The Landmark District centered around Brinkerhoff Avenue near downtown Santa Barbara is a living example of the growth of local residential neighborhoods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The area was originally owned by Dr. Samuel Brinkerhoff who purchased the block for $20. With the promise of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the completion of Stearns Wharf in the late 19th century, land prices in Santa Barbara rose significantly. Less than three blocks away from State Street, Brinkerhoff Avenue was nearby Stearns Wharf, the Santa Barbara Train Station, and the trolley line that once ran through downtown.
Because of this, many streets west of Lower State Street such Bath Street, Chapala Street, and De la Vina Street experienced large scale development. It was during this time that the undeveloped block was purchased by Henry Tallant in 1886, subdivided into eighteen separate lots, and developed over the next couple of decades as single family housing. By 1900, eleven of the original eighteen lots on Brinkerhoff Avenue had been developed. Three homes were added between 1901-1906, two between 1907-1909, and three bungalows were finally added in 1913.
While certainly not the only residential neighborhood of the time, Brinkerhoff Avenue stands out as one of the most well preserved. With a period of significance ranging from 1886-1913, the district is a turn of the century architectural showcase, with prime examples of Crafstman, Colonial Revival, National Folk, Italianate, and Queen Anne styles. The neighborhood maintains its original sandstone curbing, and many of the original buildings remain unaltered.
While originally the street was exclusively residential, in the late 1960's some dwellings began to attract a variety of commercial interests in part because of the close proximity to State Street. Today, the Brinkerhoff Avenue Landmark District retains its original beauty, and is home to a collection of single family homes, boutiques, galleries, and more.
Except for signs identifying the shops, Brinkerhoff Avenue appears to be a quiet residential neighborhood made notable by towering palm trees. The houses aren't large or especially fancy; most shops are on the first floor, with living quarters upstairs or at the rear. Brinkerhoff Avenue is a one-way street and one of the only streets in Santa Barbara to offer diagonal parking.
Santa Barbara has three designated Historic Districts: Brinkerhoff Avenue Landmark District, Riviera Campus Historic District, and the El Encanto Hotel Historic District. The City of Santa Barbara conducted several historic resource surveys that identified the following potential historic districts: Potential Bungalow Haven Historic District, Potential West Beach Historic District, Potential Castillo Street Historic District, Potential Lower De La Vina Street Historic District, Proposed Mission Gardens Historic District, and the Proposed Plaza Bonita Historic District.
To explore Brinkerhoff Avenue for yourself, drive north from Los Angeles on U.S. 101 Freeway to Bath Street then turn right on Cota Street, then go one and a half blocks to Brinkerhoff Avenue. Southbound travelers should exit at Castillo Street, turn left under the freeway and continue on Castillo Street to Cota Street where you turn right. Brinkerhoff Avenue will be two and a half blocks away on the right.