“Mr. Gillespie has bestowed a benefaction upon the State, which may have more meaning, more value, than would the endowment of another college or the erection of a public library” wrote author Belle Summer Angier about the 35-acre El Fureidis (Tropical Paradise) garden of waving palms in 1916. Trimmed down to a mere 10-acres over the years, one of Montecito, California’s most celebrated Mediterranean Revival estates can be yours today for just $35,000,000.
According to Christie’s property listing, James Waldron Gillespie founded El Fureidis in 1906 following a yearlong trip to Europe and the Mediterranean region with architect Bertram Goodhue. Their journey that included over 500 miles on horseback from the Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Persia inspired the concept of a grand Roman villa with Persian gardens. Terraces, reflecting pools, and lush landscaping were enhanced by bas-reliefs scenes from Arthurian legends by sculptor Lee Lawrie.
By 1916 the gardens boasted more than 170 different varieties of palm and other trees. Several specimens remaining from that time, include a massive Chilean wine palm, Montecito’s largest Moreton Bay fig tree, as well as mature king palms, and a grove of coast redwoods.
The south elevation of the estate is dominated by a terrace of herringbone brick and rectangular turquoise reflecting pools. A walkway through the Wandering Garden descends alongside shallow channels flowing with cooling water to a stately Roman temple, called a casino.
El Fureidis visitors have included Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Charles Chaplin, and John F. Kennedy. It served as a location for the 1983 film “Scarface,” and the wedding of Michele Pfeiffer and Al Pacino. Unless you present yourself as a movie magnate or a viable candidate to purchase the property, the gardens are closed to the public. Nor are they visible from the highway.
Where to Stay?
Built in 1927, the Biltmore Santa Barbara is another classic Mediterranean Revival structure close to Montecito. The accommodations include 207 luxury, oceanfront guest rooms and suites in low-lying main buildings and in a collection of 12 single-storey cottages secluded amidst garden greenery at the rear of the property.
California Gardens Mobile App
California Gardens is mobile travel app, free from iTunes, that describes over 250 gardens from San Diego to Humboldt County that are open to the public on a scheduled or occasional basis. It includes arboretums, botanical gardens, public parks, college campuses, hotels, nurseries, wineries, and private estates that showcase the extraordinary variety of plants that thrive across the diverse climate regions of the Golden State. Download California Gardens from the Apple iTunes App Store (free) or Google play for Android.