Architectural History Hidden in Plain Sight

Tucked away in a remote corner of UCSB’s West Campus are two significant architectural works by a woman architect, Mary McLaughlin Craig. The Campbell mansion was once the center of high society in the Goleta area. Built in 1924, the 18,000 square foot mansion was to be the home and working ranch for Colonel Colin Campbell and his wife Nancy Leitner Campbell. He was a Scottish aristocrat with years of service in the British army and she was an heiress to the Marshall Fields department store fortune. 

The Campbell Mansion, 2021, photograph by Julia Larson

Colonel Campbell secured the architectural services of James Osborne Craig in 1921 to build a large house on his 265-acre working ranch, near what is known today as Coal Oil Point. The ranch land extended from the coast up to Hollister Avenue; Campbell built what is now known as Storke Road south from Hollister, and also constructed Slough Road- the small winding street which follows the curves of Devereux Slough out to the main part of the ranch. Unfortunately, the Colonel died in 1922 and James Craig died in 1923, and so the task of designing and building the house was taken on by Mary McLaughlin Craig who was also good friends with Nancy Campbell. 

Floor plan for Campbell Mansion, circa 1924, Mary McLaughlin Craig Collection, ADC

The Architecture and Design Collection contains a number of drawings for projects Mary Craig designed from the early 1920s until the 1940s, but the Campbell house is one of her larger single commissions. She designed a U-shaped house, to be built out of adobe blocks that were constructed on-site. The main entry was at the southwest corner, to take advantage of the sweeping views across the slough and out to the ocean. The public rooms (reception room, dining room, living room) faced south, with guest rooms directly above on the second story. Rooms for the family were laid out along the east wing, with Mrs. Campbell and her sons on the first floor, and her daughters on the more secluded and secure second floor. Servants’ rooms, including the kitchen, sewing room, trunk rooms, and bedrooms and bathrooms for seven maids and three manservants comprised almost one-third of the house along the northern side of the west and east wings. A large staff of maids, cooks, and other household staff was common in this era, and expansive estates such as the Campbell ranch would also include separate housing for farm hands and married staff. 

Redwood barn designed by Mary Craig, photograph by Julia Larson
Drawing of East and North elevations of the barn, circa 1924, Mary McLaughlin Craig Collection, ADC

Many of the outbuildings were constructed soon after Colonel Campbell bought the land, but Mary Craig also designed a barn for the Campbell’s polo horses. This barn still stands, hidden behind the UCSB Horse Boarding stables and the campus daycare center. It is no longer in use, since it was damaged in an earthquake in 1978.  The original drawings for the redwood barn are in the ADC’s Mary Craig collection, along with drawings for the main house. These include a site survey from 1921, floor plans, and many sheets of full-size details for carvings, iron works, and metalwork for such details as door handles and hinges. These oversized sheets provide a glimpse into the grandeur of the estate in the 1920s. 

Full Size Detail drawing, circa 1924, Mary McLaughlin Craig collection, ADC

Nancy Campbell died in 1930 and her son and his family spent time at the ranch until around 1940. During World War 2, Coal Oil Point was used by the military as a lookout station, and they constructed a few buildings at the edge of the cliff. The Campbell family sold the ranch to Helena Devereux, an educator and founder of a residential school for developmentally disabled people. The Devereux Foundation added many buildings to the ranch for staff and students, and turned the Campbell mansion (now named Jacobs Hall) into their administration building and testing center. They broke up many of the rooms into smaller offices, removed the decorative grill works from the windows, and added seismic upgrades to the original adobe walls. The Devereux Foundation sold off much of the 265 acres—some to build the Santa Barbara Airport, some to private developers, but sold much of the land to UCSB to create the Coal Oil Point reserve, West Campus Family Student Housing, and the West Campus faculty housing. In 2007 the Foundation moved out of the Campbell mansion and the surrounding buildings and into a smaller set of buildings nearby. The University uses some of the buildings as storage, a Nature Center, West Campus Cottages, and to administer the nature reserve. 

Dovecote, possibly designed by Mary Craig, at Coal Oil Point; photograph by Julia Larson, 2021

The parking lot next to the abandoned mansion is a popular place for surfers, bird watchers, whale watchers, and hikers to park and walk to Coal Oil Point, Sands Beach, and over to the Ellwood Bluffs. At the Point, the grave marker for Colonel Campbell and Nancy Campbell still stands (their remains were disinterred and moved to a family plot in Washington DC), along with a dovecote possibly designed by Mary Craig at the top of the trail leading down to Sands Beach. Just to the east of the Point, tucked below the top of the bluff and sitting just above the sand, is a beach house which also dates from the time of the Campbells. It has been a popular spot for graffiti artists and college students to hang out  for a day (or night) at the beach. 

Beach house for Campbell ranch, photograph by Julia Larson, 2021


Mary McLaughlin Craig papers finding aid

Spanish Colonial Style: Santa Barbara and the Architecture of James Osborne Craig and Mary McLaughlin Craig book by Pamela Skewes-Cox and Robert Sweeney

Isla Vista LocalWiki

Isla Vista LocalWiki

Goleta history article

Santa Barbara Independent article

Montecito Magazine article

UCSB West Campus Stables

UCSB West Campus Cottages

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s