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LOCKWOOD DE FOREST III: SANTA BARBARA'S PIONEERING LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT

February 1, 2024

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Nestled along the picturesque Pacific coastline, Santa Barbara’s topography effortlessly blends natural beauty with architectural marvels. As a distinguished landscape architect, Lockwood de Forest III played a pivotal role in shaping the visual identity of Santa Barbara, infusing the region with his profound love for the California natural environment. From the sprawling estate of Casa de Herrero to the tranquil enclave of Hope Ranch, de Forest's influence remains embedded in the very fabric of this coastal haven.


A lush meadow at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden with orange California poppies and other flora n the foreground and mountains in the background.
Image by Greg Trainor courtesy of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The de Forest Legacy

The de Forest legacy started in Europe more than 300-years ago with Jessé de Forest. Born in 1576, he moved his family to the New World where it is believed that his vision and planning led to the settlement of New Amsterdam, now known as New York City. Future de Forest generations made their way to Santa Barbara, and although their roots took time to establish here, their influence left an indelible mark on our renowned terrain.

Fast-forward over two centuries, Lockwood de Forest Sr. emerged as a key figure in the family story. Born in 1896 in Greenwich Village, and spent summers on the family estate on Long Island, Lockwood Sr. gained prominence as a landscape painter, contributing significantly to the burgeoning Aesthetic Movement. Displaying comprehensive interest and talent in the arts and design, he became a partner in Associated Artists along with Louis Comfort Tiffany. He later moved with his family to Santa Barbara.

A couple stand on a cobblestone patio looking out to the beautiful landscape next to a dragon tree.
Image by Rachel Wakefield Photography courtesy of Casa del Herrero


Lockwood de Forest III

The legendary architect, known professionally as Lockwood de Forest Jr., was deeply influenced by his Californian childhood. Affectionately known as Lock, he attended the Thacher School in Ojai where he developed a lasting attachment to Western panorama. That attachment led him to study design and become a licensed professional.

Early in his career, Lock worked briefly in Ralph Stevens's office before establishing his own practice. His unique approach embraced native plants, challenging the prevalent trend of water-intensive Beaux-Arts landscapes.

In 1925, Lock married Elizabeth Kellam, marking the beginning of an influential partnership that extended beyond their personal lives. The same year, they launched The Santa Barbara Gardener, a publication that combined Elizabeth's plant knowledge and prose with Lockwood's insightful commentary on design.

Lock's innovative spirit and focus on residential properties positioned him as a master between Beaux-Arts aesthetics and modern design. His work, marked by formal geometries and bold effects achieved through plants, resonated beyond the sunny coast of Santa Barbara, reaching as far as the Bay Area and San Diego. Lock's impact even extended to the introduction of notable western native species to the East Coast, showcasing the family's commitment to horticulture and environmental stewardship.

Stone steps and a fountain on the grounds of Casa de Herrero, with the historic home framed with plants, trees and a blue sky.
Image by Matt Walla courtesy of Casa de Herrero

Lockwood de Forest's Contribution to Santa Barbara

De Forest's professional journey in Santa Barbara spanned nearly three decades. One of his most celebrated achievements is commonly acknowledged to be Casa de Herrero (House of the Blacksmith), which stands as one of the finest examples of Lock’s era in California. The garden features a blend of Moorish-inspired tiled fountains, sprawling citrus orchards, perennial borders, a commanding axial vista, and a dedicated cactus (or Arizona) garden. Enclosed by arcades and whitewashed stone walls, garden rooms of various scales create intimate spaces while stone pathways seamlessly connect different sections of the garden. Surrounded by eucalyptus intermixed with palm trees, the densely planted property is inward-focused. In recognition of its historical significance, Casa del Herrero earned the designation of National Historic Landmark in 2009.Top of FormBottom of Form

Another significant commission can be found on the grounds at Val Verde, a collaborative effort with Wright Ludington, who was not only his cousin but also his schoolmate and lifelong friend. Wright, known for his creativity and distinguished art collection, played a significant role in the creation of Val Verde, now Santa Barbara’s premier senior living community.

The paved road at the entrance to Hope Ranch in Santa Barbara, CA framed by palm trees, stone pillars, and a metal

Additionally, Lock contributed his expertise to the planning and development of Hope Ranch, an affluent Santa Barbara enclave comprising a sweeping flat mesa and gently rolling knolls interspersed with a stunning valley adorned by magnificent live oaks. The views from the home sites perched on the knolls are nothing short of spectacular, even today. To the landward side, the regal purple mountains of the Santa Ynez range are complemented by lush foothills and a fertile valley. On the seaward side, one can behold the Santa Barbara Channel, the Channel Islands, and the expansive Pacific Ocean, creating a visual spectacle that captivates the senses just as Lock planned.

The Enduring Impact

Beyond his individual projects, Lockwood de Forest's consulting relationships with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art further highlight the lasting impact of his expertise. His influence extended not only through physical settings but also through a dedication to sharing knowledge and encouraging a deeper appreciation for the intersection of art and nature.

Horticulture enthusiasts familiar with the work of Lockwood de Forest III or his wife, Elizabeth Kellam de Forest, may recognize their almost-prescient foresight into future trends. In an era when water-intensive gardens held sway, the de Forests championed the cause of drought-tolerant plants, sun-kissed lawns, and a deep appreciation for the native beauty gracing Santa Barbara's stunning mountainous backdrop. We owe immense gratitude for the remarkable contributions of Lockwood de Forest III and his family.


If you're contemplating a move within any of our upscale communities that offer breathtaking backdrops like those created by Lockwood de Forest III, please contact me at (805) 886-9378 or via email at Cristal@montecito-estate.com. I'm delighted to assist and happy to arrange a private tour for you, showcasing the listings featured on my comprehensive website, each distinguished by its own exceptional landscape architecture.



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