Built to exacting specifications in 1914 by architect Francis T. Underhill under the direction of owner Frederick Forrest Peabody, a philanthropist and entrepreneur who had amassed a fortune as the owner of the company that made Arrow shirts (and made Arrow shirts a household name), the Santa Barbara hillside estate known as Solana is considered the most significant property in the city.
Spanning more than 22,000 square feet of neoclassical luxury, Solana is situated atop an 11.2-acre knoll. From this fortuitous perch, panoramic views span Santa Barbara’s beaches, foothills, and harbor, across the Montecito Valley and the Channel Islands.
After Peabody’s death in 1958, “the estate was turned into a think tank, The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions,” said Wikipedia. Guests included John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, undoubtedly charmed by its grandeur and stately grace. But years of neglect during private ownership later left the property in a state of disrepair unbecoming its stature and location.
It was Solana’s current owners who discovered the home, quite by accident, according to Forbes, and felt compelled by the property and its pedigree to buy it in 1999 and restore it to its original grandeur.
“It wasn’t really a restoration, it was really a rebuild,” said the owners in Forbes. “Our choice was to build it as we thought Peabody and Underhill originally designed it.”
The three-year, $25 million-plus restoration, which reportedly “took 80 to 100 workers three years, full-time, to complete,” according to Forbes, has not just returned the home to its former grandeur, but created an even more gilded version of Peabody’s vision. The original footprint was retained and the home’s neo-classical grandeur brought back to offer a combination of historic details and modern amenities.
An expansive living room that can accommodate the most sophisticated soiree leads to the terrace through five sets of French doors, where views onto the garden and ocean beyond abound. The formal dining room features luxe gold silk walls and an 18th-century chandelier. The wood-beamed gourmet kitchen flanks the southern end of the home, its custom cabinetry and countertops second in beauty only to the view of the ocean through French doors opening onto another private view terrace. The adjacent family room offers a comfortable family space centered on one of the home’s many beautiful fireplaces.
The home offers five bedrooms and nine baths, with a careful balance of grand public spaces and private areas, including a library, a gym, a home theater, a wine cellar, and numerous expansive terraces.
Exquisite materials and attention to detail are evident throughout, with hand-carved mahogany, European forged bronze hardware, mosaic tile floors, and 18th-century wall sconces. The Royal Danby marble in the foyer? It was sourced by the owner to match the original entry material. The antique French oak paneling in the reception room? It was once owned by William Randolph Hearst and was brought in and installed in a painstaking two-and-a-half year process.
The spectacular grounds and signature gardens have received equal attention, having been renovated and rebuilt over 15 years. Today, the restored grounds are a melding of restorative and recreational pleasures.
Chilean wine palms that had previously been sold off have been brought back to hold court among a total of 200 trees and 500 rose bushes. Additional amenities include a greenhouse and orchid house with an attached art studio, a bocce ball court, vast green lawns, manicured formal gardens, a swimming pool, a guest cottage, two staff apartments, and reflecting ponds.