Now a popular hiking destination, Knapp’s Castle in the Santa Barbara hills was once the luxurious home of a chemical magnate who had the good fortune of selling the estate just weeks before it burned.
Built in 1916 by George Knapp, founder of Union Carbide, the posh estate included 5 bedrooms, an organ room, and even an observatory. The home was so secluded that Knapp had to build a new road just to have the place built. However the rich digs would not last long. In 1940, only five weeks after Knapp had sold the posh grounds a forest fire raged through the grounds, utterly destroying all but the stone skeleton of the structure.
The land remains under private ownership, although the site has been landmarked by the county, preventing any restoration or development on the site. The remnants of the stone frame still sit at the top of the hill, attracting hikers and photographers looking for a magical backdrop and maybe hoping that some of Knapp’s luck will rub off on them.
Update as of June 2020: The site is closed to visitors and is under new construction.
Know Before You Go
From US-101 in Santa Barbara take Hwy-154/State St exit north for 10.5 miles. Turn right on East Camino Cielo for 2.9 miles to a parking pull out to the right, across from an unmarked gate on the left. From the gate it is a half-mile walk to the ruins.