There’s something about the way people say, “Santa Barbara,” with a bit of a sigh, that seems to symbolize the well-known beauty of the natural setting, complemented by its historic architecture and lifestyle that connotes generosity, casual elegance, and conviviality.
Pearl Chase learned this early, as a member of the local social scene who often had the opportunity to visit the elegant homes occupied by wealthy community members in Santa Barbara and Montecito. They generously opened their homes, gardens and estates for social occasions, musical and dance performances, and elaborate fund-raisers for worthy occasions.
And she often assisted with these events, as early as her teens, when her mother pressed her into service on behalf of the Woman’s Club, the St, Cecelia Society and Cottage Hospital. In 1914, The Morning Press reported on a society event at the Riso Rivo estate: “These students of the normal school also had all charge of the refreshments, under the management of Miss Pearl Chase, tea being served beneath the great trees on the lawn.”
She never forgot the privilege of visiting these beautifully appointed properties, the feeling of enjoying gracious hospitality, or the generosity of those who allowed the public on their private property. Through her leadership of Plans and Planting, she organized a series of Garden Tours that were well-attended, highly anticipated, and greatly appreciated. And she was the community leader of the nationwide Better Homes in America Movement, encouraging the building of small, affordable homes.
These historical underpinnings provided the inspiration for the Pearl Chase Society’s annual Historic Homes Tour, a natural evolution in a long tradition, and a graceful way to raise funds to support grants for education, restoration, and historic preservation activities.
As founding member and past-president Sue Adams noted, “The fact that homeowners in our city share their architectural treasures with their community is exceptional. It is a sampling of not only extraordinary architecture but of extraordinary graciousness.” She added, “The tour makes for a very lovely Sunday adventure, and it is an example of how hospitable our city can be.”
Over the years, the Historic Homes Tour has included Montecito mansions, Upper Eastside homes, artistic cottages, and cozy bungalows, along with some surprises along the way. These celebrations of architectural design, fine details and graceful living have become very popular among residents and visitors to Santa Barbara. It’s a time to enjoy old friendships and make new acquaintances, against a beautiful natural and architectural backdrop.
The 18th Annual Historic Homes Tour of 2020 could not be held due to the global pandemic that curtailed public gatherings. And the Society was forced to suspend in-person meetings until they could be resumed in late 2022. The realities of the post-pandemic require a reset, and re-thinking about how to reconstruct—or perhaps re-imagine—the highly anticipated annual event, and primary fund-raiser for the Pearl Chase Society.
We’re looking forward to our next opportunity to engage with the community through the range of historic homes and buildings of Santa Barbara, and its many special neighborhoods. It is a special experience to gain a glimpse of unfamiliar places and spaces, and we will do our best to continue organize and create experiences that will delight, inform, and add to the appreciation of graceful living in a beautiful place.