Christmas at the Casa
Once upon a time, Carrie and George Steedman journeyed from their town of St. Louis with his diabetic brother to Santa Barbara. They brought him to see Dr. Sansum because in the early 1920s, he was the only doctor who had insulin in the whole United States. Carrie and George fell in love with Santa Barbara and bought 11 acres on what is now 1387 East Valley Road in Montecito.
The Steedmans hired George Washington Smith as the architect and Casa del Herrero (House of the Blacksmith) was born. It became their second home until 1930 when they moved in full time, leaving the metal works back in St. Louis to family members.
Carrie and George lived there until they passed away and then Medora — one of two daughters, moved in with her husband. When they passed away, a foundation was formed, and it became open to the public for tours in the 1990s. The best part is the family left everything — furniture, carpets, 15th, 16th, and 17th treasures from Spain, even towels and dishes. It’s a celebration of preservation. There are still grandchildren on the board, so the docents get to hear about the Casa firsthand.
George Washington Smith’s architect protégé Lutah Maria Riggs also was involved in building the addition of the book tower, a gift to Steedman’s wife for their 30th wedding anniversary. The Casa has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Every Christmas there’s a party with the funds going to the Casa for upkeep. This year there was an online silent auction with the lead item a 1949 Ford Woody wagon donated in memory of John McCann by his wife, Janet. It sold for more than $50,000. The evening was truly magical and a sold-out event, giving all of us a peek to a gentler time and making Board President Karen Clark very happy.
Kudos go to co-chairs Mari McAlister, Janet McCann, and many volunteers. Laura Bridley is the interim executive director keeping the “ship” afloat. If you’d like to visit the Casa, call (805) 565-5653 for reservations. I’ve been a docent there for 20 years; I think you’ll like it.