While it’s not the most common tourist activity, Santa Barbara County’s real estate scene is one of the area’s most impressive attractions. Sure, there’s the occasional traveler who comes here, loves it, and has the gumption to start looking for a house. There’s also the luxury traveler who appreciates fine architecture, interior design, and the occasional quiche at an open house. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, it’s worth knowing that there are some absolutely lovely houses to check out in and around Santa Barbara.
The most well-known and talked about house in this real estate oasis is named El Fureidis. According to the estate’s website, which offers a wild virtual tour of the property, a young playboy with a mysterious fortune named James Waldron Gillespie purchased this great plot of land in 1899. The oceanfront property had wild potential, and, for inspiration, Gillespie took architect Bertram Goodhue to Europe, India, Persia, and the Mediterranean to study landscape and building architecture. While Gillespie lead this inexplicable life of luxury and travel that very few of us can relate to, he also left behind a tiny portal into that fantastical lifestyle— El Fureidis.
The vast estate surrounds a magnificent villa with a series of lush, distinguished gardens. Sprawling and spacious designs realized with palms, redwoods and figs envelop pools, gazebos and various romantic statues. A rooftop terrace overlooks this paradisal property with views of the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands. The exterior architecture, conceived by Goodhue, combines Roman, Greek, Spanish, Italian and Persian design elements to a grand elegant facade. The interior takes the same breadth of influence throughout awe-inspiring dining rooms, atriums, conversation rooms, and bedrooms where JFK was said to have spent his honeymoon.
Somehow, above the amazing details throughout the property and its history, El Fureidis, also known as Montecito Paradise’s biggest claim to fame, is that its where Tony Montana lived as kingpin in the classic crime drama Scarface. It’s where that famous last scene was shot. It’s where he said those timeless last words, Say hello to my little friend! It’s the reason that when the house went on the market last year, it was written about all over the world.
So, while Santa Barbara real estate has been lavish and fascinating for quite some time, all it took was a movie star, a gangster, a fictional being to make it the iconic symbol of local real estate that it is today. Considering Gillespie’s quiet nature, it seems fitting that his virtual opposite would be the one to give this property the attention that it deserves.