Years ago, my first real walk around a Santa Barbara neighborhood—beyond the usual spots (Presidio, Funk Zone, etc.)—was in upper Oak Park. My husband had a long medical appointment, so I wandered until he was done. And I was delighted by what I found. When I recently returned for a stroll, I wondered if the area would still deliver.
The neighborhood in question is more or less the triangle made by De La Vina Street, Pueblo Street, and Alamar Avenue. I parked at the corner of De La Vina and Pueblo, taking this wedgy hedge as a good omen. I like to think each neighbor had a different idea of how it should be trimmed.
All balloons are bad for the environment, but mylar balloons are the worst. Let’s keep them indoors, OK?
The centerpiece of the neighborhood is, of course, Cottage Hospital. It’s a pretty appealing building, at least from outside—even the bus stop has flair. I have yet to set foot inside. (Excuse me while I go knock wood.)
Another photo for my collection of apartment complexes named for women. Although I only have one other one so far, so perhaps I should move on.
Inevitably, I return home from these walks and learn something by Googling. For instance, the Little Cottages on Bath Street are part of Cottage Health, and they “provide overnight accommodations in a quiet, supportive environment [for] families of patients during medical crisis.” I resisted the urge to explore the courtyard visible in the second photo.
New House III, across from Cottage Hospital, is a sober-living facility. The background:
On March 31, 1949, a small group of Santa Barbara citizens met with Marty Mann, founder of the National Council on Alcoholism [….] They incorporated in October of that year, calling themselves the Santa Barbara Committee on Alcoholism.
Local facilities for alcoholism were inadequate, and in May of 1955, under the direction of Elmo Little—an electrician from Knoxville, Tennessee—the first New House was opened. The original supporters were pledged to keep New House self-supporting and free from government tangles and restrictions. Elmo had told one of the many men he sponsored, William Donahue, that what many alcoholics need in Santa Barbara was “a new house on a new street in a new city for a newfound recovery.”
New House became independent of the Committee on Alcoholism in 1974, and in 1978 opened New House II [on W. Haley]. In February of 1991, New House III was purchased at 2434 Bath Street, increasing the New House capacity to 100 men. The original New House facility was retired and replaced by a Grad House on Castillo Street in 2001.
I assume that’s the original New House in the second photo.
Back to architecture! The Union Bank on Nogales Avenue is lovely, and one rarely sees a bank branch on a side street. Speaking of lovely, how about that courtyard oak elsewhere in the neighborhood? And that driveway?
Now I’m going to bombard you with houses. There are so many adorable ones. I always expect people to protest my taking these photos, but no one did. And I couldn’t help but think about the recent time when I heard someone outside our gate, so I peeked over, only to catch him in the act of taking a photo. He scurried away, but I’d be the last person—or a huge hypocrite—to give anyone trouble on that front.
In November, historian Betsy Green announced a survey of hitching posts. I’m sure she already knows that this part of town is chockablock with them. One you start noticing them you won’t stop.
I thought Amor Towles’s new novel, The Lincoln Highway, was only his third best, but one moment stuck with me. A character talks about how life is shaped like a sideways diamond: as you grow up, the world widens with potential until, at a point you only recognize afterward, it starts narrowing again. I thought of it because part of me wanted to climb this tree—it was made for it—but those days have been over for a while now.
The eponym of the neighborhood: Oak Park. How old do you think that sign is? Imagine a world where people still drove “house cars” around….
Crossing Mission Creek causes me trepidation; it seems like a body turns up there every few months. Nothing on my watch, I’m happy to report, although nearby I discovered what looks like a pagan altar.
The best for last: what I loved most about this part of Oak Park, back on my first walk and again this go-round, were the alleys. On Google Maps, they look like streets, but they’re unnamed alleys where the public, as you can see below, is allowed to walk. What you find is sometimes surprisingly rural.
Walk With Me…
• Quintessential Montecito at Butterfly Beach
• Mixing Business and Pleasure in East Beach
• It’s Only Milpas Street (But I Like It)
• An Aimless Wander Through Hidden Valley
• Voyage to the Heart of the San Roque Spider Web
• Where the Streets Have Full Names
• Once Upon a Time in the Hedgerow…
• On the Golden Slope of Eucalyptus Hill
• The Past Is Still Present in Old Town Goleta
• The Haley Corridor Is Keeping It Real
• The Unvarnished Appeal of Yankee Farm
• Where Montecito Gets Down to Business
• The Small Pleasures of Bungalow Haven
• The Small-Town Charms of Samarkand
• Climbing the Back of Eucalyptus Hill
• Admiring the Backsides of Beachfront Houses on Padaro Lane
• Social Distancing Made Easy at UCSB
• In the Heart of the Golden Quadrangle
• Is There a Better Neighborhood for a Stroll Than West Beach?
• Up, Down, and All Around Montecito’s Pepper Hill
• E. Canon Perdido, One of Downtown’s Best Strolling Streets
• Montecito’s Prestigious Picacho Lane
• Whitney Avenue in Summerland
• School House Road and Camphor Place
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