Marsha Kotlyar Estate Group  |  License #01426886  |  805-565-4014

The Secret is in the Bones - How a Century-Old Home Stands the Test of Time

February 20th, 2024


In the heart of Santa Barbara’s vibrant history stands a charming testament to an era of architectural innovation and societal transformation. Welcome to 1116 N Milpas Street, a captivating piece of local heritage that intertwines the stories of community visionaries and the evolution of residential living in early 20th-century America. Nestled behind tall privacy hedges, this circa 1927 California Cottage offers more than just a home; it provides a journey through time, inviting you to become a part of its rich narrative. As you step onto its manicured garden, you can feel the echoes of past conversations and the whispers of aspirations that have filled its walls for almost 100 years.

The story of 1116 N Milpas Street begins with Anna Louise Murphy Vhay, a trailblazer whose vision shaped the landscape of Santa Barbara in the 1920s. Vhay designed several notable works during her career, many of which are still standing today. Her most noteworthy designs include the 903 Arborado Road, a Spanish Colonial Revival-style home, and the development with other noted architects and artists of the bungalows around El Caserio Lane, a private street. The street became an artist colony called El Caserio. In 1923, Vhay purchased Casa de Ramirez (Ramirez Adobe), one of Santa Barbara’s first adobe homes, which she restored and now sits at 835 Laguna Street. Her work in the Santa Barbara area helped establish the region as a center for the Spanish Revival architectural movement, and her designs continue to be celebrated for their beauty and functionality.

1116 N Milpas Street, pictured in 1920s.
Photo Credit: Gledhill Library, Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

Mission Santa Barbara, after the Santa Barbara earthquake, June 29, 1925. Credit: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Online Archive of California.

In 1925, during a period of revitalization following the ripples of the June 1925 earthquake, Vhay obtained the building permit for 1116 N Milpas Street. Likely constructed from used brick, a testament to the community’s resilience, this home was not just a dwelling but a statement of innovation and adaptation to the challenges of its time. Vhay’s involvement extended beyond mere construction; she was an integral part of the process from beginning to end. Upon its completion, Vhay entered the home into the ‘Better House and Garden Competition’ the Community Arts Association sponsored. The home’s quality design and construction were soon recognized, earning accolades, with 1116 N Milpas Street winning first prize in the competition.

“A hundred years from now your descendants will still be reaping the harvest of the labor for Better Homes in America.”

Herbert Hoover the Secretary of Commerce in 1922

1116 N Milpas Street transcends mere architectural merit; it embodies the spirit of the Better Homes Movement. Originating in 1922 with the founding of Better Homes in America, this movement sought to educate homeowners about quality design and construction, advocating for standardized home-building practices and neighborhood improvements. Women like Marie William Brown Melony were at its core, whose leadership paved the way for a new era of domestic reform and community empowerment.


As the automobile suburbs flourished, so did the ideals of comfort, convenience, and proper intercommunication of rooms embodied in homes like 1116 N Milpas Street. Designed to accommodate evolving lifestyles and technological innovations, these homes shifted towards informal and relaxed living—reflecting changing societal norms and aspirations. Today, 1116 N Milpas Street stands as a living testament to this bygone era, offering a glimpse into history and a tangible connection to the past. Its enchanting features—hardwood floors, a fireplace, vaulted ceilings, and numerous windows—encapsulate the essence of a bygone era while seamlessly integrating modern comforts for contemporary living.

Santa Barbara in the 1920s.

Beyond its historical significance, 1116 N Milpas Street offers a lifestyle of unparalleled charm and convenience. Situated near the iconic Santa Barbara Bowl and within proximity to downtown Santa Barbara and East Beach, it provides a perfect blend of tranquility and accessibility—a rare find in today’s bustling world. As we celebrate the history of 1116 N Milpas Street, let us admire its architectural beauty and honor the visionaries who shaped its story. For in this home lies a reminder of the transformative power of community, innovation, and the enduring spirit of Santa Barbara.

1116 N Milpas Street, is represented by the Marsha Kotlyar Estate Group. 

If you have any questions about this or any other property, please contact us at 805.565.4014 or

We Represent Exceptional Properties in Santa Barbara and Montecito.

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