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Santa Barbara's guide to what's new and undiscovered for home and garden, entertaining, style and travel. The resource guide below lists local happenings, boutique finds, travel destinations, food artisans and design professionals.

Casa Dorinda in Montecito

Casa Dorinda was opened in 1975 as a “life care community” for seniors. Operating as a non-profit by the Montecito Retirement Association, it is home to approximately 300 residents. The original mansion was designed by Carleton Winslow, a noted architect who designed the S.B. Natural History Museum, The Valley Club, and other historic estates in Montecito.

 

 

When built in 1919, the 80-room Casa Dorinda was one of the largest homes in Santa Barbara. Aside from having servants quarters for staff, a two-story guesthouse and other outbuildings, the mansion itself consisted of a dining room and courtyard, a music room, library, a magnificent tower, and acres of formal gardens.

During one of the chapters of Casa Dorinda’s history, the mansion served as the campus of the Montecito School for Girls, a day school and boarding school. Casa Dorinda is now owned and operated by the Montecito Retirement Association, a community sponsored, not-for-profit corporation serving seniors through estate retirement living since 1975.

Casa Dorinda offers residents a variety of options to enhance their lives. Many important decisions are made through boards and committees, most of which are made up of the residents, themselves. Residents live in their own apartments, cottages or in the assisted/memory care or the medical unit of the facility, located in Montecito.

 

 

Casa Dorinda serves the residential, social, artistic, emotional and medical needs of many of Santa Barbara’s senior citizens. It is a traditional residential care community, but there is so much more offered to the individuals residing at Casa Dorinda. Most live independently
and are extremely active, taking classes, pursuing hobbies and participating in many cultural and social events.

 

 

Casa Dorinda’s well-appointed common areas include a library, music room and the oriental room, located in the main building on the first floor.

 

 

In addition, there are jewelry, ceramic and photography studios, several meeting rooms and a computer lab on the grounds. The gallery outside the painting studio showcases some of the residents’ work.

 

 

The tower at Casa Dorinda, a well-known landmark  for many Montecito residents, is still accessed by the original elevator. The main dining room and courtyard is often used to celebrate special occasion events or small private parties for the residents and their guests.

 

 

A gourmet dining room serves three delicious meals a day, with a on-staff nutritionist who is available to counsel residents with specific nutritional needs. Special menus are prepared for private parties, with friends and relatives often in attendance.

 

 

The resident gardeners at Casa Dorinda plant, tend and harvest flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs in the community garden, for use in their own homes as well as in the main dining room.

 

Social activities range from assorted exercise classes, to lawn bowling, croquet and gardening, to inside board games and movies. Over a dozen special annual events and festivities offer ample opportunities for the active residents of Casa Dorinda. A 22-passenger bus provides transportation for everything from shopping to cultural events, both locally and many theatre and museum events in the Los Angeles area.

 

THE HISTORY OF CASA DORINDA…

Built as a home for Mr. and Mrs. William Bliss, the estate later served as a girls’ school, a military housing center and is now home to one of the country’s finest retirement communities.

Anna Dorinda Blaksley was born in St. Louis Missouri and moved to Santa Barbara to retire. Her philanthropic efforts left a lasting mark on the Santa Barbara community, including support of both Cottage Hospital and the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens. She was best-known for her home, Casa Dorinda, a magnificent estate in Montecito.

 

 

She and her husband were familiar with Santa Barbara’s reputation for good health and rejuvenation, and purchased a 16-acre parcel at 300 Hot Springs Road. They wanted to build a magnificent home in which to live out their remaining years, hiring noted architect Carleton Winslow to design the plans for their new home in Montecito. Construction was completed in the spring of 1919.

 

 

Casa Dorinda’s 45 acres included three formal gardens, a vegetable garden, flower gardens, the great lawn and a variety of trees, many of them oak and other indigenous species.

The 80+-room mansion was one of the largest homes in Montecito. The mansion was staffed with many servants, including a valet, maids, gardeners, security staff, a chauffeur,  and more.  Part of the allure of Casa Dorinda, and what has made it such an enduring part of Montecito history is the reputation it gained through Mrs. Bliss’ love of entertaining. Formal dinner parties, garden parties, music recitals and other social events were often held at Casa Dorinda.

 

 

Anna Dorinda Bliss remained living at Casa Dorinda until her death in 1935 at the age of 84. The estate was left to her only child Mildred, and her son-in-law, Robert Bliss. They offered Casa Dorinda to the Navy in 1942 for use as a recuperation and recreation center for returning military personnel. The cost of maintaining the property proved to be prohibitive for the Navy, and the estate eventually reverted to Mildred and Robert Bliss.

In 1946, the Bliss’ sold the property to Dr. Homer F. Barnes, who opened a day/boarding school, The Montecito School for Girls. The school closed in 1956. After several more transitions, the estate became available for sale in 1970. Casa Dorinda was meticulously renovated and opened as a retirement community in 1975, beginning a whole new chapter for the grand estate.

 

 

 

C A S A  D O R I N D A  R E T I R E ME N T  C O M M U N I T Y

300 Hot Springs Road, Montecito, California 93108
e-mail: kmunoz@casadorinda.org
Phone: (805) 969-8011

Visit the Casa Dorinda website to learn more about the retirement community:

www.casadorinda.com

 

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