Set on approximately 13.75-acres, this is the last remaining parcel of a magical garden oasis that has been in the same family since 1916. It was originally part of the beloved 70-acre Lolita Armour estate known as El Mirador, which loosely translates to “see in all directions.” Today, you can cultivate your own piece of Montecito history with this exceptional jewel now available for the first time in over a century.
Once known as one of Montecito’s most legendary estate gardens created by landscape architect, Elmer Awl, this peaceful paradise radiates beauty, wonder and enchantment among its verdant Japanese gardens, tranquil lagoons, long meandering paths lined with century-old exotic plant species, trees, and flowering shrubs, as well as the Eaton House ruins – now a stone grotto sanctuary complete with man-made stalactites. The massive front entrance gates open to a palm-lined driveway with towering 50-foot palms imported from the former Potter Hotel site on West Beach.
There’s also a large building site of approximately 3-acres suited for a grand custom-designed estate with abundant private water, and stunning garden and Santa Ynez Mountain views.
The original two-story Mediterranean-style gate house was built in 1918 by Charles M. Urton, who built the Granada in downtown Santa Barbara, and it offers 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, and approx. 1,904 sq. ft. of living space. The living room features a fireplace flanked by two sets of French doors that open to a large sunroom complete with a potbelly fireplace, walls of glass, and doors that open to an inviting brick-terraced garden courtyard. The living and dining rooms each have three sets of French doors opening to the serene front and rear gardens, along with original Spanish tile floors. The dining room also opens to the kitchen with an island, pantry, built-ins, and stairs leading to a large storage basement and laundry room. Both rooms open to a second sunroom surrounded by lush gardens.
The second floor offers a master bedroom with a fireplace, French doors and hardwood floors, and the second bedroom has French doors, built-in closets, and an enclosed sunroom with walls of glass to the exquisite garden views beyond. From the landing, there’s a door to a charming covered balcony with a columned wrought-iron balustrade and views toward the massive wrought-iron entrance gate and gardens.
This one-of-a-kind property provides the perfect opportunity to build a dream home and explore this sanctuary of unparalleled splendor, serenity, and magic with a picturesque backdrop of majestic mountains and masterfully crafted century-old gardens.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Miss Lolita Armour, daughter of Jonathan Ogden Armour, a Chicago meatpacking heir, fell in love with a piece of property in Montecito that sits in the heart of verdant hills overlooking the sea and backed by the Santa Ynez Mountains. Her father eventually bought the land as her wedding present. She was married in 1922 to John J. Mitchell Jr., a Chicago aviation businessman who became a co-founder of United Airlines, and co-founder of Santa Barbara’s Rancheros Visitadores in 1930. They were once considered one of America’s wealthiest married couples with combined fortunes estimated to be at more than $120 million.
The Armour’s purchased portions of the former Charles Eaton estate and by 1918 had obtained approximately 70-acres. They eventually christened the property El Mirador, meaning The Viewpoint. Armour hired architect Arthur Heun of Chicago to design several buildings, including the farmhouse. The plans for a large mansion were placed on hold during World War I. In 1918 two gate houses were built by contractor Charles M. Urton, who built the Granada in downtown Santa Barbara. He eventually joined the two gate houses and added a second story, and this became the main residence.
Lolita began developing the gardens with a massive assemblage of gardeners, even before a main estate was built, and hosted lavish soirees on the opulent grounds. Lolita hired long-time family friend Elmer M. Awl, of Pasadena, for the development of the landscape where he transformed the grounds for 27-years, turning them into one of Montecito’s most legendary estate gardens.
The focal point of the former 70-acre grounds was the 500-ft long formal Italian garden with streams of water coursing down seven tiers. Other features once included the palm-lined driveway with 50-foot palms imported from the nearby Potter Hotel site, an illusion pool, an outdoor amphitheater with seating for 1,000 guests, a Japanese lake with a floating teahouse, a dairy and poultry farm, vegetable gardens, avocado and lemon orchards, and even a private zoo with two bears, a wallaby and macaws. One of the bears used to accompany Elmer Awl on a leash when he came to town to shop at the hardware store.
By World War II many of the gardeners were let go and the gardens lost much of their pristine glory due to financial constraints. The couple eventually divorced in 1941. The property was eventually subdivided into five smaller parcels, one of which is now available to start building your dream home.