|One of the most recognizable landmarks in Montecito today is the
beautiful Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, located at the northeast corner of East Valley and Hot Springs
roads. The humble beginnings of this church can be traced to the
earliest rural settlers in Montecito, the soldiers of the Santa
Barbara Presido and their descendants.
All California school children learn the tale of Father Junipero
Serra and his dream of linking the California coast with a string
of missions. Father Serra died before his dream could be realized.
His successor, Father Fermin Lasuen, established the Santa Barbara
Mission in 1786. In lieu of cash or pension payments, Presidio
guards who watched over the mission were given small tracts of
land; many of these parcels were located in the foothills of Montecito
These landholders formed a new community. In 1856, the residents
built a small adobe church under the auspices of the Santa Barbara
Mission. The simple adobe church was large enough for perhaps
60 people. In 1859, about 15 acres of adjacent land was deeded
to the parish and utilized as a cemetery. The southwest portion
of this parcel, fronting on East Valley Road, is the present site
of Mount Carmel Church.
Popularly known as "the Little Church of the Fathers," the original
Carmelo adobe was the site of frequent celebrations and feast
days, attended by a padre from the Santa Barbara Mission. The
community grew quickly and soon a larger church was needed. Although
the residents were extremely poor, the community pooled its resources
and over the span of a decade raised $800 to build a little wooden
church in 1898.
The little wooden church served parishioners until 1936, when
construction began on the present church. Landscape architects
Lockwood de Forest and Stephen Benizik designed the surrounding
grounds to enhance the structure created by architect Ross Montgomery.
The unique architectural style was patterned after the Pueblo
Indian missions built in New Mexico and Arizona as early as the
17th century. Typifying the handiwork of the Indians are the uneven
window openings and irregularly plastered walls. The courtyard,
front stone portal, and weathered façade make striking combinations
of form, light and color. The style, known as "Pueblo Revival,"
is a unique blend of missionary design and building techniques
reminiscent of the Pueblo Indians.
The Church is open daily until 6:30 p.m. Visitors are welcome