The fabulous pool house at Casa Blanca was once part of a seven acre beachside estate designed by one of Santa Barbara’s most renown architects, George Washington Smith, and built in the 1920’s by millionaire playboy, Albert Keep Isham, heir to a Chicago fortune. The estate was a magnet for Hollywood stars, a play stop on the way to William Randolph Heart’s castle up the coast. In addition to the indoor pool, Casa Blanca boasted a ballroom with black marble fireplace, Turkish baths, a bowling alley, squash courts and, during Prohibition, a well stocked bar behind a secret door in the billiard room.
The Hispano-Moorish pool house (which has since achieved Santa Barbara County historical landmark status) incorporates minarets, Tunisian wall tiles capturing the vibrant designs of Oriental carpets, distinctive hexagonal floor tiles and intricate wrought iron grillwork. The pool area is illuminated by a retractable full length skylight surrounded by massive wooden beams. At one end of the pool is a lovely poolside fireplace surrounded by stunning tiles handmade in Spain and tiled columns supporting Moorish arches, while the other end is decorated with a finely detailed Tunisian wall with an intricate six-foot tall original mural all done in hand-painted tiles.
The tale of Albert Isham is that of a doomed Jazz-age Gatsby out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Scion of a rich Chicago family but stricken with the death of his mother as a boy, it is written that Isham graduated first in his class at Harvard and performed brilliantly in intelligence work during World War I. Having inherited a fortune at age 21, Isham furthered his great wealth in the roaring 1920’s stock market, then smartly sold short just before the stock market crashed, all the while becoming a Hollywood man about town. Notorious stories abound about the Isham pool house, including one in which “Isham once drove his Deusenberg convertible into the pool, a champagne-sipping starlet on each fender, until his white yachtsman’s cap floated up, followed by Isham – and presumably the starlets… Starlets supposedly were required to sign a release when they arrived, freeing their eccentric host Isham from liability. Accounts of wild parties became the talk of the town.”
Captain Isham’s unrestrained lifestyle eventually led to his early death at the age of 38 in 1931, ending Casa Blanca’s colorful initial incarnation. Thereafter, the property was abandoned for many years and a huge storm eventually wrecked the main house. Later, the property was purchased by Mrs. Marguerite Eyer Wilbur, the widow of an oil tycoon and a highly regarded historian and author in her own right. She rebuilt a home at Casa Blanca as a conference center for writers and as her personal residence. This home was eventually demolished, but the guesthouse of the original estate still exists and is known as the Honeymoon Cottage. In addition to the Honeymoon Cottage, the original estate grounds were subdivided into seven home sites, of which six have been built.
Casa Blanca’s fascinating history, undeniable beauty and breathtaking panoramic views are rare treasures that Casa Blanca homeowners thoroughly enjoy.