We are driving out to Ojai today to sign final papers on this house:
I love the huge back yard and the oak trees that dot the property. I also prefer single story homes. We have plans to build an art studio. I will be happy forever.
Never heard of Ojai? It bumps right up against Santa Barbara and its really wonderful, here are some of the reasons why:
Ojai’s charms are many. The community has long been known as a haven for artists, musicians and health enthusiasts. A village ”as we locals call it”of about 8,000, Ojai is a vibrant place with so much natural beauty that it gained fame decades ago when the area was photographed to represent Shangri-La in the 1939 movie, The Lost Horizon.
Filled with delightful shops, art galleries and a host of places to retreat from the fast-paced lifestyle that can knot the nerves, Ojai invites you to walk its oak-shaded paths taking some time to drink in the serenity of it all.
The Chumash Indians are the first known residents of Ojai, and it is from their word ‘âhwaiâ’ meaning ‘moon’ that the name Ojai is derived. One of the oldest towns in Ventura County, Ojai was settled in the 1800s and incorporated as a city in 1921. Nestled in the Ojai Valley, the town is surrounded by peaks that give off a glow in the evening light known as the pink moment.
One of the prominent early settlers was Edward D. Libbey, a wealthy glass manufacturer who is responsible for the layout of the town. It was Robert Winfield who built the stately Arcade that today houses shops and eateries, but it was Libbey’s money and his vision that the town have a distinctive center faithful to its Spanish heritage. Thus Libbey teamed with architect Richard Requa from San Diego and together they created what today draws the eye and captures the heart.
In 1917 a fire took much of the town and offered Libbey a clean slate, so to speak. The western-style town was left in ashes; the Spanish Revival architecture that unites the area arose from those ashes to become stately landmarks and historic sites. Libbey constructed a home for himself on Foothill Road as his vision for the town was taking hold. The post office tower and the lovely pergola that covers the sidewalk in front of Libbey Park are fruits from the Libbey-Requa team. They also built the El Roblar Hotel, a building that houses the Oaks Spa today, an architectural gem that was restored to its former glory by the Cluff family with the help of historically minded architect and local citizen, David Bury.
The wonderful climate of the Ojai Valley has drawn many who wish to rejuvenate their health and enjoy the dry air and seemingly never-ending sunshine. Again, early settlers established the reputation of Ojai as a center of physical and mental health. Well known for its new age gurus and the coexistence of protestants, Catholics and yoga practitioners, a rich fabric of spiritualism has evolved with room for all.
In 1889 Sherman Thacher made the trip west in search of farmland. Instead, he started Thacher School, a school very much a part of the community to this day. William Thacher, Sherman’s brother, gathered some area tennis players and began a few minor competitions. From these humble beginnings, sprang The Ojai, the oldest amateur tennis event of its kind in the United States. The Ojai draws up to 30,000 spectators and is so large that it overtakes every public and many private courts in the Ojai Valley and beyond. Famous for its tea tents, the tournament challenges some of the top collegiate players in California and has offered locals and visitors an opportunity to see high caliber players like Billy Jean King, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Lindsay Davenport and other names that loom large in tennis.
Traditions are important to the life and lifestyle of Ojaians. When the Thomas Aquinas Church outgrew their quaint chapel on Ojai Avenue, it was purchased, repaired and now houses the Ojai Valley Museum.
With so much scenic beauty and a sense of place, it is little wonder that locals and visitors relish the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors of the Ojai Valley. The Ojai Valley Trail runs for more than nine miles with a parallel path for horses. If you want to meet half the town, that is a good place to start. Bicyclists, walkers, joggers and those exercising pets from dogs to pigs can be seen on the trail.
Among the outdoor treasures are the many parks that dot the city. In the middle of town is the pride of Ojai: Libbey Park. There mighty oaks give shade to a playground for children, and there are plenty of paths and picnic areas. So loved are the majestic oaks that the public mourns their removal, and despite the fact that a couple were diseased, a local man actually chained himself to one a few years ago to protest its removal. In the end the trees were considered too dangerous and too close to the children’s play area to allow them to stand and they were removed after a public service.
has more than 400 campsites and lots of picnic areas.
Ojai nurtures its art and artists. The Ojai Center for the Arts, Summer Art Stroll, Ojai Studio Artists Tour and Art in the Park offer venues for an abundance of artistic expression. Numerous galleries show the work of local artists and those from afar. A work of art is displayed publicly in the Arcade Plaza, a newly redeveloped area behind the shopping Arcade where a bronze poppy fountain sends water flowing freely over its broad base. Art is even shown in City Hall where the Ojai Arts Commission rotates artwork every few months to feature a different artist.
Ojai’s reputation as a golfing paradise brings many to the city. The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa is listed as one of the top 25 golf resorts in North America. The course is as challenging as it is lovely. The Inn undertook renovations a few years ago to emerge more beautiful than ever including an already famous spa that is available to work out any kinks picked up on the award-winning golf course. Soule Park, a beautiful public course that delivers great value for the money along with spectacular views, is just past downtown on Ojai Avenue.