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Spalding was born in Minneapolis in 1886,

but soon migrated to California, where he at-

tended Pomona College and Stanford University,

and eventually found his way into the oil indus-

try, working with the legendary Edward Doheny.

Along the way, he married Caroline Canfield,

better known as Carrie, a daughter of Doheny’s

partner, Charles Canfield. The Spaldings’ only

child, Deborah, was born in 1921.

In 1926, Silsby became the first mayor of Bev-

erly Hills, where he and Carrie owned a mansion

called Grayhall that still stands today. Also in

1926, they acquired Tecolote Ranch, way off in the

wilds of western Goleta.

“He bought the ranch for my mother, to give her

a place to play,” says grandson Godwin J. Pelissero Jr.

Spalding also used the ranch to raise horses

and to house his increasingly fabulous collection

of artistically wrought saddles and tack.


is a word for owl in Mexico and Central

America. The Tecolote Canyon property originally

was part of the Rancho Dos Pueblos land grant is-

sued to Nicolas Den during California’s Mexican

period (1821–1848). During the course of many

lawsuits, the original rancho was split up into

several smaller ranches, including the Spaldings’

spread, which they called Tecolote Ranch. An avid

yachtsman, Silsby Spalding contemplated building a

marina there, but his plans changed when his ocean

frontage turned out to be part of the fabulously pro-

ductive Ellwood Oil Field, discovered in 1928. He

and Carrie leased their beachfront bonanza to an oil

company and built themselves a house way up the

canyon, with views of the mountains rather than of

the oil derricks down at the shore.

To design this house they hired architect Wil-

liamMooser III, who in partnership with his father

had just designed and built the county’s new court-

house, the Spanish Colonial Revival masterpiece

Above – Mid-1930s photo of the Tecolote Ranch interior

courtyard and fountain with a view down Tecolote


Left – Silsby Spalding sitting in a custom Visalia Supreme

Saddle made by the Visalia Stock Saddle Company in

1927. The Marduenos, a family of bit-and-spur craftsmen

in Santa Barbara, etched the Tecolote Ranch owl brand

into the custom silver bit.




Montecito Magazine

Fall 2017–Winter 2018