8:00 AM to Sunset
Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens is a memorial park located in Santa Barbara, California. It consists of one entire city block, bounded by Santa Barbara, Micheltorena, Garden, and Arrellaga Streets.
The gardens, formerly the site of Albert Herter's El Mirasol Hotel, were purchased and donated to the city in 1975, and dedicated in 1980.
The real estate and an endowment for its conversion into a park were a gift to the city, from an anonymous donor. The mystery existed for two years until it was revealed to have been given by Alice Keck Park, the daughter of William Myron Keck, the founder of Superior Oil Company. The revelation was not made until after her death, as she wished. The City subsequently named the park in her honor.
These gardens include a man-made pond stocked with turtle and koi, as well as a gazebo and many meandering walkways and paths. All the plants in the garden, some native and some ornamental, are chosen specifically to be tolerant of the low-water nature of the Santa Barbara climate.
In the early 1900s, the property was converted from a tasteful estate to a high-class hotel with private bungalows and lush landscaping. The hotel, called El Mirasol, existed until the 1960s when, no longer in its prime, it was damaged by a couple of fires and slated for demolition. The proposed nine-story replacement hotel met with enough opposition, even though it included a performing arts center, that it never left the drawing board. The next proposal, for an 11-story condominium project, also met too much resistance, led by the legendary Pearl Chase, but was dropped only after the bulldozers had flattened the old hotel.
Private citizens stepped in and contributed funds to purchase the property for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, but not in sufficient quantity. In the interim, the Community Environmental Council established an urban farm teaching organic methods to interested students of all ages at the El Mirasol Educational Farm. Yet another condominium project was proposed, but the SBMA received enough funds from an anonymous donor to purchase it and donate it to the city. This was accomplished with the caveat that it should remain a free public park and that the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden should be responsible for developing and overseeing the landscaping. At last, the future of the property was secured.
Virginia Hayes, Indpendent, June 8, 2006
The Story of Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden
Also check out an in depth history of El Mirasol and its eventual evolution into the Gardens we enjoy today by Hattie Besesford: Full Circle: The Story of El Mirasol.