Cristal's Blog


April 8, 2024

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Santa Barbara's skyline is a picturesque blend of white stucco walls and red-tiled roofs, creating an iconic aesthetic that defines the city's timeless charm and character. Behind this captivating facade lies our rich architectural history, with each building telling its own unique story about its contribution to the evolution of downtown Santa Barbara. There's no better way to explore our town than by embarking on the self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour.

The Birds eye view of the Santa Barbara courthouse, with its white stcco walls, red tile roof, verdant grounds, and the city in the background.
Photo: Konrad Summers  CC BY-SA 2.0

Unveiling Santa Barbara's Timeless Charm

The Red Tile Walking Tour offers a delightful ramble through the heart of Santa Barbara, encompassing 17 stops and 22 historic adobes dating from the 1700s through the 1800s. Thanks to the tour’s sponsorship by Santa Barbara Car Free, anyone can visit the city’s spectacular architectural landmarks by downloading and printing the self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour or viewing the custom interactive Red Tile Walking Tour on Google Maps. This handy resource will guide you from one stop to the next, ensuring you don't miss any of the architectural gems along the way.

The self-guided tour showcases the best of the city's Spanish-style architecture, featuring smooth white-stucco walls, iconic red tile roofs, flower-bedecked courtyards, and hidden passageways waiting to be discovered. As you meander from one stop to the next, you'll find yourself immersed in the city's rich history and architectural splendor. From notable restaurants and theaters to museums and government buildings, each stop offers a glimpse into Santa Barbara's past and present. Whether you're a history buff or simply appreciate the beauty of well-preserved architecture, the Red Tile Walking Tour promises a captivating experience.

The Santa Barbara Library with a fountain in the front and cherry blossoms in bloom
Photo: I, Padraic Ryan, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Legacy of Red-Tiled Roofs

One of the most distinctive features of Santa Barbara's architectural landscape is the prevalence of red-tiled roofs. This iconic design element traces its roots back to the city's Spanish colonial heritage, which began with the arrival of Spanish settlers in the 18th century. Inspired by the architectural styles of their homeland, these settlers introduced red-tiled roofs as a practical and aesthetic solution to the region's Mediterranean climate.

The use of red tiles served multiple purposes. Beyond their striking appearance, red tiles were well-suited to the local climate, providing insulation against the heat of the sun and protection from rain. Over time, red-tiled roofs became synonymous with Santa Barbara's architectural identity, adorning homes, businesses, and public buildings throughout the city.

The architectural style showcased on the tour reflects the influence of Spanish Colonial Revival and Mediterranean design principles. Characterized by whitewashed walls, wrought iron accents, and terra cotta details, these buildings exude a timeless elegance that continues to captivate residents and visitors alike. Each structure tells a story of craftsmanship and ingenuity, embodying the spirit of Santa Barbara's rich cultural heritage.Photo: 

A portion of he facade of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art with a hint of its red tile roof, and blue sky.
Photo: Jllm06 CC BY-SA 3.0

A Walk Through Santa Barbara's Past

As you traverse the streets of downtown Santa Barbara, you'll encounter a diverse array of architectural treasures. From the historic adobes of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park to the ornate facades of landmark buildings such as the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, every stop on the tour offers a glimpse into the city's past and present.

Some notable stops on the tour include:

  1. The Santa Barbara County Courthouse (1100 Anacapa Street): Designated on the National Registry of Historic Places, this iconic courthouse marks the starting point for the tour. Admire its striking features, such as the four-faced clock tower, red tile roof, elegant arches, and lush gardens. The Sunken Garden, once a bull ring in colonial times, now serves as a picturesque centerpiece. Inside, the second-floor Mural Room boasts paintings by a background painter for film director Cecil B. DeMille. For an unparalleled view of the red-tile district, climb the 80-foot-tall bell tower.
  2. Santa Barbara Public Library (40 E Anapamu Street): Just across Anacapa Street, this elegant Spanish-style library adds to downtown's architectural charm.
  3. Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1130 State Street): Located on Anapamu Street, this museum houses a diverse collection of ancient through contemporary works and photography, representing Asian, European, and American artists.
  4. La Arcada Courtyard (1114 State Street): Continuing west on Anapamu Street, you'll encounter this charming courtyard framed by Spanish Revival-style buildings. Explore the shops and galleries while admiring the assortment of life-size bronze sculptures, including one of Ben Franklin sitting.

Planning Your Tour

For those embarking on the Red Tile Walking Tour, comfort is key. Be sure to lace up a pair of comfy shoes and prepare for a leisurely stroll through downtown Santa Barbara. With short distances and flat terrain, the tour is accessible to all ages and fitness levels, making it the perfect activity for a sunny day in the city.

Whether you're a longtime resident or a first-time visitor, the Red Tile Walking Tour offers a fascinating glimpse into Santa Barbara's architectural heritage.

A large, two-story Mediterranean home with white stucco walls, a red tile roof, terraces, and a sparkling blue pool.

Red Tile Properties for Sale

When it comes to Santa Barbara's architectural legacy, my exclusive website showcases numerous Spanish Colonial Revival-style and Mediterranean beauties adorned with characteristic red tiled roofs. Look no further than Sea La Vie, pictured above, boasting not just a red tiled roof but also breathtaking panoramic vistas encompassing the ocean, distant islands, and majestic mountains. Though they may not be featured in this tour, rest assured that these properties exude a level of magnificence bound to captivate prospective buyers.

So, if you're on a mission to find a classically Mediterranean estate, a contemporary estate with breathtaking panoramic ocean vistas, or some other amazing property currently on the market here, please allow me to assist you. Reach out today at (805) 886-9378 or via email at to kickstart your expedition towards owning a piece of Santa Barbara's architectural heritage.

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch