AKA: Ludington, Wright Saltus, House #1, Montecito, CA; Val Verde, Montecito, CA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Adams, Charles Gibbs, Landscape Architect (firm); De Forest, Lockwood, Landscape Architect (firm); Goodhue, Bertram Grosvenor, Architect (firm); Charles Gibbs Adams (landscape architect); Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (architect); Oliver Messel ; Lockwood de Forest III (landscape architect)

Dates: constructed 1915-1918

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2549 Sycamore Canyon Road
Montecito, CA 93108-1936

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In 1926, the Dater House had the address 84 Sycamore Canyon Road.


The Dater House was one of the most famous Montecito grand estates of its day, a rare residential design by the New York architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869-1924). A highly austere composition, the house and its gardens were published extensively in contemporary magazines and books on residential design.

Building History

At the urging of his brother-in-law, James Waldron Gillespie (b. 02/11/1865 in New York, NY), Henry Dater (1867-1955), purchased property adjoining El Fureides, Gillespie's estate in Montecito, CA. (Birth dates in US passport applications vary for Dater from 1865, 1867 and 1871.) Dater, a New York coffee broker and real estate speculator, commissioned the renowned New York architect, Bertram Grosvernor Goodhue (1869-1924), to design this house in 1915; as early as 1908, however, the Montecito City Directory (p. 260) indicated that Dater resided in a dwelling on Sycamore Canyon Road, and he was listed in the Montecito City Directory of 1911 (p. 214) as a rancher residing on Sycamore Canyon Road. Frequent travelers during the 1900s-1920s, Dater and his wife, Mary Lauderback Hays, rarely occupied the Goodhue-designed house, although the Montecito City Directories of 1917 (p. 312) and 1918 (p. 322) indicated that the two were residents of the Sycamore Canyon Road house during those years.

In 1924, the Daters sold the property to the Yale-trained Philadelphia lawyer, Charles Henry Ludington, Jr., (1866-1927), who became the Secretary and Treasurer of the Curtis Publishing Company in 1901 and by 1920, its Vice-President. The estate, in turn, was willed in 1927 to Charles's aesthetically-acute son, Wright S. Ludington (1901-1992), who supervised much of the planting in the gardens. (Sources vary slightly on the dates that Charles Ludington bought the house, and have been reported as either 1924 or 1925. The Ralph D. Cornell Papers at UCLA indicated that Wright Ludington inherited Val Verde in either 1927 or 1930.)

Ludington ran out of money to maintain the estate in 1955, and sold it to the Household Finance Company (HFC)-heiress, Marjorie Callae McIntosh Buell (1897-1983), wife of prominent Denver architect and philanthropist Temple Hoyne Buell (1895-1990) from 1921-1958; Buell decided that this location was not appropriate to raise horses, so she sold it in 06/1956 to Hazel Heath Horton (1884-1968), the wife of George H. Horton (1873-1945), President of the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company from 1912 until 1945. Upon her death in 1968, the house passed to Florence "Bunny" Heath Horton (1915-1991), wife of Dr. Warren R. Austin (1911-1999). Florence Horton died in 1991, leaving the estate to the physician. Austin had the distinction of being both the physician to the Duke of Windsor and the one of the first medical practitioners to settle in the upscale town of Montecito, CA. (Information from conversation with Prof. David Streatfield, University of Washington, Seattle, 02/12/2007.) Austin pursued getting the house listed as a landmark by the Santa Barbara County Historical Landmark Advisory Commission in 1996.

Subsquent to Dr. Austin, the 2549 Sycamore Canyon LLC and Heath Horton Austin Val Verde Foundation controlled the property before selling it in 2009 to Russian engineer/businessman Sergey Grishin (b. 1966), owner of the RosEvro Group of companies.

Building Notes

Early on, the grounds encompassed 9 acres, most of which was developed by Wright Ludington between 1927-1955. The Austins increased the size of the holdings to 17.4 acres during their time at Val Verde. Many dates have been given for Goodhue's original design for the Dater Residence.

The house was also named "Dias Felices," "happy days" in English.

The landscape architect Lockwood De Forest III (1896-1949) worked on the grounds of Val Verde after 1926, during the time Wright Ludington lived here.

Speaking of a tiled courtyard, the NY architect Dwight James Baum observed in 1918: "At the Henry Dater house at Santa Barbara, Mr. Goodhue has used colored tiles after methods used in Tunis, Morocco. These tiles, which were mostly made by the Tunisian Tile Company, give an interesting color note to the otherwise simple patio of pinkish-gray stucco. The three panels are all different designs, yet they harmonize in the general impression obtained. The tree settings are similarly done, while in the centre is a simple pool of blue tile, the edge flush with the floor. The goldfish give a final touch of color and life to this unusual court." (See Dwight James Baum, "An Eastern Architect's Impressions of Recent Work in Southern California," Architecture, vol. 38, no. 1, 07/1918, p. 180.)

English painter and stage designer Oliver Messel (1904-1978) produced Surrealist-inspired murals for Wright Ludington's bathroom and bedroom in 1936.


According to the Santa Barbara County Historical Landmark Advisory Commission, a number of changes to Val Verde had been made as of 2010. Its landsmarks information on the house stated: "Various alterations were made to the original house when Wright Ludington inherited the property from his father in 1930. A loggia on the south side was replaced with a reflecting pool and four large columns. The French doors in the dining room at the north end were replaced with large single pane picture windows, and a window in the entrance hall was closed in. Modifications in recent years include the remodeling of the servant’s quarters to include a new door, diamond panes in some of the windows, and replacement of other windows with French doors. Diamond pane muntins were added toseveral second floor windows overlooking the central patio." (See Santa Barbara County Historical Landmark Advisory Commission, "Val Verde: Landmark 38," accessed 06/21/2016.)

Santa Barbara County Historical Landmark (1996-12-17): 38

National Register of Historic Places (1995-03-31): 95000359 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 3586