In just one more year this house will be a hundred years old. I grew up hearing stories of its grand old staircase, its sprawling oak-covered grounds, and its wood-paneled library, which according to my mom, hides a secret passage. A concealed doorway she and her girlfriends tiptoed through the darkness to search for but were never quite able to find.
From 1946 to 1956 the Casa Dorinda estate was home to Montecito School for Girls. My mom attended as a young teenager in the early 1950s, and though I have passed by its iron gates countless times, I have never been in to visit until now.
Just a few days ago on my birthday, the baker man and I spent a few hours exploring Montecito. After some chicken salad at the corner cafe, a stroll though the San Ysidro citrus groves, and a quick browse through a few antique stores, we turned the car down Casa Dorinda's long driveway.
These days, it is a distinguished retirement community, the park-like grounds now filled with housing for independent and assisted living. Encircled by these outbuildings, like a jewel in a crown, sits the main house. Built in 1918 and designed by renowned architect Carleton Winslow, Casa Dorinda greets its visitors with a stately presence.
We knocked on the front door and were welcomed by the sight of an enormous Christmas tree in the center of the foyer. Workers cheerfully decorated as a few smiling residents looked on. The reception desk was tucked into the small alcove near the door, and though we weren't allowed past it, the friendly clerk rifled through her files and produced a pamphlet-like book on the history of the estate.
I flipped through it, snapping a few pictures of the story and photos- one of which was taken at the school in 1954, just two years after my mom had left.
I did peek my head around the corner to grab a glimpse of the of the stairway my mom loved so much. And I took a quick shot of the same pretty arches in the background of the black and white photo.
We headed back through the wooden front door, bidding goodbye to its grimacing brass faces. If only they could talk, perhaps they might tell us all about who they've greeted and goodbye-d over the last hundred years!
It was a lovely introduction to a place I hope to see and know more of someday. In the meantime I will order my own little historical pamphlet from Amazon, and convince my mom to tell me a few more of her stories.