Monday, November 28, 2016

Dying To Get In - The Santa Barbara Cemetary

The Santa Barbara Cemetery (901 Channel Dr., 805/969-3231) is one cool spot. Sure, the resting place of the dead isn’t on your typical itinerary when you visit someplace (though admittedly I routinely visit cemeteries all over the world), but it’s definitely worth stopping by when you’re in town. The cemetery is unmistakably quiet and holds the best piece of land, high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean with pristine views to the mountains and Channel Islands as the Pacific fans out before you.

Advertising in the local paper from the 1940s
As cemeteries go this is flat out beautiful and though the dead may not be impressed with the views, all of us living folks certainly will be. Many notables from Santa Barbara history are buried here (JP Sterns of Sterns Wharf; Lewis Burton-the 1st mayor of Santa Barbara in 1850; and Pearl Chase who basically single-handedly made Santa Barbara the tourist paradise it is today,) as are actors Ronald Coleman (films: The Lost Horizon, The Prisoner of Zenda, and he once owned the San Ysidro Ranch), and Fess Parker (TV’s Daniel Boone and local vintner), and even a few tragic souls from the legendary Jonestown massacre in Guyana from 1978; otherwise you’ve probably never heard of most of these folks.
In fact author David Petry writes, “One couple, Alice and Charles Sedgewick Minot of Boston, is buried in the cemetery although neither of them ever visited Santa Barbara while alive. Alice Minot requested in her will that she be buried on a beautiful site overlooking an ocean.  Her husband, after sending his attorneys on an extensive search, selected the Santa Barbara Cemetery.” The land goes back to 1867 as a burial place and was originally a 5-acre parcel on what was then the outskirts of town. Today it sits between the Four Seasons Biltmore and the Santa Barbara Zoo. There’s even a 200-page book on the complete history of the cemetery, “The Best Last Place,” written by the aforementioned David Petry, and quote from his book. Such is the dedication of Santa Barbara natives and their love of local history…and burials, I guess. A short walk across the thin grass amid palm tress, sunshine, ocean breezes and headstones will give you a new perspective on life – if not, go wine tasting.

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