Santa Barbara Debates Franceschi House's Future
In each Transitions section of Preservation magazine, we highlight places of local and national importance that have recently been restored, are currently threatened, have been saved from demolition or neglect, or have been lost. Here's one from Spring 2017.
The debate over whether to raze the Franceschi House or preserve it has been a longstanding one in Santa Barbara, California.
Built in 1905 by Francesco Franceschi, a renowned Italian horticulturist, the 5,800-square-foot house was sold by Franceschi’s son in 1926 to philanthropist Alden Freeman, the son of the founding treasurer of the Standard Oil Trust. Freeman gave the house a Mediterranean-style remodel to honor Franceschi’s heritage, covering the original redwood shiplap siding with stucco and adorning the exterior with 85 plaster medallions featuring notable progressive figures, such as Jane Addams and Mary Wollstonecraft.
He donated the property to the city to use as parkland in 1931. Threatened with demolition in the 1970s, the hillside structure was saved by the efforts of local civic leader Pearl Chase. Her namesake organization, the Pearl Chase Society, fought another demolition threat in 2015, and has been involved with ongoing preservation efforts over the past 15 years.
The structure needs stabilization, plus alterations to make it ADA compliant. Santa Barbara’s Parks and Recreation Department estimates that a full renovation to the house and grounds will cost $10 million.