Montecito and neighboring Santa Barbara are known the world over for stunning architecture and an impressive list of contributing architects who have designed stately homes and structures that perfectly complement the area’s breathtaking landscape. None however, are as acclaimed as the legendary Reginald Davis Johnson.
Reginald Johnson was born in July of 1882 in Westchester New York. Attending a series of reputable educational institutions, Johnson earned a Bachelor of Arts from Williams College in 1907 before attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree. After graduation Johnson married Kathleen Bushnell Leupp and they moved to Pasadena, California. It was there that Johnson began his architectural career and in 1922 he opened an office in Los Angeles.
In 1922, he began his work in the Santa Barbara area with the Jefferson House in Montecito. Down the road, Johnson embarked on his most famous design, the seaside Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel. Now owned and operated as the Four Seasons Biltmore, the hotel completed construction in 1926 earning Johnson a gold medal from the Architectural League of New York. Several years later, Johnson designed the Bath House and a collection of cottages for the hotel, for which he received an award from the city of Santa Barbara. Additional contributions to the area include the Chase House and DeMott house in Hope Ranch and the Gould House in Montecito, among others.
It has been said that Johnson’s prestige comes from his ability to “work into harmony the historic Spanish tradition, the climatic feeling of the area and the appropriateness of the Modern needs.” Signatures of his designs include a mingling of Mediterranean and traditional Anglo-Saxon styles, and congruence between building’ the site and surrounding landscape. Johnson’s final commission, the Santa Barbara Post Office, completed in 1937 followed by Johnson’s announcement of his retirement as an architect.
During his retirement, Johnson was involved in organizations for low-rent housing at the local, state and national levels and he is credited as a co-founder of the Los Angeles Citizen Housing Council. During the 1940s, he contributed to the construction of the private rental project, the Baldwin Hills Village.
Reginald Davis Johnson’s homes not only supply Santa Barbara and Montecito with significant architectural design, but also contribute to the area’s rich history and sense of community.
Information supplied by Santa Barbara Architecture, Third Edition.