Monday, October 27, 2008

In This Neighborhood, He Was the Character

I learned a few days ago that Joe Conley passed away last week.

Although you may not recognize the name, if you've lived in town any length of time you have probably passed by his house.

It's the one on Anacapa Street between Pedregosa and Islay. It's hard to miss with its marble facade and, what I estimate to be, a 20-foot tall wooden statue of what appears to be a Native American woman in front of it. (Where is the Carpinteria School Board when you need them?)

"Got Jesus?" signs adorn each of the wrought iron gates that face the street and the home and curtilage are always elaborately decorated for the Christmas holidays. In fact, some might argue that the place is always elaborately decorated, period.

Even if you're not familiar with the house you might have seen Conley driving around town in his white Toyota mini-van that was garishly festooned with reflectors.

Sadly, Conley won't be out in his front yard this holiday season dressed as Santa and passing out candy canes to curious passers-by. Joe, who was reputed to be 96 years old, had lived in the home for years with his wife Victoria, who was roughly half his age. Hey, snow on the roof, fire in the furnace.

The house was up for sale at the time of Joe's death. In fact, this is at least the second time the house has been on the market in the last few years. Reportedly, it once carried an asking price of $6 million.

Currently listed at $3,950,000 the seven bedroom, six bath, 5,000 square foot residence that sits on nearly two-thirds of an acre was built in 1981. There's a pool in the backyard along with a gazebo and a guest house.

Over time, I had heard many a story from real estate agents who had toured the home on broker's caravans confirming that the eccentricities that made the exterior of the residence stick out, extended to inside the house as well.

While there's marble on the outside, it's pretty much wall-to-wall linoleum once you walk in. And according to one agent who had gotten the tour of the house when it was previously up for sale, there was a commode in the back yard that was being used as a planter. It's not known whether the commode was hooked up to the plumbing.

Back at the front side of the house, there was no lush lawn that was typical of so many other homes in this upper east side neighborhood. Instead, a "cherry picker" was often parked in the driveway. Why the cherry picker? To make it easier for Joe to get up on the roof to decorate the house with holiday lights.

In a town with a lot of character, Joe was one of our more beloved characters. And a little bit of Santa Barbara lore had died along with him.

(Note: My thanks to Noozhawk for use of the photo that accompanies this post.)