Preserving Santa Barbara’s History
On the day of the great 1925 earthquake, George Fox Steedman was visiting Santa Barbara from St. Louis, Missouri, reviewing the progress on the construction of his new home, Casa del Herrero. He was staying at a local hotel, which did not fare well when the earthquake hit, and he likely drove up to the Casa with trepidation as to what he would find. To his astonishment, the “House of the Blacksmith” was perfectly intact, and he moved in that day.
Nearly a century later, the property remains frozen in time, the historic house and grounds preserved for the benefit of the community. Today, the Casa stands as one of only 2,600 U.S. National Historic Landmarks, a masterpiece of the venerable architect George Washington Smith, and one of California’s best examples of Spanish Revival architecture. The 11-acre property is an icon of the era of the Great Estates of Montecito in the 1920s, and an eclectic mix of Country Place Era and Moorish-inspired gardens created by Ralph Stevens, Lockwood de Forest, and Francis T. Underhill.
“The protection of the estate is not just about preserving the house and grounds, it is also about preserving local history,” says Jessica Tade, Casa del Herrero’s executive director. “The more you engage with the estate, the more you feel the memory and legacy of the family and the continued importance of that connection to the community.”
Recently, the Casa expanded its outreach through activities that focus on the arts and youth, launching its first-ever summer arts program. Participants from Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, AHA! Santa Barbara, and Youth and Family Services St. George Youth Center Isla Vista came to the Casa to engage in art activities with local artists. The Casa further provided community access to the arts through an outdoor sculpture exhibition comprised of work from local contemporary sculptors and its Feria from Afar online art sale.
“More and more we are looking at how we can expand our mission of preservation and thinking about new ways to make the arts more accessible,” Tade says. “In this way, we hope to support the continued vibrancy of the arts in our community.”
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Executive Director: Jessica Tade, PhD
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For me, Casa del Herrero is a ‘family affair.’ My mother-in-law, Joan, introduced me to the Casa soon after we moved to Santa Barbara in 1995. She was friends with the Steedman family and worked with several generous individuals to convert the fabulous estate into a museum for the public to enjoy,” said longtime supporter and former Board President Susan Jackson. “I remain captivated by the Spanish Revival architecture and admire owner George Fox Steedman’s attention to detail, and all that he created in his amazing workshop. My other favorite part of being involved is the friendships with the dedicated group of people who serve there. It is rewarding to support a living museum that brings inspiration to many people.
The Casa Collaborates
Collaboration is a key component of the Casa’s work. From nonprofit partnerships to local youth and school group visits, the community is able to engage with the preservation and creative aspects of the estate through educational and artistic activities. The Garden Club of Santa Barbara is a frequent partner in the preservation of the Casa’s beautiful garden spaces. Additionally, the Casa has a continued relationship with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s Backyard Bounty program, welcoming volunteers to harvest fruit to be given to those most in need throughout the county.
Casa del Herrero relies on various annual fundraising avenues including a February membership drive, the Feria Andalusia art show and garden fair, and Christmas at the Casa, a special event with the George Washington Smith house decorated in holiday finery. As Santa Barbara remains resilient after tragedy including devastating fires, mudslides and now the pandemic, Tade is keenly aware that the future of the estate resides in connecting and collaborating with other community institutions. “As they say, ‘a rising tide carries all boats,’” she says. “Collaborating with other community nonprofits, volunteers, and the Casa’s family of donors, continues the positive trajectory of our mission while allowing our good work to soar.”
Board of Trustees
Casa del Herrero board members are engaged volunteers who provide leadership in stewarding the historic house museum and gardens. Through their combined experience and enthusiasm, the board works to preserve the Casa’s history in service to the local community.
Karen Jones Clark
Robert E. Williams
Christopher C. Hardy, CPA
John P. Duffy
Marc Normand Gelinas
Albert P. Hinckley, Jr.
Elizabeth Storm McGovern
Fran Morrow, PhD
Annalisa Hinckley Savin
Katherine Pharibe Wise
George S. Bass