George Washington Smith: Montecito Cottage for Sale


Own a bit of Southern California’s architectural history with 3,500 square feet of 1920s Andalusian style in Montecito.

In many ways, George Washington Smith was the quintessential American gentleman-architect. Born in Pennsylvania in 1876 to a well-off family he studied painting and architecture, but had to drop out of Harvard when his parents suffered financial reverses. He went to work as a draftsman, but not making enough money to live in the style to which he was accustomed, turned to bond trading, making so much money that he retired at 35 and went to Paris to paint.

Leaving Europe at the beginning of WWI, he traveled to California in 1915, and found himself in Montecito, near Santa Barbara, where he and his wife decided to wait out the war. And the rest is architectural history.

The Santa Barbara area, like Pasadena and San Diego, had become a winter refuge for wealthy (but chilly) Americans. Spanish Revival architecture had already been seen, especially in Florida, and the straightforward Mission style was taking hold. And Santa Barbara had one of the most impressive missions of all, a remnant of Spanish rule. But when Smith decided to build his own house in Montecito, his model was the villages in Andalucia he’d visited a few years before. Soon enough he was being asked to design houses just like his and by people far wealthier, the result being some of the grandest houses in California, about 50 in the Santa Barbara area.

This Smith-designed  “cottage”, in Montecito and built in 1922, isn’t especially grand, but unlike some other Smith houses on the market, it’s had the least-aggressive renovation. The house has been staged, but you can look past that. It’s got all the hallmarks of a Smith design: the massing of white stucco structures look almost casual, as if put together over time rather than a few months, and arranged around courtyards; the high-ceilinged, heavy-beamed living room; tile pavers and decorative tile details. The perfect casual style for California’s mediterranean climate, variations on Smith’s houses were built up and down the state and are still being built today, from Los Feliz to Napa.

Listing: 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, asking $4,150,000 via Karen Strickland, Sotheby’s


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