There are two wonderful adobes in Santa Barbara that have for many years captured our interests and imaginations. Be believe they are the only two freestanding 2-story adobes left in the area and both survived the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake with only minor damage! The first, the Masini Adobe is at the foot of Ortega Hill, on Sheffield Drive, and the other, the Botiller Adobe is located at 1023 Bath Street. Both properties originally encompassed large areas of land for large commercial vegetable gardens and vineyards. Both properties also served as wineries, which were owned and operated by European settlers.
The Masini Adobe is the earlier of the two adobes, probably built sometime between 1815 and 1825. In researching our story, we contacted Gary Meyer, who graciously agreed to be interviewed, and provided us with a wealth of information. Gary is a direct descendent of the Masini Adobe’s early owners, dating back to 1877. He told us about a photo that his family donated to the Montecito Library (along with other items relating to the historic adobe) showing the property in 1886. Unfortunately, time constraints prevented us from obtaining the photo for this story, but as soon as we get it (and permission to publish it), we’ll send it in to Edhat. The photo, which was published in the Morning Press, shows the adobe, the vineyard, gardens and the incredible ocean view it had.
This is how the adobe appears today, and we believe there is presently a sale of the property pending.
Although it’s officially named the Masini Adobe, it is clear that Mr. Masini (of Italian origin) was not the original owner or builder of the adobe. We have read about and considered several possibilities for the origin of the adobe. And since during the Spanish period most property in California was owned either by the “Cross or the Crown”, we propose a couple of options for the origin of this adobe.
Specifically, we think the adobe, which by several accounts was probably originally a one-story structure, may have been used by the Catholic Church as a mission. Now before you get wound up over our suggestion that Santa Barbara could be home to anything other than the Queen of the Missions, please realize that there was, most definitely, at least one other mission in Santa Barbara; one being located somewhere in the vicinity of the intersection of Modoc Rd. and Hollister Ave. But that’s an entirely different story…so, we were thinking that it’s quite possible that the early Spanish missionaries may have made a small mission or chapel, at the base of Ortega Hill.
The other possibility, and the one we think is more likely, is that the adobe was built as a military outpost to serve as a lookout for incoming ships. In 1819, in reaction to the Bouchard raids at the Mission at San Juan Capistrano, and up further the coast at Refugio Ranch and Monterey, the Spanish crown sent 200 men to fortify four of the Alto California presidios, including the one at Santa Barbara. 50 of the 200 calvary men sent up north arrived in Santa Barbara to protect against the invaders. It seems quite possible that the adobe was built by the soldiers, serving as a lookout post. The view from the adobe in 1819-1820’s was an unobstructed one of Sharks Bay, as well as the Santa Barbara channel further up the coastline.
We speculate that once the utility of the adobe as a military outpost was no longer necessary, the property reverted to the City of Santa Barbara. The Pueblo Lands of the City at one time extended throughout most of Montecito. It was from the City that Mr. Masini purchased the property in 1868. Last, but not least, the construction of the adobe may provide clues as to its original use and may support the notion of it having served initially as a military outpost. As mentioned, some believe the adobe was built as a one story structure, with the second story being added later. Modernly, the adobe is described in a Santa Barbara County Planning and Development report as:
“An unusual two-story adobe with cantilevered balconies on the east and west sides of the house. The kitchen occupies the single story side of the house. Date of construction is unknown but may have been as early as 1815 (cite to Willard Thompson). Its simple pine construction is of two large rooms, one above the other, with only a ladder to the second floor. The kitchen was once detached (cite to Noticias).”
We also know that the first floor walls are 24 inches think ad the second floor walls are 12 inches thick. Originally there were no windows on the ground floor of the east side (facing Ortega Hill) of the adobe, but a window was added to the downstairs room. Other renovations were done to the kitchen, which had originally been detached. It was later connected to the main house by adding a bedroom and a bathroom. The adobe is described as being a Monterey style adobe, and as far as we know it is one of only two freestanding two story adobes in Santa Barbara.
