San Roque’s history is far more scandalous than the family- friendly reputation it has today. The Chumash, Spanish Dons, and Gold Rush Bandits once occupied the land that comprises what we know today as Ontare, Foothill, Alamar and State. The land was named after St. Roque, from 14th century France who was the patron saint of invalids.
The Chumash were some of the very first settlers. If you drive near the Foothill Road bridge you will come to a grove of ancient oaks and sycamores where Chumash Indians congregated. Along the trails of the San Roque Canyon there are still traces of sandstone, which is polka-dotted with mortars that the Chumash had designed and carefully crafted.
From April 1847 until September 1848, Santa Barbara was under military occupation by Company F of Stevenson’s Volunteer New York Regiment. This regiment consisted of quite a few “invalids” from the Bowery and Hell’s Kitchen. Post Gold Rush, a majority of these ex-soldiers decided to make their permanent residence in Santa Barbara, naming their leader Jack Powers, who was former sergeant. Powers went on to become one of California’s most notorious bandits and gamblers of the 1850’s .The Powers gang had virtual control over Santa Barbara, and after a decade long crime spree, word got out that a sizable force was being sent from Washington to confront Powers and his Gang, so they disbanded and left town. He and his gang had a hideout in the San Roque Canyon, which was supposedly located at what we now know as 134 N. Ontare Rd.
A San Roque resident of over 20 years, Rachel Hochhauser describes the area as having “a wonderful neighborhood feel, where one actually knows most of their neighbors,” and she enjoys the “accessibility to other parts of Santa Barbara and the views of the mountains from her backyard.” She also loves “Walking to Stevens Park and biking to the Natural History Museum, Mission and Rose Garden.” “Nature is surprisingly accessible,” she explains. When asked about local San Roque favorites, she mentions Vices and Spices as having “a great tea selection,” and chooses “Harry’s for a glimpse of Santa Barbara history while you have one of their famous stiff drinks.” Her pick for the best San Roque restaurant is “Via Maestra, because it simply has the best Italian food in town.” She also explains how over the years, as more people have moved into the area, everyone has been fixing up their homes so the quality of the surrounding neighborhood has steadily improved.
After the building boom of the 1950’s, San Roque has become the quintessential SB family neighborhood, and represents some of the finest Santa Barbara real estate. Boasting curved tree-lined streets, lush greenery, beautiful parks, excellent schools, multiple grocery stores and shopping plazas, San Roque has it all while being just a couple miles from the beach.
SAN ROQUE SNAPSHOT
- 3 Parks: San Roque Park, Willowglen, and Stevens Park, which all intertwine into the neighborhood landscape.
- 3 High API (Academic Performance Index) schools: Peabody Charter, Monte Vista Elementary, and Hope School
- 3 main shopping centers: Loreto Plaza, La Cumbre Plaza, and 5 Points.
- SB Landmarks: Harry’s Plaza Cafe, Petrini’s, Via Maestra
- Mainly single family homes
- Walking/ Biking friendly
Photo courtesy of: Walter A. Tompkins Neighborhood Histories