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The Frank Lloyd Wright Montecito Connection

January 5, 2022

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Picture of Frank Lloyd Wright wearing a hat

Image courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Besides the amazing Frank Lloyd Wright Structures in Los Angeles and examples in San Francisco, the world-renowned architect built several other buildings in California, including one right here in Santa Barbara. Hence, the Frank Lloyd Wright Montecito connection.

Frank Lloyd Wright at home behind his desk

Image courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

The George C. Stewart House

The George C. Stewart House was featured in The Los Angeles Times back in 1993. That was the last time it was for sale. Writer T. C. Boyle now lives in the house. He is also the author of The Women, which is about Frank Lloyd Wright’s life.

READ: 5 Iconic Santa Barbara Estates

The Stewart House was designed in 1909 and built in 1910 as a vacation home for a Scottish accountant and his family. Reportedly, it was Mrs. Stewart who first approached Wright. Located near the intersection of Hot Springs and Summit roads in Montecito, the home had original plans that included the main house, a gardener’s cottage, stables, and a work shed. All except the cottage were built.

It wasn’t unusual for Wright to create for his clients a Gesamtkustwerk—a “total work of art” that included the structure and the interior design on everything from furniture, rugs, artworks, apparel, and more.  There are even stories of Wright confronting owners who changed the interiors he created for them—and being fired because of his insistence on complete control.  But Wright didn't take his usual hands-on approach when it came to the Stewart house. Late in 1909, Wright left his family and business for Europe with his mistress, where he worked to create his groundbreaking Wasmuth Portfolio of his early, revolutionary designs—a book that changed the history of architecture.  

In total, Frank Lloyd Wright built 24 residences in California. By the time he began working in the Golden State, the legendary architect had already been designing homes for almost two decades. The Frank Lloyd Wright Montecito connection is the only California example of his Prairie-style architecture and the first. 

READ: Insta-worthy Locations: The Most Instagram-able Spots in Santa Barbara

Homes in the Prairie style generally offered a low, horizontal silhouette meant to establish a relationship with the landscape and offer a natural flow between interiors and exterior surroundings. With the Stewart house, he achieved this through the placement of more than 360 windows, in effect creating the perfect place to experience the indoor/outdoor lifestyle so abundant here in Santa Barbara. His design even called for redwood siding to blend the house further into its wooded site. Originally, there was a notch in the eaves to allow room for a large eucalyptus tree, which eventually died.

The Stewarts owned the home until 1942, when Greta Blickenstaff bought it; signing the papers less than one hour after she first toured the house. She owned the home for 42 years. Then in 1985, the nonprofit Stewart House Foundation was founded with the intent of eventually purchasing the house to open it for tours. But rising real estate prices made this vision impossible, and, in 1993, writer T. Coraghessan Boyle bought the house after his wife called him in tears, pleading with him to do so.

Here’s a list of some of Wright’s other buildings in California:

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of my all-time favorite architects, but I am not alone in my admiration. Wright gained such cultural primacy for good reason: he changed the way we build and live. Designing 1,114 architectural works of all types—532 of which were realized—he created some of the most monumental and most intimate spaces in the United States, including right here in Santa Barbara.

READ: Top Residential Architects in Montecito and Santa Barbara History

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

If you are interested in Wright’s work, then I suggest you check out the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. To explain the vision of this non-profit, they cite the words of Wright himself, using this quote: “. . . to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme, and meaning to life.”

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is meant to inspire people to discover and embrace an architecture for better living through meaningful connections to nature, the arts, and each other.

The Santa Barbara area is home to any number of architectural treasures. The Frank Lloyd Wright Montecito connection, the George C. Stewart house, is certainly numbered among them. If you are looking to buy or sell an architectural treasure in any of the Santa Barbara area’s upscale communities, I suggest you give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at You can trust that I have the experience to help you with all your real estate needs.

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- 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.

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- 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

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- 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.”

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