In 1959, Solana ceased to exist as a residence and embarked on a bold new chapter as home to a leading American think tank: the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. 

The Center, led by Dr. Robert Hutchins, sought “to clarify the issues involved in maintaining a free and just society…and to advance the understanding of those issues by promoting discussion of them among the American people.” 

The Center was based on the ideals of ancient Greek academies where problems could be resolved through dialogue, and spirited discourse was encouraged.  For nearly two decades, world leaders, public officials, leading scientists and intellectuals, eminent journalists and Hollywood figures participated in events at the Center.  During its tenure at Solana, the Center produced hundreds of reports and papers such as treatises on medical malpractice and illegal immigration.

Under the direction of Hutchins, Solana was temporarily called “El Parthenon,” a tongue-in-cheek nod to the marriage of Solana’s Greek and Spanish architecture.  During the mid-1970s and under financial distress, the Center sold off parts of Solana’s vast grounds before ultimately moving its headquarters to the University of California Santa Barbara campus.  For the next decade, the Center operated at UCSB before merging with the Los Angeles based Institute for National Strategy.  

At the end of his 1981 book, Court of Reason, author Frank Kelly described Solana, her beauty, and her influence. “The Center had made its mark on me, as it had on hundreds of people who entered the sunlit conference rooms on Eucalyptus Hill to wrestle with the agonies of the world. The beauty of the place aroused guilt in some of the scholars who were there, and jealousy in some of the visitors who thought it had too much splendor. A visitor asked me once, ‘What did you ever do to deserve this?’ No answer seemed possible.”