After reading an article in Sunset Magazine titled “Why Don’t You Build a Sundial for Your Sunset Garden?” in June 1933, George Fox Steedman was inspired, and created a birdhouse sundial, which today remains an iconic item in Casa del Herrero’s south garden. In typical Steedman style, the creation process was meticulous, with each section of the sundial drawn multiple times until he was satisfied with the final product. The research for the placement of each section was extensive to ensure that the time would display correctly. Today, that research continues to pay off as more than 80 years later the sundial still marks the correct time.
The birdhouse design was based on Gothic styles, and includes zodiac signs. The mottos “Use well thy time,” “Fast fly my hours,” “Good work lives on,” and “The night brings rest” can be found one each on the four sides. With the placement of the birdhouse in the garden, the Casa became part of the Country Place era, which counted a garden sundial as an important stylistic component.
Over time, weathering and sun exposure began to affect the birdhouse, and it became necessary to do restoration. During a Valentine’s Day visit to the Casa gardens, Marcia and Jaime Constance were introduced to the birdhouse, and decided to sponsor its restoration. “Casa del Herrero is such a beautiful Montecito landmark, and preserving it is important,” said Marcia Constance. The birdhouse was impeccably restored by South Coast Fine Arts, and remains today an intriguing item on the garden tour. Because of donors like Marcia and Jaime Constance, Casa del Herrero was able to preserve a cherished piece of its history.