The Steedman Estate is one of the best preserved, historically significant, and intact examples of the ‘heyday’ of Montecito estates in the 1920s. The creation of the property reflects a remarkable synthesis of culture, artistic expression, natural environment, and historical antecedents.
San Diego’s Panama-California International Exposition (1915) exerted great influence on the horticulture, landscape architecture, and architecture of the American West The following decade saw the emergence in Santa Barbara of a distinctive California style of landscape design that derived its inspiration from Mediterranean sources, most importantly the gardens, countryside, and palaces of southern Spain, but gained its expressive power from the ideas, talents, and imagination of American clients and their designers.
George Fox Steedman and Carrie Howard Steedman moved into their new house on the day of Santa Barbara’s devastating 1925 earthquake, when much of the business district was leveled. Thus the Casa del Herrero is linked to an important aspect of Santa Barbara’s architectural and cultural history. It was after the Santa Barbara earthquake that civic leaders proposed that the massive rebuilding required should be consistent architecturally. The style adopted was Spanish Colonial Revival, which continues to this day to contribute to the city’s beauty and dominates its cultural identity.
The principal architect of the house was George Washington Smith, one of the architects credited with creating the city’s rich legacy of Spanish Colonial Revival design. The site plan and the spatial organization and horticultural display of the grounds and gardens are the work of landscape architects Ralph T. Stevens and Lockwood De Forest with contributions by Francis T. Underhill while architectural aspects of the gardens and patios were contributed by architect George Washington Smith, and his assistant Lutah Maria Riggs. A number of other artists and architects were involved. Antiquarians Arthur and Mildred Byne set the tone and thematic content of the gardens, interior design, and the furnishings of the house. Above all, the guiding force in the creation of Casa del Herrero and the selection of talented designers and advisers was the owner himself, George Steedman.