Page 86 - Montecito Journal Glossy Edition Winter/Spring 2013/14

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Moguls & Mansions
by Hattie Beresford
The Fithians
he Fithian family had a profound
influence on the early development
of Santa Barbara’s business, cultural,
and social institutions. In 1892,
the family arrived in Santa Barbara at the
height of the depression caused by the
collapse of the land boom. Within
four years, they had purchased a
ranch in Carpinteria, built a four-
story office building on State
Street, and established a country
club in Montecito. They were far
from finished. Major Joel Adams
Fithian and his sons, Richard
Barrett Fithian and Joel Remington
Fithian, became ardent promoters
and beneficiaries of Santa Barbara’s
growth and development. The major’s
1898 obituary stated, “His belief in
the future of Santa Barbara was firm
and enduring and was certified by large
investments here.”
Major Fithian had lived a full and
interesting life before he turned his
attention to Santa Barbara. He was born
in 1839 on the old Fithian homestead in
Bridgeton, New Jersey. His family’s Welsh roots
reached back to the days of Cromwell and the
American colonies.
By the time he was 20, he owned a
plantation in Easton, Maryland. With
the country on the brink of civil war, his
pronounced Unionist sentiments aroused the
ire of his neighbors, who insisted he leave town
immediately. Refusal meant risking life and
limb, so Joel returned to Bridgeton.