,000. A few months later Captain Anderson sold the property to George Gould. This map (from Montecito and Santa Barbara Volume II) shows how the properly was beginning to be subdivided.

In the early 1890’s a lumberman and his wife who hailed from Michigan, the W.C. Wards, purchased Charles Swift’s acreage, along with an option to buy brother William’s parcel. The Wards had big plans to build a mansion on the top of the hill. A pumping plant was built and at least 1,000 ornamental trees were planted along a long drive leading up to the location of the new house…remember that aerial photo from the 1980’s? Sadly, Mrs. Ward died suddenly in 1916, just as the foundation of the home had been laid. In 1917 William Swift gave up farming and sold his remaining 47 acres to another man, Franklin Knott for $1,500 an acre. Ultimately W.C. Ward transferred his property to his son Harold, but Harold’s young wife was too afraid of the wilderness of Montecito to make it her home. After many years of neglect, the John Bacon’s bought the property from Harold Swift and built a lovely home on it…many years down the road, Oprah would see the property and buy it from one of the owners subsequent to the Bacons.

There’s one last bit of information about the Rancho San Leandro that makes it even that much more romantic. Remember how James Swift had owned a large chunk of the ranch, and had sold it to a captain who then sold it to George Gould? In 1916 Mr. Gould sold 121 acres, including the Dominguez adobe, to a Canadian named Herbert Cox. Mr. and Mrs. Cox remodeled the adobe and renamed it Ennisbrook. They stayed in Santa Barbara about half the year, and spent the rest of the year in Toronto. They also built a polo field, as Mr. Cox was an avid equestrian and polo player. Cox Field opened, most likely in 1923. In 1925, Ennisbrook and the polo fields were purchased by a local polo player, Elmer Boeseke Jr. Mr. Boeseke, who had played on the 1924 U.S. Olympic polo team, built stables for 150 horses as well as accommodations for the grooms and other hands. He maintained the polo fields for many years and then leased them to the Santa Barbara Polo Club until 1931. Sadly, around 1931 Mr. Boeseke suffered financial and legal reversals and the polo fields and facility were abandoned. This Sandborn Map originally published in 1918, was modified to show the stables, the pool and the other out buildings. Pretty cool stuff.

In the1980s amongst much public outcry, the slice of paradise known to generations of kids as “88 (or 80) Acres” was subdivided and developed into Ennisbrook and Las Entradas, both gated communities that encompass the area along Sheffield Drive and San Leandro Lane. There are a lot of nice houses, and many people have made and lost fortunes in the real estate market in those enclaves. But there are still many amongst us who miss the old days. Luckily for us, we have this amazing protected trail to enjoy all year around.

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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