Growing up in Montecito, Laura Bridley always felt connected to the community and a commitment to the special place she called home. While attending UC Santa Barbara, this sense of place turned into a passion for city planning, leading to her first job as an assistant city planner for the Architectural Board of Review and the Historic Landmarks Commission. It seems only natural that her interest in the built environment, dedication to preservation of historic spaces, and enthusiasm for local history would bring her to Casa del Herrero. “I love the Casa because it has so much integrity,” said Laura. “In my life as a city planner, I have seen many buildings torn down. The fact that the Casa has been kept intact all these years is really amazing. It makes me feel good to be a part of its preservation.”

Laura has been connected to Casa del Herrero since its inception as a foundation, drafting the Conditional Use Permit for visitors and daily operations, and serving as the organization’s first executive director. The process began when Laura became acquainted with George Bass who was looking to make good on his mother’s wishes to preserve the family’s Montecito estate as a house museum and public gardens. This was the early 1990s, and Laura came highly recommended due to her recent work drafting and implementing a Conditional Use Permit for Lotusland. “Ultimately, I knew that in the creation of the foundation, we were saving an important monument that defines Montecito,” said Laura. “In addition to support from George Bass and his family, I had a great Steering Committee that really helped me. Casa del Herrero would not have made it without the local community.”

Today, Laura has returned to her career as a city planner and consultant, but remains involved with the Casa through committee work, and as a dedicated donor. With help from donors like Laura, the foundation is able to preserve and steward the estate, keeping the door of access open to all those wishing to engage with the Casa. “What better place could my donation go than to keeping a piece of local history alive?” said Laura. “I would consider any donation at any amount to the Casa a legacy gift for this reason alone.”

And even after all these years, Laura still has a deep passion for the Casa that for her will be a lifelong love affair. “I think everyone should make a point of visiting the Casa, and bringing some friends,” said Laura. “When people come here they are amazed to find such an incredible place right in their own backyard. They cannot believe they have lived their whole life in this town and never seen one of its most spectacular monuments.”