A prominent member of the community, Joseph Sexton is best remembered for his nursery business, which flourished in Santa Barbara and Goleta from 1852 until his death in 1917. He introduced countless plant species to the area and provided many of the trees and ornamentals that enriched the beautiful gardens for which Santa Barbara has been celebrated.
One of his most successful crops was pampas grass. The grass had been grown in the United States since 1848, but it garnered little attention until Joseph Sexton single handedly started a fashion craze during the late 19th century at the height of the Victorian Age. Most of the million plumes – the top grade of which was greater than 26 inches long with five foot long stems – went to London and Hamburg where they were dyed various colors. Americans in New York preferred their plumes snowy white.
When the family grew (there were eventually fourteen at the table), so did their need for space. In 1880, Joseph and his wife, Lucy, commissioned Santa Barbara’s premier architect, Peter Barber, to design the Italianate house which now serves as the centerpiece of Pacifica Suites. Located near Old Town Goleta, the “Joseph & Lucy Foster Sexton House” was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
“We are very pleased to create an exhibit for the Sexton House, honoring this prominent local family that had a very close connection to the Stow family and Rancho La Patera,” says Goleta Valley Historical Society Director, Amanda De Lucia. “This is an opportunity for us to share our collections with our community and visitors, and to showcase one of the influential families whose contributions are seen to this day.”