The Society has been established with its headquarters in Montecito, California to provide information, historical resources and a forum to all of the owners of properties with houses or public buildings that were designed by the noted Santa Barbara architect, George Washington Smith (1876-1930). The Mission of the Society is to provide a social gathering opportunity for all George Washington Smith homeowners and a forum for the exchange of ideas, expertise and preservation. It is hoped that all members will take advantage of the Society as an opportunity to share their unique experiences for the betterment of the entire community.
A Word on Smith
One of the advantages of being a real estate agent in the Santa Barbara area for over 30-years has been having the opportunity to see just about every significant home in a community know for having some very wonderful homes. It’s given me the opportunity to experience first-hand many of the features and attributes prominent in homes designed by all the noted designers and architects who were fortunate enough to apply their trade here over the past century. After examining so many examples of these noted designers from the depths of their basements and crawl spaces to the peaks of their many roofs, through their control of natural light and preferences for interior spaces, by their design details using moldings and fireplace shapes and even down to their window and door frame details, it wasn’t difficult to develop some preferences and those preferences almost universally point to the hand of George Washington Smith.
It becomes apparent very quickly that Mr. Smith had a different frame of reference than most architects due to his career path. Having developed so much of his talent as a well trained artist where he honed his knowledge of spatial relationships, he then applied these attributes to what many might consider the profession of a straight-line architect. This experience as a trained artist and an architect gave Smith his unique perspective. His projects exhibit a strong sense of European generational additions, often as if they have just jumped off a framed canvas; and his sense of interior spaces are the result of a well schooled artist’s attention to proportions and perspective. The phrase that most people seem to use in describing his rooms is that, “They just feel comfortable.” Many owners of his homes say that every few months they realize another trick of perspective or minor detail they hadn’t noticed before that suddenly helps them understand how some of the hidden details of their home lend to their sense of appreciation of the designer’s hand.
Mr. Smith’s architectural career was a short but prolific one, extending from about 1918 until his untimely death in 1930 at the age of only 54. From among the approximately 116 designed projects within Mr. Smith’s small office, 86 of these projects were actually constructed. Our local Santa Barbara area is privileged to have 58 personal residences designed by this very special architect along with at least eight significant public buildings including remodeling segments or complete design and construction of the Montecito Country Club Building, The Lobero Theatre, Daily News Building (News-Press), Meridian Studios, Little Town Club, Santa Barbara Chapel and Crematorium, La Cumbre Golf and Country Club Building, and the Valley Club Building.
The private residences designed and built here in the 1920’s were frequently created by wealthy owners from the east and mid-west who enjoyed our area as a seasonal retreat. They were created at what, at the time, was considered to be the best in construction details and surfaces. These same homes then in the 1950’s and ‘60’s were often considered old fashioned in a time when architectural significance was generally unappreciated and they were often ‘updated’ with the layering on of linoleum and aluminum sliding glass doors. Fortunately, times and many owner’s opinions have changed and today these homes are respected by those who appreciate their heritage and are willing to invest the necessary time and expense to restore them in a way that marries their original design elements with features that accommodate a current-day lifestyle.
It’s this labor of love by the current owner’s who each day are in the process of marring the old with the new in their local G. W. Smith designed homes that has given birth to the George Washington Smith Society. Mark Appleton and I created the Society and helped organize the receptions for these lucky homeowners so they could gain support and knowledge from their shared experiences.
~ Harry Kolb