There are many great and grand estates in Montecito, but Las Tejas may be the most renowned. One of Montecito’s oldest estates, Las Tejas is recognized in the Smithsonian institution as a Historical Estate.
In 1867, confederate veteran William Alston Hayne, moved his family from South Carolina to California. Soon after his arrival in 1868, he bought approximately 175 acres in Montecito (between the now Hot Springs Road and Picacho Lane) for a staggering $17 per acre, valuing his parcel of land at $2,975.
Hayne built a large adobe home on the property and used the land to cultivate an assortment of crops, including olives, walnuts, and lemons. He became an active member of political parties in the community and in turn was the first Democrat to represent Santa Barbra in the state assembly.
Hayne’s son, William Alston II built his own adobe house on the property in anticipation of marriage. Built with local adobe and red roof tiles, designed by Francis Underhill, it was a spacious home with a central courtyard. Supposedly, he obtained more than 8,000 roof tiles for the house by negotiating with other adobe owners in the area. He dubbed the residence Las Tejas “The Tiles”.
The Hayne’s family held on to the property for some time and would rent it out to visitors. However, in 1917, Helen Thorne purchased the property. Helen, a talented and devote horticulturist, had previously transformed her gardens at her New York estate to a lavish getaway, and was determined to do the same with Las Tejas. She enlisted Architect Francis Wilson to transform the home into a gorgeous Italian Renaissance styled home inspired by the Farnaese Palace just outside of Rome. The garden in the reigns of Ms. Thorne was sprawled over 26 acres including a heliotrope garden, a Japanese garden with pond and teahouse, and a eucalyptus forest.
In 1926, she hired a friend of hers, architect George Washington Smith, to remodel Las Tejas. He renovated the central courtyard, leant input to the design of the front gardens, and outdoor patio into an Italian patio. Helen, proud of her home would often open up the gardens for weekly tours.
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the shelling of the Ellwood oil fields, Thorne sold the estate to Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Leadbetter, for $40,000. Caroline Leadbetter lived at Las Tejas until her death in 1972. By the time the estate was to be sold it was only a glimmer of the majestic masterpiece it once was. Owners past and present since the Leadbetter family have taking great care of restoring the home and luxurious gardens of Las Tejas.
Michael Redmon. The Santa Barbara Independent A Grand Estate. The Santa Barbara Independent. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <http://www.independent.com/news/2009/may/14/grand-estate>.