If you walk out past the edge of Isla Vista, you walk back into the decades before UCSB was established (in 1954), finding semi-abandoned structures from a ranch and a marine base sited on dirt roads in near-native marshland and fields.
This barn was built in the 1920s for Colonel Colin Campbell, who had decided to buy an old ranch next to the ocean for his retirement years. He fixed it up with gentleman-rancher luxuries for his family and their guests: a Spanish Revival red-tile-roof mansion with a courtyard, a beach cabin on the sand (with a stone fireplace), a concrete dovecote, and a stylish barn, all designed by local architects.
Then he died a few years later. But luckily the land was turned into the Devereux school for developmentally disabled people, which preserved most of the area as a lovely natural setting for its students. The school adapted the mansion building for its purposes, and the other buildings slowly decayed in place - including the barn, which is close to what is now Isla Vista.
The barn was damaged by an earthquake in 1978, so it can't be used anymore - which is too bad, since right next door to the barn is UCSB's West Campus stables, where a handful of students board and care for their horses - you'll see them sometimes out in the fields here, trotting along picturesquely. They used to use this barn, but now every year the side-sheds just fall apart a little more and get a little more graffiti.
So the old barn sits peacefully out at the edge of the student neighborhood, not visible from the street, just a mysterious surprise for students curious enough to walk along the trails as a stolen break from homework, or a celebration of essays turned in just on time. A barn in Isla Vista just doesn't make any sense - unless you wander a little farther and find the stone cross overlooking the ocean (marking a grave that is actually no longer there since Campbell's remains were moved back to some other ancestral home), because a stone cross with carved Irish knotwork next to UCSB is weird enough that a student might start googling. And then you end up tracing the history of this place through PDFs posted online by enthusiast professors and campus planning processes, and you fall in love with this beautiful and half-forgotten corner of Santa Barbara County.
- UCSB's Campbell Ranch Research Project
- "The Story of the Campbells: From Montecito to Goleta and Back" by Anita Guerrini in Montecito Magazine Spring-Summer 2010