Paradise Lost at the Botanist’s Mansion

For as long as I can remember, this strange and beautiful house above the sea has fascinated me — and this may be the last time I ever see it. Scheduled for complete demolition in a matter of months, it might not be the most ostentatious of old buildings, but it captured my childhood imagination. For anyone growing up in the Santa Barbara foothills, the 111 year-old “Franceschi House” became the stuff of legend; a mansion haunted by Italian ghosts one day, and cursed by Native American spirits the next. So today I thought I might try to tell its true story before it disappears forever…

It’s located at 1502 Franceschi Road, amidst dozens of acres of land overrun by the exotic plants once tamed by its master, the late botanist Dr. Francesco Franceschi.

He was a founding member of the Italian Botanical Society in 1878, and was certainly no stranger to toying around with plants. He became an expert on succulents and palms, and is credited with introducing species such as the bamboo and eucalyptus into Italy.