Over the course of its nearly 200-year history, the property has had relatively few owners, but the purchase price and estimated value of the property have fluctuated wildly. As far as we can discern, these are the prices paid, and some of the more recent asking prices of this property.
1815(?) – 1868 – Unknown “owner(s)” of the property. The adobe and its land is part of the Pueblo Lands, over which the Presidio’s Commandante had authority to give to soldiers in lieu of monetary compensation for their military service in Santa Barbara. It’s believed the adobe was built somewhere between the years of 1815 and 1820, and that originally it was a one-story structure according to eye witness accounts.
1868 – Pedro Masini purchases the adobe, by now a two-story adobe, along with a little over 37 acres from the City of Santa Barbara for $55.87.
1871 – Pedro Masini dies at the age of 50, and the property passes by way of a will to Margarita Ayala Masini, who was either Pedro’s wife or daughter. There is some confusion as to whether Pedro is also “Pierre P. Masini”, and/or “Pedro P. Masini” as deeds in his name appear to show up under both names.
1877 – Margarita and her husband J.M Rosales default on their mortgage, owing $2,846.35. The sheriff orders the property sold on the courthouse steps and on August 25, two women, both named Josefa purchase the property jointly for $2,991.97. They are Josefa Loureryro and Josefa Lopez de Etchas.
1877(?) – 1881 – Giovanni Trabucco, an Italian farmer and vintner rents the property from the Josefas, living and working the land.
1887 – Pedro Masini’s seven children give a grant deed to Josefa Lopez de Etchas for their remaining interest in the property. They later sue both of the Josefas to partition their land, but the Masini’s suit is dismissed two years later.
1889 – All of the Masini heirs or subsequent title holders to the property transfer their respective interests to Josefa Lopez de Etchas for varying sums of money. In all, Sra. Lopez de Etchas pays a total of $401 to four people ($1; $100; $100 and $200) for their interests in the property.
1896 – Josefa Loureryro, a single woman, dies willing her half-interest in the property to three women, all of whom live in Spain. In probating Josefa Loureryro’s estate, the court orders her interest in the property sold. A. Blair Thaw purchased Sr. Loureryro’s half interest in the property for $292, and Josefa Lopez de Etchas retains her 1/2 ownership.
1904 – Josefa Lopez de Etchas gives the deed to about half of her property around the Masini Adobe to her sister and brother-in-law, Bernarda Lopez Arroqui and Juan Arroqui. Juan is not only Josefa’s brother-in-law, but is also one of her cousins; His family had arrived in Santa Barbara in the 1820’s as sheepherders.
1911 – Josefa Lopez de Etchas sells about two acres of her land, which included the Masini Adobe to her cousin, Elena (Helena) Arroqui Meyers and Elena’s husband Fredrick Meyers.
1914 – Josefa Lopez de Etchas sells an additional 2/3 acre of land to Elena (Helena) Arroqui Meyers and Fredrick Meyers.
1917 – Josefa Lopez de Etchas sells an additional 7.65 acres of the land to Elena (Helena) Arroqui Meyers and Fredrick Meyers.
1936 – Historic American Homes chooses the adobe as a property worthy of preservation.
1950’s – Helen Meyer, a widow, dies and leaves the Masini Adobe and property to her daughter, Charlotte. Charlotte is an artist living in Los Angeles, and she uses the adobe as her second home. She is active in the art scene in Los Angels and is well connected to many people in the arts and entertainment industry. She hosted a number of parties at the Masini Adobe with many interesting guests, among them Walt Disney.
1975- Charlotte Meyer, unmarried and without children vanishes. Her sudden disappearance meansthat nothing could be done with or to the adobe until a period of seven years had passed, when Charlotte could be deemed “legally dead”, and the property would pass to her family under the laws of intestate succession. On about the eve of the seven-year anniversary of Charlotte’s disappearance, her Will is located in the office of a local attorney. The Will reveals that she had bequeathed the property to only one of her twin brothers, Edward. Since Edward died in 1978, the property passes to his two children, Edward Jr. and Gary Meyer.
