People, Places and Things

Pepper – It Ain’t no Doctor, no Sgt. and no Street

This week we walked the neighborhood known as Pepper Hill. Our hike consisted of more than just the “hill”, which has only two roads – Woodley and Glenview. As you can see from our map, we made a loop, also including parts of Alston, Sycamore Canyon and a little bit of Hot Springs Road.

Pepper Hill got its name from David Benton Jones, who in 1912, at the age of 64 years old traveled to Santa Barbara with his adult son, Owen. After spending a month at the Arlington Hotel, Mr. Jones purchased two parcels of land in Montecito, consisting of approximately 36.5 acres. The following yearMr. Jones and his eldest daughter, Gwethalyn, returned to Santa Barbara to “winter” and make plans for the construction of their newest home. Together, father and daughter rode their horses up to their property to have a look. Apparently David Jones felt the lot might be just a tad bit too small for his project, and therefore purchased an additional 12 acres from his neighbor, Edward Ryerson. In March, 1917, just as the Palladian villa (dubbed “Pepper Hill”) was nearing completion, Mr. Jones nearly doubled the size of his estate by purchasing “St. Veep Heights” from another neighbor, Harriet Harvey. Mrs. Harvey’s large stone home became the living accommodations for William Crowe, the primary caretaker of “Pepper Hill”. This Sandborn map shows the two parcels owned by “Miss G. Jones” – Pepper Hill and St. Veep.

As you’ll notice, it was Gwethalyn and not David who is the listed owner of the property, at least on the Sandborn map. This is due to the fact that in 1918 Mr. Jones deeded the entire estate to his daughter, one of his five children.

David Jones, an immigrant from Wales, arrived in the U.S. as a young child. Both he and his younger brother Thomas, graduated from Princeton University and became prominent Chicago attorneys. Eventually David and Thomas felt compelled to bail out their eldest brother, William, from of a failing zinc mine business in Wisconsin. Together the younger men turned the zinc mine around, essentially founding the zinc industry in America and ultimately making a fortune in what would later became the Mineral Point Zinc Company.

When David B. Jones died in August, 1923 he left a vast estate to his five children, including several magnificent homes. His daughter, Catherine, died two years after him, but daughters Gwethalyn and Winifred called Santa Barbara home, at least part-time. Coincidentally, daughter Winifred met Harold Gladwin while in Santa Barbara, and the two later married. Both prominent archeologists and scientists, the Gladwin Planetarium at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is named in their honor.

Unfortunately we have not been able to find many photos of “Pepper Hill”. We know that it was designed by David Adler, who, like David Jones had lived in Wisconsin, graduated Princeton University and worked in Chicago. He partnered with another architect, Harry Dangler and together they designed the mansion as a simplified adaptation of a Venetian church, Chiesa di Santo Stefano. The mansion was completed in the spring of 1917 and was immediately furnished with belongings shipped from the East Coast and beyond. David Jones and his daughter Gwethalyn (who remained unmarried throughout her life) immediately moved into the new home.

These photos, taken in 1933 show some of the Jones family members while at “Pepper Hill”.


This photo of Miss Gwethalyn Jones was taken at her home in Lake Forrest, Illinois. It’s believed that Gwethalyn “wintered” at “Pepper Hill” until 1957, two years before her death at age 79. She is said to have enjoyed the spectacular gardens, the perfect weather and the magnificent ocean and mountain views the estate provided.

In 1960 the estate was sold to Robert L. Scott and his wife for $450,00. During the early 1960’s Mr. Scott formed Pepper Hill Inc. and began offering lots that were approximately 1-acre in size, for between $18,000 and $32,000 apiece. By 1964 the mansion was considered out-dated and too expensive to maintain, and was unceremoniously demolished. A smaller home was built in its place.

Today there are many lovely homes on the property that was once “Pepper Hill”. The landscaping of the area is also very beautiful, and in fact, the area seems very much like a park. We noticed several unimproved lots, and envy the lucky ones who will ultimately make this historic neighborhood their own.

These images show some of the natural beauty of Pepper Hill, as well as the tasteful and well maintained landscaping typical of the area.




We passed many impressive homes of a variety of architectural styles, including modern. We particularly liked these two places, and believe – but aren’t completely certain – that the home in the first photo sits in the approximate location of Gwethalyn Jones’ home.


As with our other Montecito hikes we passed a variety of gates, each reflecting the taste and sensibility of the homes’ occupants.



The views from “Pepper Hill” must have been indescribable. We came upon an unimproved lot that has an amazing view of the coastline just beyond its entrance, and down the road a bit caught a glimpse of the harbor through some trees along the roadside. On a clear day one can probably see forever.



This area of Montecito is rich with a variety of wonderful little details, so we’ll share just a couple of our discoveries – a dragon-fly mailbox and some unusual street signs. Don’t ask us why we like street signs, because there’s no easy answer. But we really do love the unique and special ones…

As we left Pepper Hill we made our way down Sycamore Canyon, and there we came upon an estate entry that made us laugh. Obviously someone has a nice pad, probably quite spectacular…but they’ve humbly dubbed it ” Pepper Knoll”. It was getting a little dark, and the quality of this photo is therefore not great, but the image is just too fun not to include in this story.

As we made our way down Sycamore Canyon, risking life and limb due to speeding cars with sometimes distracted drivers, we couldn’t help but notice that much of what could (and should) be pedestrian pathways are thoroughly pedestrian unfriendly. Case in point, this stretch of roadway leading up to the pad where Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries had their big fat wedding in August, 2011. We support those who are working to make Montecito more pedestrian-friendly, and remove the unnecessary risks to people who either chose to walk along the roadways or who walk them out of necessity.

And now for the mansion that was used in the Kardashian wedding farce – Sotto Il Monte, which translates as “beneath the mountain”. Originally built in 1929 as “La Toscana”, and designed by the late, great George Washington Smith, it was home for many years to Kirk B. Johnson, the first president of Beverly Hills National Bank. We think the holiday decorations are awesome, and only wish we had gone back to see them after dark.

Lastly, as we rounded the corner at Sycamore Canyon and Hot Springs Road we came to that legendary corner which for years has had cows grazing behind the whitewashed fences. We haven’t seen the cows in quite awhile, but perhaps it’s only because we haven’t been looking? We know that it is/was a seasonal thing, and wonder if the cows will return when the grass comes in well enough to sustain them. Anyone know the answer to this burning question? Of course we hope the answer is that the cows are wintering elsewhere and will return in due time.

Remember to save the date for the 2nd Annual Urban Hike Invitational!

Like last year, we’ll take a New Year’s Eve Day wander, with Santa Barbara’s celebrated local historian and stand-up comedian, Neal Graffy. This year there will be no ceremonious pageantry – just an urban hike and some shenanigans as we explore the Funk Zone and its environs. Neal will narrate a fascinating walking tour of the area, and we’ll visit some of the lesser-known spots, both in and outside the Zone. We plan on starting at the Dolphin Fountain at 2:00 p.m. and covering the streets shown on this map. We’ll end at around 4:00 p.m. in the heart of the Funk Zone, with some well-deserved refreshments, as we begin saying our goodbyes to 2012 and head into 2013.

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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