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Saviors of Goleta History

Our local history stays alive through the efforts of individuals and occasionally socially conscious corporations. Certain people can see past the five minutes directly in front of them and realize the value of preserving our past for future generations. The folks at the Goleta Valley Historical Society have done a good job of this at the Stow House.

The Pacifica Suites realized the value of local history when they acquired this property. Rather than bulldozing the Sexton House to make room for their new hotel, they restored the old house and made it an attraction on their property. Check it out sometime, you can just go walk in and look around.

The King of Pampas Grass, Joseph Sexton, would be very pleased that his beautiful home has been restored and preserved forever, by a hotel chain!

Local businessman Albert Goldman recognized valuable history in 1962 when he saved the Hollister Arch from the dump. Developers wanted the “eyesore” removed, pronto, so Goldman took matters into his own hands and moved the arch to his property.

Even though his shortsighted neighbors all protested, he persevered, and set the arch up at the entrance of his Goleta property. Fast forward 60 years and we find Dante Gonzalez, co-owner of Progressive Environmental Industries looking at this unusual entrance to his family business. Dante did some research and realized the value of this unique entry gate.

Gonzalez restored Col. Hollister’s grand arch to its former glory and now it is an attractive asset to the property and the business. Most importantly, he has saved an important part of Goleta’s history for future generations to learn about.

In the late 1970’s the Goleta Train Depot was deemed obsolete and destined to be demolished. The large majority of our “civic leaders” agreed it was the right thing to do. Upward and onward. Progress can not be stopped!

Fortunately, a group of forward thinking folks led by Gary Coombs decided the train station held a lot of valuable history and needed to be saved. These regular folks put together a monumental grass roots effort to save the Train Depot.

In less than 2 years they managed to find a new location and a way to move the nearly 100 year old building to that new location. Despite all the odds and all the naysayers, regular citizens found a way to save local history.

And now we have the the South Coast Railroad Museum at the historic Goleta Depot for generations of families to enjoy and learn about our past.

Another lucky beneficiary of responsible history stewardship is the Witness Tree in Old Town Goleta.

In the late 1960s, Goleta farmers Vic and Carlo Bottiani decided they wanted to build a restaurant on their property by the San Jose Creek. They could have easily chopped down the historic old tree and moved forward with their plans, but these wise men appreciated the local history this old tree represented.

The Bottianis hired a well known architect to design their new building around the tree, preserving it for future generations. An amazing feat of forward thinking that we still can enjoy today, thank you Bottiani family! Excellent stewards of local history.

So those are some good news stories about socially conscious folks saving our history. But there are many more important pieces of our history that have yet to be saved, and time is running out. Here are some prime opportunities for people to become History Heroes….

First and foremost, a prime example of a historic gem that needs to be rescued is the Barnsdall Rio Grande gas station. Years ago we started a petition to save it and the response was overwhelming. Long time locals and recent transplants all love this unique building.

Ty Warner has owned this historic building for over 20 years and has done nothing at all to keep it from rotting. With a net worth of over $2 billion dollars, money shouldn’t be an issue here, should it? So why not fix it up Ty? The people of Goleta would love you for it and it could be a great draw to your golf course. Heck, make it a Beanie Baby museum! Or a Ty Warner museum! Anything, just save it, please. You’ll be a hero!

The city of Santa Barbara has a prime opportunity to be good stewards of history just sitting in the corner of their airport. The original Two Hangars that started the whole airport have been patiently waiting to be saved for decades.

There is so much local and aviation history in these two simple buildings, they really need to be preserved and turned into a museum. The original hangars of an airport are almost never left standing throughout history, so these are truly unique.

And what a great tourist attraction and revenue stream they could be for the city and the the airport. Sure, it will cost money today, but it will be an asset for all of the future. Hopefully the new mayor of Santa Barbara can see the value here and make this happen?

Our friends at UCSB own the Campbell Manor at Devereaux Point. It has an extravagant history complete with movie stars and international royalty. Designed by famous female architect Mary Craig, it was once a showplace. But you wouldn’t know it today by the shape it’s in.

Nancy Campbell devoted her life to fulfilling her late husband’s dream of building a working ranch estate in Goleta. But the Campbells would be disgusted to see the way their beloved home on the California coast has been neglected by the big business known as the UC system.

It would appear that little or no effort has been made to preserve the former grandeur of the Campbell Manor.

Nearby, the Campbell’s unique redwood barn, also designed by Mary Craig, has been condemned by UCSB and is slowly deteriorating. A small group of folks are trying to save it, but UCSB is stopping the effort.

So there are some examples. There are many more like the Bishop Ranch buildings, the Ellwood Queen, etc.. As Goleta continues to grow, more and more newcomers pour into our neighborhoods with little or no knowledge of the history of this area. If nothing is preserved, it ceases to exist, and it becomes a faded memory. I guess that’s what some folks call progress….

Categories: Goleta History

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Tom Modugno

11 replies

  1. Thank you for this post. As a Goleta native I am really enjoying your posts on Goleta History.

    1. Thank you for all the research you have put into this project! It’s amazing. I hope the new owner of Dos Pueblo’s Ranch restores the historic beauty of those buildings that hold such rich history.

  2. Excellent compilation of historical sites in Goleta that are in need of attention. Like many in the State, they are often overlooked, except by those with a vision, who can accomplish their projects, while preserving historical sites.
    Goleta has number of sites worthy of preservation, however the ‘two hangars’ would be the highest priority. These two hangars played a significant role in the formation of the Santa Barbara Airport and surrounding area. The potential is there to establish a wonderful venue.
    Strength among elected officials is needed to ensure historical sites, especially the ‘two hangars’ can be saved for future generations.

  3. I so appreciate your historical and studious commentary. I was born and raised in Santa Barbara and then moved to Goleta when it was considered the “boonies”…way too far out to live as nothing was there. Well, look at it now ! Thank you for sharing the history of this beautiful place.

  4. Thank you for this, Tom. Rich Look sent it to me today- I grew up in the Stow House until Mom and Dad moved up to the upper part of the ranch in ‘67. . and our casa became the Stow House.

    Hoping to meet you;

    Rich mentioned how much he has gotten from your historical researching and generous spirit.
    I’ll appreciate reading your posts!!

    I am currently living in Ojai, and fortunately come out to La Patera often.



  5. Hello Tom I was out hiking with Brian Trautwein yesterday I hope to get in touch with you about the history of are Marie Ignacio canyon but after looking at your above items to be saved it brought to my mind this old look out station that was built to keep eye out for the Japanese Submarines it was shown to me up on a ranch just off of Cathedral Oaks let me know if find the owners name he was a real good guy did some sawmilling for him.

  6. Wonderful article Tom, but so sad that so few people recognize that these historical treasures are disappearing and will be gone forever.

    Question not relevant to the article but hope you might know the answer:
    Was there ever a mill on Olive Mill Road in Goleta?

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