The Spanish Colonial Revival style is likely a big part of what comes to mind for anyone conjuring a vision of “Santa Barbara architecture.” Some of its characteristic features include:
- white stucco walls
- red terracotta roof tiles
- painted tile staircases
- curves and arches, especially in arcades
- ornamental iron work
- tower-like chimneys
- wooden doors
- courtyards, patios, and balconies
As you may have read elsewhere on the DCA blog, Santa Barbara has been nicknamed the “American Riviera,” and from these photos you can probably see why! The white stucco against the clear blue sky recalls Grecian islands, and the painted tile and arcades evoke the Alhambra or the coasts of Spain.
How did it come to be associated with Santa Barbara? And how did the use of this style gain enough momentum to discuss it in terms of a “revival”? Well, a lot of it has to do with this man, who first visited California in 1915.
George Washington Smith, son of a prominent Pennsylvania engineer, began his involvement in the visual arts studying painting at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He went on to study architecture at Harvard University, but left before completing a degree as a result of financial inability. Nonetheless, he was able to work as a draftsman in Philadelphia. Wanting more financial security, he changed careers and made his fortune in bond trading.
In 1911, due to his extravagant success, Smith was able to live on his independent wealth and returned to the study of art around the world. In 1915, he traveled to Montecito to visit friends, which was then a rustic suburb, and designed a home and architecture studio for himself based on the Andalusian architecture he’d observed in Spain the previous year.
From his Montecito studio, Smith went on to become one of the most sought-after architects of his time. He worked in Montecito, Hope Ranch, and elsewhere in the Santa Barbara area. His presence is still very clear in the backyard of Dylan Chappell Architects. Some of his best known local structures are shared below.
Casa del Herrero
Commissioned by George Fox Steedman on wealth garnered by a marriage to the daughter of a WWI munitions magnate, the Casa del Herrero (or, House of the Blacksmith) is now a national landmark open to the public. It retains its original architecture, furniture, artwork, and gardens. The high-quality details of his design continue to attract and inspire visitors.
King Davis House
George Washington Smith House
What are your favorite details characteristic of the Spanish Colonial Revival style?
What’s your favorite structure in the Santa Barbara region that exemplifies this piece of architectural history?
Contact us today to talk about our designs inspired by the local Spanish Colonial Revival.