Montecito is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Santa Barbara County, California, located east of the City of Santa Barbara. It is the wealthiest community in the county and one of the wealthiest in the country, with a number of celebrities either owning homes or residing there.
The site of present-day Montecito, along with the entire south coast of Santa Barbara County, was inhabited for over 10,000 years by the Chumash Indians. The Spanish arrived in the 18th century but left the region largely unsettled while they built the Presidio and Mission Santa Barbara farther west.
In the middle of the 19th century, the area was known as a haven for bandits and highway robbers, who hid in the oak groves and canyons, preying on traffic on the coastal route between the towns that developed around the missions. By the end of the 1860s, the bandit gangs were gone and Italian settlers arrived. Finding an area reminiscent of Italy, they built farms and gardens similar to those they had left behind in Italy. Around the end of the 19th century, wealthy tourists from the eastern and midwestern United States began to buy land in the area. It was near enough to Santa Barbara for essential services while still being secluded.
Desirable weather and several nearby hot springs offered the promise of comfortable, healthy living, in addition to the availability of affordable land.
The Montecito Hot Springs Hotel was built near the largest of the springs, in a canyon north of the town center and directly south of Montecito Peak, in Hot Springs Canyon. The hotel burned down in 1920; it was replaced a few years later by the smaller Hot Springs Club.