School House Road and Camphor Place

Santa Barbara has some of the best walking anywhere in the world. Slow down for a stroll, and you’ll see so much more compared to when you drive. This is the first in a series of what I aim to be fortnightly walks, on streets chosen more or less at random.

School House Road in Montecito runs between Hot Springs Road at the western end and San Ysidro Road at the east. I started at Manning Park, mainly because I knew I could park there.

As you can infer from the sign above, the 12-acre park was previously a private estate. While pretty, the park is mainly about picnic and party areas—including one in a low-lying gulch that might be risky after a storm. On previous visits, I have enjoyed watching people set up for parties.

And there’s a marvelous Bunya Bunya tree. Take the warning about its cones seriously. From The Conversation, an Australian website: “When in season (generally December to March) they can produce dozens of massive cones weighing up to 10 kilograms. These can drop from up to 50m without warning.” (The equivalent season here is presumably summer.) Also: “The seed in the Bunya cone is a delicious and nutritious food, a famous and celebrated example of Australian bush tucker.”

A pretty alley connects the southwest corner of the park to School House Road.

A few houses on School House Road are on the market. The first one I came across is 1429 School House ($4.4 million). I know from a previous visit that it sits a bit funkily on the lot, but it seemed very well made, with a truly remarkable mosaic in the master bathroom (photo courtesy Cristal Clarke).

Nearby is one of the very best—if not the most useful—address markers I’ve seen.

The street has a few communal driveways extending toward the south. Note the old gateposts: I think we can assume that they once led to a large estate. The first thing you see, however, is myriad construction workers’ cars parked at a worksite. There were even more than are visible in the photo.

Continuing down the private drive…. The cypresses usually portend a Tuscan-style property, and the glimpse you get is pretty tantalizing.

Across the street, meanwhile, is the utterly fabulous 1401 School House. Look at that roofline! I wouldn’t normally peer over a fence—rather, I wouldn’t normally take a photo over a fence—but the whole thing was just too irresistible.

Back on School House Road proper, behind the wall of bamboo, is 1399 School House ($4.3 million). Billed as a “Japanese Farmhouse,” it has impressive craftsmanship, but the layout is challenging. The best solution I could think of was to add a living/family room off the kitchen. (Second photo courtesy Ron Brand.)

I have a fondness for the charming cottage across the street, not to mention its white picket fence. There’s such a delightful mix of styles in this part of town.

The second, larger offshoot also has vestigial gates, along with a super tree and a house with abundant hydrangeas.

At the end is a cul de sac with a tree planted in the middle—a classic Montecito touch—and a Southwestern-style house with an old-school carport.

A shared driveway off the cul de sac leads to 1387 and 1383, as indicated by the groovy old sign. 1387 School House is on the market for $4.75 million. The interiors look nice, but the driveway runs right by the house, and the property abuts Casa Dorinda’s ring road.

Back on School House Road proper again…. I will never know exactly what to think about the people who named their house Tara.

As you approach Hot Springs Road, there’s a magnificent row of pine and eucalyptus trees—and a bee relocation that I stayed well away from.

The banner below stopped me cold. In September, Jonathan Reichlen, founder of Urban Eco Landscapes, died in a motorcycle accident on East Valley Road. He was a genuinely lovely man.

No matter how you feel about Tudor houses—I happen to like them—you have to admire the long, inappropriately Italian/Spanish name of 1321 School House. Paradise Retreats has it listed as a vacation rental, if you’re curious to see interior photos. Also, is the diving board a wooden plank? (Photo courtesy Paradise Retreats.)

Old gateposts are often accompanied by tall, established trees.

I retraced my steps back eastward and turned onto Camphor Place. It’s an impossibly cute street, with small (for Montecito) houses that are almost all visible from the street. The second photo below is a beautiful exception.

Birds seem to like it on Camphor Place, too.

Another tree-flanked entrance at 1455.

Unfortunately, the walk ended with more of a whimper than a bang: The Southern California Edison Montecito Substation (below) isn’t much to look at—except for that sculptural tree, of course. And then there’s Montecito Union School, which I wasn’t about to photograph, for fear of getting chased by an angry parental mob.

Know of a street that warrants a close-up? Email [email protected].