Emanuele Orazio Fenzi, better known as Francesco Franceschi (1843-1924), was an Italian horticulturist responsible for vastly increasing the botanical variety of Santa Barbara (introducing more than 900 species). He was also for awhile the primary landowner on the Riviera, a loaf-shaped hill overlooking the city’s downtown. Most of that hill is now covered with houses, but a large part that isn’t is what remains of the Franceschi estate: 18 acres called Franceschi Park, featuring a crumbling mansion and the bust above, carved into the top of a boulder on the property.
The city doesn’t have much to say about Franceschi, with a website devoted to the park that goes one paragraph deep. This makes sense, because the state of neglect in the park is extreme. I won’t go into details, because they’re well presented all these stories:
- Edhat: This old house. June 23, 2005. And Franceschi Park, September 24, 2010.
- Atlas Obscura: Franceschi Park—The home of one of California’s most important horticulturalists wilts amidst a lovely park, by Kirsten Cunningham, undated.
- Noozhawk: Santa Barbara’s Historic Franceschi House Faces Uncertain Future Planning commissioner and former Mayor Sheila Lodge calls for city staff to propose action on the dilapidated structure built in 1907. By Joshua Molina (@JECMolina). January 16, 2015.
- Noozhawk: City of Santa Barbara Appears Poised to Bulldoze Historic Franceschi House on Riviera—Franceschi’s great-great grandson sends a letter with a last-minute plea to the council to postpone its vote and calling for preservation of the 108-year-old building, By Joshua Molina (@JECMolina). June 22, 2015.
- Independent: Should the Franceschi House Be Saved or Bulldozed? Council Gives Pearl Chase Society Six More Months to Find Restoration Funds. By Keith Hamm. Thursday, June 25, 2015.
Wikipedia, at the top link above, goes deep too. So does this 2002 Pacific Horticulture story, which suggests with this photo—
—that the bust above isn’t a bad likeness.
But that boulder and Franceschi’s head are going to be shards on the road soon if the city, or somebody, doesn’t save it. Simply put, the ground under it is giving way. Take a look. Here’s the bust, on its boulder, a few feet above the ground that has fallen down to Mission Ridge Road below:
And here you can see the failing slope, and the rubble that has fallen from within it onto the road:
I shot that a couple days ago, in a break between this winter’s record breaking rainstorms. And here’s a closer look at the slo-mo landslide happening immediately below the sculpture:
Saving Franceschi’s bust is surely an easier job than saving his house. What I’m hoping here is that publishing this blog post will stir up some interest.
We had Luther Burbank, you had this guy, eh?
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