In 1929-30 Santa Barbara was one of the most expensive residences to be built in Brisbane at a cost of 4000 pounds to its owner, the widow and ubiquitous publican Sarah Balls.
Designed by Brisbane’s prominent Spanish Mission architect Eric Trewern (who operated a highly successful practice from 1920-1959), it was considered to be one of the finest of its new-fangled style at the time (the other being El Nido at Hamilton) and featured in many a home publication, leading to a proliferation of the style in Brisbane’s suburbs.
Before Mrs Ball acquired the site it had been part of the estate of the original grand sprawling villa, Merthyr, that had occupied the site and was home to prominent 19th century figure Sir Samuel Griffith. He in turn had acquired the land from Pastoralist and politician Robert MacKenzie who had bought it from the original white owner and settler John McConnel (brother of David McConnel, the original owner of Bulimba House) in 1844.
Sarah had a brief sojourn at Santa Barbara with its much-talked about features – Cordova tiled roof, bell-like chimney, twisted ‘barley sugar’ columns, octagonal honeycomb leadlight window panes and planter boxes – before passing away in 1932. Her daughter then resided there for a number of years before passing it on to her son.
Today it remains relatively intact with its original ornamental subtropical plantings, curved path and distinctive features.