This is a part of the story of The Bennett Adobe, now Hacienda Guadalupana, an old adobe in the flats of Montecito.
Scoping out Montecito:
I spotted this home on my return to Santa Monica from Isla Vista after visiting with my son in his college environs. It’s on the corner of a narrow, non-sidewalked street in Montecito. It’s a street near the beach but east of the train tracks, abutting the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner tracks that span a portion of the California Mission Trail (the San Diego to San Luis Obispo portion of the trail that marks the historic attempted Spanish colonization of what was originally Mexico and is now California). The flats of Montecito are like this . . . lots of curving, narrow streets without any sidewalks and scarce auto traffic.
Since childhood I have always been strongly drawn for unknown reasons to the history of the California Missions and can remember making countless mock-ups and making countless visits. Something about the missions captured my imagination and curiosity as a young child, and now as an older person I’m equally curious but probably for entirely different reasons . . . namely, imagining how Fransiscan spirituality coexisted with what it took to build and defend the missions, and confirm Spanish historic claims to the territory: the forced labor of unpaid Native Americans. Just saying. And did you know, part of Spain’s motivation to settle Las Californias, was to stay the Russian colonization efforts further north (and forestall intrusion into their territory) in what is now Bodega Bay! Yes, Russian fur trapping colonists set up at what is now Fort Ross, on their way down from Alaska. True!!
But back to Montecito:
A bucolic paradise of rolling hills, mountains, coastline, and citrus, olive tree and grape vine groves, Montecito is also an architectural wonderland set apart for its Spanish Colonial Revival homes and estates, but also boasting lovely examples of Moorish, Mission Revival, Cottage-Style and historic adobe architecture. Montecito is unmistakably tony now as well, with a town center/mart that is home to some very chic brands. The air can be somewhat rarified in Montecito, and yet I still find it warm, personable and casual.
Now Back to the House:
At first glimpse, from the 101 south where I was sitting, sitting, sitting (in traffic), I thought the home was a mission outpost, or some other mission related building, because it had a very old look and appeared to be under construction for restoration. And I could see a sort of “title” on the wooden gate that was part of the adobe/brick wall that surrounded the property. I was so curious that I exited the freeway, turned around, and parked in some gravel off the side of the road in front of the property.
The first thing I noticed was the beautiful enclosing wall and it’s deep orange wooden gate with the inscription “Hacienda Guadalupana” in a distinctive architectural font. To the right of the gate was a carefully trained, old and lush vine of pale pink “climber” roses and on either side of the gate was a terracota pot of rosemary.
The gate was arch-shaped but the door was rectangular, making a peek window so that you could see past the wall into the front yard and toward the front of the home. Everything looked immaculate, peaceful and well thought out. A most inviting space to be sure. So inviting I did a little discreet peeping.
Inside the wall but on the periphery of the property were meandering low boxwood hedges that gave definition to the red brick walkways and grass, and around the perimeter of the home featured shallow flower beds with orange succulents, and interspersed with terracotta planters of agaves, ficus, and other native plants.
The front of the house had a lovely mural-type tile depicting a grand Spanish building or church, which was placed directly underneath a lantern, and the side of the house had a Virgin Mary tile and underneath, an external ceramic tile that read “La Casa de la Abuela,” . . . meaning Grandmother’s house.
Beyond the boxwood hedges, and between a very short barrier wall and the edge of the property on the northern side were citrus trees.
I walked around the side of the wall and saw a lovely inscription that read, “R.E. Bennett Adobe,” “Dios Nos Lo Dio, 1947” the latter part which means, “God Gave Us, 1947,” and at the end of that archway was a perfectly placed large pot of red impatiens.
Finally, although I have not (yet?) seen inside the house, I did find this photograph of the interior courtyard. What lovely tilework!
Who Owns or Owned this House?
When I returned home I went on a hunt for information, any information, on this beautiful home and I found several articles in local newspapers and magazines about the Bennett Adobe, owned by Robert and Winni Bennett. This information and the photographs were gathered from these articles as well as the family’s website dedicated to Winni’s memory, as she recently passed away last December. I am still not clear and have not heard back from the family as to the present ownership, but I assume it has been kept in the family.
Winni ventured north to Santa Barbara to inquire about attending the Normal School Court, which eventually became The University of California at Santa Barbara. With plans to become an airlines stewardess, she met and began dating Robert E. Bennett, born in Mexico and a radioman stationed at the Campbell Ranch in Santa Barbara. Apparently when he heard of her plans to become an airline stewardess he proposed marriage, she accepted, and they married in 1946.
Winnie and Bob raised 6 children in the home, which they built by hand, often using materials they drove up from Mexico.
In 1965 Bob retired and decided to move the family to Mexico. As her family reports, characteristically for the age, the wife did what the husband decided, even though Winni did not want to leave Montecito. After 8 months of giving her best efforts, one day, she gathered all 6 kids into the car and returned to Santa Barbara, without Bob.
Amazingly, Winni managed to pay the family’s expenses, including paying off the mortgage, by making a home for 6 mentally challenged women, and retired after 15 years.
After their son Daniel died in 1985, Winni and Bob began to form a friendship again and Bob returned to the Adobe often from his home in Chula Vista, CA to visit with their 5 grandchildren. Her children tended to her in her last few years and she passed away with the help of home hospice, in her home, on December 14, 2015.
The biographical information mentioned above was collected by David Bury and Maria (Bennett) Mikhailas