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old Spring Tavern is an Ovington family heir- loom passed on from generation to genera- tion, each of which takes pride in maintain- ing the tavern’s rich legacy. But its history goes back even further, to the 1860s, when it began life as a stagecoach stop on the newly built road con- necting Santa Barbara to Los Olivos via the San Marcos Pass over the Santa Ynez Mountains. As it turned out, nothing much came with the door apart from the building itself, and a ramshackle collection of outbuildings. “When my mother, Adelaide, bought the prop- erty from Robert Doulton, in February 1941, there was only one piece of furniture in the tavern—a tall, hand-carved pine sideboard, a forerunner of the kitchen sink, made by a Frenchman who couldn’t pay his board bill,” Audrey Ovington once told an interviewer. One of the Ovingtons’ newly acquired out- buildings housed a bottled-water business that served Montecito, but it soon went bust. Adelaide and Audrey removed the machinery, put in a big stone fireplace, and converted the former bottling plant into the Log Cabin Bar, which today offers live music and dancing each weekend, along with the tavern’s famous tri-tip sandwiches. The tavern made culinary history in 1954 when it became the first restaurant to offer ranch dress- ing, invented at the nearby Hidden Valley Ranch. Audrey also kept adding to her collection of inter- esting outbuildings, including the original Ojai jail, built in 1874 and trucked over the Santa Ynez Mountains to the tavern property in 1959. “It was in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as the only jail that ever crossed a mountain,” says Wayne Wilson, husband of Audrey’s niece, Joy Ovington Wilson. The jail is not the tavern’s only Ojai relic. The bar in the main building came from Clarence “Pop” Soper’s training camp for boxers in Matilija Can- yon, northwest of Ojai, once the haunt of such leg- endary pugilists as Jack Dempsey. Audrey, who never married, was one of Santa Barbara’s best-known characters. After her mother died in 1972, she continued to run the tavern until her own death in 2005. “She treasured it,” Joy says. “This was her life.” Wildfires periodically threaten the property, but the venerable tavern thus far has escaped destruc- tion, much to the relief of its many regular visitors. Joy and Wayne and their family live in Ohio, but they visit Santa Barbara every summer. The Wilsons and their many longtime employees are conscien- tious custodians of the Cold Spring Tavern legacy. “It’s irreplaceable,” Wayne says. u 5995 Stagecoach Road, Santa Barbara 805-967-0066 ColdSpringTavern.com The Venerable Cold Spring Tavern By Mark Lewis • Art by Christine Flannery The stagecoach line closed in 1901, rendered obsolete by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which completed its coastline route that year. But the tav- ern lived on, having been purchased in 1900 by the Doulton family of Montecito. “Many times as a boy at Christmas I rode in a Model T Ford stake-back truck over the San Mar- cos Pass to Cold Spring to gather Christmas greens, mistletoe, pine and California holly for theMiramar Hotel which my family also owned at the time,” Har- old Doulton recalled in a letter to Audrey Ovington. The Great Depression pushed the Doultons into bankruptcy, leaving the tavern to be run by a care- taker. One day in 1941, its entrance, a carved-wood Dutch door, caught the eye of Adelaide Alexander Ovington, a writer and former actress, and the widow of the pioneer aviator Earle Ovington. “I want to buy that door and whatever comes with it,” Adelaide announced, as she snapped up the tavern and the surrounding 40 acres for $2,000. Above – Audrey Ovington, December 1971, maintained the rustic stagecoach-stop ambience for decades. She wrote several cookbooks, screenplays, TV shows and was a regular columnist for the Santa Barbara News-Press . Right – Audrey Ovington at the Cold Spring Tavern entrance, behind the carved-wood Dutch door that spurred her mother, Adelaide to purchase the 40-acre property in 1941. C 70 Montecito Magazine Fall 2018–Winter 2019 PHOTO COURTESY OVINGTON FAMILY HEIRS & ROBERT CAMPBELL