Carefully preserved by the Santa Barbara Historical Society, Judge Charles Fernald’s home is now located at 414 West Montecito Streetin Santa Barbara.
The house originally sat at 422 Santa Barbara Street surrounded by a city block of lush gardens. Fernald commissioned architect Peter Barber to design the house in 1861. Originally a two-story, brick structure with a lean-to kitchen, the house was extensively redesigned in 1880 when Fernald engaged architect Thomas Nixon to expand and transform the house into a Queen Anne Victorian. Peter Barber made further additions in the 1890s as the family grew larger. The house was so sturdily built that it suffered less damage in the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake than many newer buildings.
The house was nearly demolished in 1958 when the Judge’s last surviving daughter, Florence Fernald, passed away. Florence stated in her will that the house should be torn down so no other family would live in it. When Florence’s plans became known, the Santa Barbara Historical Society launched a campaign to save the house and move it to Historical Society property on West Montecito Street. A.C. Postel, who drafted Florence’s will and served as executor of her estate, agreed to donate the house to the Historical Society on condition that it was never lived in again, thus fulfilling Florence’s wishes.
Moving the house to Montecito Street was exceptionally difficult. The house was cut into three pieces and carried on trailers. Workers cut over 400 telephone lines to enable the tall gabled roof to pass. A northbound train had to be stopped when one section became stuck crossing the Southern Pacific railroad tracks.
The Historical Society maintains the house as it appeared when it was occupied by the Judge and his family. Inside, the family’s original furniture and wall coverings are on display; on the outside, the house is still painted an understated ivory in accordance with the Judge’s wishes.
For information about tours, please call:
The Santa Barbara Historical Society at (805) 966-1601.
Redmon, Michael, History 101. Santa Barbara Independent, January 12, 1995.
Robertson, Nick, Our House with Nick Robertson. Santa Barbara News-Press, June 16, 2003.
Special thanks to Cindy Lomonaco, the Santa Barbara Historical Society Docent for the Fernald Mansion.