Santa Barbara County – Then and Now

Santa Barbara County of the 1920s

Santa Barbara County, California, is widely known as a uniquely beautiful area, a place where rugged coastal mountains ease down and gentle out toward the sea. It is a place of rolling hills and pristine beaches, of oak trees and sycamore and enormous swaths of springtime wildflowers. Here, the land is so fertile and the climate so agreeable that sundry crops – wine grapes and cannabis, lettuce, artichokes, strawberries, raspberries, flowers, and more – easily thrive. Ranchers raise cattle by the thousands. Enormous orchards produce oranges, lemons, and avocados that help feed the nation. The Pacific is generous with its gifts, and offshore, the chain of Channel Islands are known as the Galapagos of North America.

Here, in our cities and towns, some of the world’s wealthiest and most famous people reside. Tourists flock to the area throughout the year.

Much of the popularity and mystique of Santa Barbara County is attributed to stories set along El Camino Real, the Royal Road. Since the early 1900s, the mission trail is claimed to mark the historic route of Spanish padres from San Diego through Monterey, though truth tells a different story.

I grew up in a middle-class family in Solvang, the pretty Danish town in the center of the Santa Ynez Valley. I raised my own child in Santa Maria and Orcutt, a city and a small town located in the northernmost part of the county. And, for decades, I’ve lived downtown in the City of Santa Barbara. 

There is the Santa Barbara County I knew as a child, and the one that has slowly revealed itself over my lifetime. 

As a writer, I research truth in pursuit of the fictional story. Through my lifelong love of Santa Barbara County and my determined exploration of its past, I have found history’s complexity revealed in shadow and schism, as well as light and beauty. 

This blog is an invitation to discover the clues left by History itself, artifacts – easily uncovered in our present age – that inform truth, and in so doing, reveals the full beauty of Santa Barbara County, California. 



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