This is one of the city's most beautiful spots, generally considered a local "crown jewel." Well-tended gardens surround a man-made pond with koi, turtles, and not particularly hungry ducks. There is almost always a group of children gathered at the gazebo watching the enormous orange fish gliding through the dark water. Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden features a collection of more than 70 different tree and plant species, a self-guided tree and plant tour, a butterfly garden with host plants for butterflies and moths, a sensory garden with audio posts and interpretive Braille signs, walking paths, picnic areas, and of course the popular gazebo.
- Features: Alcohol Not Allowed, Parking On Street, Popular Event Venue, Reservable Areas
- Dog Policy: Dogs Allowed On Leash
- Nearby: Additional amenities available across the street at Alameda Park include Picnic Tables, Playground ("Kids World"), and Restrooms
The highlight of this park can be found as you follow the meandering walkway around specialized planting beds that feature low-water species. Each species is chosen because it grow well in Santa Barbara with minimum water. It is a labor of love with a message - beautiful plants don't have to consume lots of precious resources. The testament to the beauty of these plants is the popularity of the park with both student and professional photographers. Every Saturday and Sunday you will find brides vying for the most beautiful flowers or splash of unique foliage to immortalize their big day.
Design of the Park
This garden was designed in accordance with the wishes of its donor, Alice Kec Park, as an informal and rural park. It is a horticulture garden with an emphasis on the diverse plan materials of Santa Barbara. Planting areas are separated according to cultural and watering requirements ranging from boggy to arid. A procession of color, and important element of the overall design, presents drifts of flowering trees echoing or contrasting the hues of the surrounding shrubs, vines, and groundcovers. The ever-changing combinations of color and texture shift from one area to another in seasonal succession. Water in the garden reflects the light, shadow, and color of the plantings. The slightest changes in weather or time of day are delightfully exaggerated in the pond's reflections. The gurgling streams help one forget the traffic noise and city bustle. Winding pathways invite strolling, always with a burst of color or an interesting object ahead as a magnet. The knoll and gazebo provide open vantage points for viewing the garden in contrast to the small sheltered forest area. In future years the garden will evolve toward its envisioned mature state.
This garden of 4.6 acres was once one of the City of Santa Barbara's original Plaza Alameda blocks. In 1868 the City conveyed it to a private owner, and it remained vacant until 1904 when it was purchased by Mrs. Christian Herter who built on it an Italianate-style house facing Micheltorena Street. On her death in 1913, her son and daughter-in=law, Albert and Adele Herter, converted the house into the main unit of a hotel and built guest cottages along three sides of the block, thus enclosing a large central garden. Named "El Mirasol" it became an important hotel frequented by distinguished and international clientele. In 1969 all the structures were demolished by a new owner and the property was offered for sale. After various schemes had been proposed for multiple developments on the property, including nine-story and 11-story condo towers, it was acquired in 1970 by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art as a site for its expanding institution. Practical considerations later persuaded the Museum to remain on State Street, and the property was again put on the market.
In 1975 Alice Bertha Keck Park (May 12,1918-June 24,1977, age 59) purchased it from the Museum and gave it to the City of Santa Barbara as a park in perpetuity. Alice Bertha Keck was the daughter of William Myron Keck & Alice Bertha (Cominski) Keck. William M. Keck was an American oil entrepreneur and philanthropist, having founded founder of Superior Oil Company in Coalinga, California, in 1921. In 1954, he founded the W. M. Keck Foundation, an American charitable foundation supporting scientific, engineering, and medical research in the United States. Alice Bertha Keck married David Park in 1953 in Paris. David Park died in 1956. Park had a family connection to the original owners (the Herters) and the site - William Myron Keck's sister Caroline (Alice's aunt) had been the widow of Herter's son Everit, who died in World War I.
Park provided funds for the garden's development, stipulating that it should be a park, rural in feeling, and that the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden select a landscape architect to make such a plan and be in charge of the execution of this plan. To that end, Elizabeth Kellam de Forest was asked to be supervising landscape architect. Elizabeth and her late husband, the landscape architect Lockwood de Foroest Jr., had been trendsetting garden designers in Santa Barbara since the 1920s and active in in the Santa Barbara Notanic garden for decades. Elizabeth de Forest chose Grant Castleberg as the landscape designer.
On May 13, 1980, the Trustees for Alice Keck Park presented this Memorial Garden to the City of Santa Barbara. Park is buried at the Santa Barbara Cemetery, 901 Channel Drive, in Sunset-Block B-Lot 16.
From the 101 freeway take the Garden Street exit and turn towards the mountains. Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens will be on your left between Micheltorena and Arrellaga streets. There is usually plenty of free parking nearby. If there is an extraordinary amount of parking available that might mean it is street sweeping day and that you will be ticketed if you park on that deliciously empty street.