1981 – Edward and Gary Meyer repair the neglected adobe, bringing it up to an inhabitable condition. They rent it to “Charles the jeweler” for approximately 18 years before putting it on the market in 1999.
1992 – Gary Meyer and David Myrick work together to have the County of santa Barbara declare the Masini Adobe Historic Landmark # 31.
1999 – The adobe and one acre of land are listed for sale. Asking price – $750,000.
2000 – The Stockwell family purchases the property.
2006 – The property is listed for $2,950,000. It does not sell and is taken off the market.
2009 – The property is listed for $1,895,000 . It does not sell and is taken off the market.
2011 – The property is listed for $894,000. According to Zillow it sells in December, 2011 for $791,000.
2012 – It appears that there is a pending sale on the property, which was most recently listed for $799,000.
This photo shows the “back” of the adobe during the 2000’s, when it was listed for sale. Originally, this was the front of the house, but over the years remodeling changed the orientation, making the back the front entrance (off Sheffield Drive) and the front became the back of the house.
This older photo – date unknown – shows the original front of the adobe
and this is a view of the back, later becoming the front.
This stone pillar has the Historic Landmark designation.
In speaking with Gary Meyer, we were able to learn quite a bit about his family and the history of the adobe property. Much has been written about the place, some true, and some fictional. It is true that on Christmas eve, 1881 Giovanni Trabucco, an Italian farmer and winemaker was brutally murdered in the adobe, but stories of a ghost haunting the property is pure rubbish. Gary recalled that his father, Edward, had lived for many years in the adobe, and Gary had never heard anything of the place being inhabited by spirits. It was only after a subsequent owner purchased the property that the talk of ghosts arose…
Back to the story of Giovanni Trabucco…by all accounts (published letters in the newspaper), Giovanni was an industrious, generous and cheerful kind of fellow. He lived at the adobe, growing a variety of crops, vegetables, flowers and fruits. He had a vineyard and winery on the property and produced wines. He also had horses and possibly livestock. He was known throughout the neighborhood as a bit of a recluse, having no wife, children or other family members. He was known, however to share the bounty of his garden and vineyard with neighbors and was considered a good neighbor by all.
On December 23, 1881, Giovanni reportedly went into town to conduct some business. Before returning home he socialized with a few men. That was the last time he was seen alive. On December 24th, a man who was caring for horses on the adobe property went into the house to find that Giovanni had been brutally murdered in the kitchen of his home, after being robbed of between five and six thousand dollars in cash. It is speculated that after a series of economic problems had led to several “runs” on the banks, Giovanni had opted to keep his cash stashed away in his home. As the story goes, several men learned of the possibility of a large sum of money in Giovanni’s home and went out to rob him. When he failed to tell the men where the money was hidden, they reportedly tortured him, making the murder a very gruesome one. Reports of the murder also included information that several wine glasses were found out on the table, leading to the assumption that the men enjoyed some of Mr. Trabucco’s wine, either prior to killing him or after doing so.
Six months after the murder, five brothers and their cousin were arrested and charged with the murder of Giovanni Trabucco, however the men were released a month later and all of the charges were dropped. One of the men arrested, Apolinario Romero later became a constable in Montecito. The murder of the good neighbor and Santa Barbara winemaker Giovanni Trabucco was unfortunately never solved.
When the earthquake struck in 1925, the adobe suffered only minor damage.
Before we move on to tell you about our second 2-story adobe, we direct your attention to an old photo that Woody Jackson submitted to Edhat just last week. As Woody pointed out, the photo shows Wilbur Curtis at the “lower cottages” at Montecito Hot Springs. Gary Meyer told us that when he saw the photo he immediately recognized it as one that also includes his father and uncle (Ed and Fred). They are the children playing just behind Wilbur Curtis. Edward and Fredrick were the twin sons of Helena Arroqui Meyer and were born at Montecito Hot Spring in 1912, during the years their father, Fredrick, worked there. We figure that in addition to the little boys, the photo also includes other members of the Meyer/Arroqui family.
