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Santa Barbara Women's Club Makes New Friendships and Memories

By Pamela Sosnowski

For over a century the Santa Barbara Women's Club has helped bring together women of all backgrounds to enjoy camaraderie and enrich the local Mission Canyon community with social and cultural events. When the club was formed in 1892, meetings took place in the homes of members. Today, they gather for their activities at a sprawling Spanish-style building surrounded by giant oak trees that also doubles as a dazzling wedding and event venue.

"Within a few years club membership outgrew several locations in Santa Barbara," Sue Graff, the club's office administrator, said. "In 1927, the current property at 670 Mission Canyon Road was purchased. The club hired the architectural firm Edwards, Plunkett and Howell, the same architects who designed the Arlington Theater in 1931, to design the new clubhouse. Since opening the new Spanish Colonial style building in 1928, the club has expanded. In 1954 the adjacent parking lot was added, the kitchen was enlarged, and both the flower arranging room and the lovely Garden Room were added."

Now 90 years old, Rockwood, as the building is affectionately known, has become one of the most sought-after venues for weddings, parties, fundraisers, and other events, offering privacy in the lush California foothills. Its architectural details include stucco walls, iron chandeliers, and a red tile roof. A large dance floor is inside the main reception hall, and marriage ceremonies can be held outside on the stone patio. Events are limited to one per weekend so that each client may enjoy the convenience of early property access and set-up. Rental time needed for preparation and cleanup is offered free to each client. Club staff can also make recommendations for catering, entertainment, decor and more for any occasion and two employees remain on-site during each event to ensure it runs smoothly.

When it's not being rented for private events, Rockwood is where its members enjoy tea and luncheons and organize a variety of member and community events. Interested potential new members may request a guest pass to get a taste for what the club has to offer.

"Over the years the club has hosted hundreds of musical, dance, and theater groups, in addition to great speakers, film makers, artists, and the like," Graff said. "Past speakers have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Carl Sandberg, and Helen Keller, among other dignitaries and talented entertainers. Today, our presenters include historians, musical groups, and world adventurers."

The club has consistently received 5/5 ratings on wedding sites and was a Couples' Choice award winner in 2015. Graff is confident that along with its spectacular venue, the club's members will continue their mission for years to come.

"Our beautiful Rockwood continues to house our many activities," she said. "We are truly grateful to the many enterprising, loyal and hardworking women, both past and present, who have managed to make the Santa Barbara Woman's Club a long-lived and much loved resource for the women of the community."

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