The Masini Adobe is rich with local history and lore. It has been the subject of many articles, news stories and quite possibly even a book. It’s said to have been described in more than one novel; some believe it was used as a stagecoach stop, while others dispute that assertion. In any event, we are certain that most Santa Barbarans and visitors who speed past it, either on the 101 or up Sheffield Drive, have never noticed it there, set back in the trees. We are grateful to Gary Meyer and David Myrick for working to preserve this historic adobe, and look forward to learning more about it. When we do, we’ll share what we learn.
The second 2-story adobe in Santa Barbara is the Botiller Adobe on Bath Street, between Carrillo and Figueroa Streets. This beautiful adobe was built in 1843 by Pascual Botiller, a young Frenchman who had emigrated to Santa Barbara. Today the adobe looks much the same as it did when it was built, although now it is home to Casa Delores, a non-profit museum that promotes Mexican arts, crafts and culture.
When the home was built, Mr. Botiller’s property also included approximately four city blocks, which he planed with grapevines and large vegetable gardens. The adobe served as the Botiller residence, as well as his business, having a vineyard and operational winery from which he produced wines for local customers.
According to historian Clarence Cullimore, in his book Santa Barbara Adobes, “Botiller acquired another parcel of land bounded by Canon Perdido, Laguna, De La Guerra and Garden Streets. On this land for many years he raised vegetables for the housewives of Santa Barbara. On foot, carrying his basket from house to house he was a well-known figure”. Mr. Cullimore also points out that the part of town in which the Botiller Adobe was built and the winery operated, was a favorite area among other local wine producers. So popular was this section of town for local vintners that the street passing through it was eventually named De La Vina.
The Botiller Adobe was constructed of thick adobe walls. At the outside of the house, one can see a cross-section of the wall.
According to the plaque on the outside of the building, members of the Botiller family remained living in the home until 1969, when the property was sold. Following Pascual Botiller’s death, the property passed to his wife, Feliciana Catrlon Botiller. When she died in 1888, Feliciana and Pascual’s daughter inherited the adobe, and she and her family continued to reside in the home. When the 1925 earthquake struck, the adobe suffered only minor damage, having been built of very solid construction.
The adobe, which was one of only a few local adobes built as two-story structures, consisted of three rooms on the first floor, and one large room on the second floor. A winding stairway led from the main downstairs room to the second floor. There are no architectural features that set this adobe apart from many of the other local adobes, aside from its uniqueness as a two-story adobe. Its details are consistent with the patterns of typical adobe structures built in the late Mexican and early Yankee period.
In the early 1970‘s the property was restored by its new owners, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Perkins. We are unsure of the adobe’s history from then until 2007, when Linda Cathcart purchased the property and turned it into Casa Delores, renaming it for her mother, Delores Cathcart. This plaque, located at the front of the adobe gives some of the history up until 1971.
Today as Casa Delores, the adobe houses a collection of over 6,000 artifacts, and contains some of the original furnishing once belonging to the Botllier family. One can tour the adobe, see excellent examples of a variety of Mexican folk art and shop “La Tiendite” for Mexican cultural items, Mexican clothing and other Mexican trinkets . There are also a variety of classes offered at the adobe, including cooking, alter-making, jewelry making and paper crafts and may others.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this story, we are fascinated by local adobes. At one point in the not too distant past, there were still many fine old adobe structures around town. Many had survived the earthquake of 1925, only to be bulldozed to make room for larger, more modern buildings. We are saddened by the insensitivity of the developers who destroyed part of Santa Barbara’s unique history, but we are grateful to those preservationists who have taken steps to maintain and safeguard many of the magnificent adobes that still remain in use today.
As always we encourage you to go out and explore our marvelous town on foot, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all, expect the unexpected.