Historical notes on polo in Carpinteria

Editor’s note: Nigel Gallimore submitted these historical notes in response to a previous Throwback Thursday on Santa Barbara Polo published in Vol. 25, No. 26 and a letter published in Vol. 25, No. 27.

At the turn of the century, there were many more than three polo clubs in the United States. Of those clubs, it is fair to say that today Santa Barbara Polo Club is the third oldest one still existing.

Here is some background information on polo in the area. Polo in Santa Barbara has a long heritage. The first two games of polo that residents of Santa Barbara witnessed were at the same location but played five years apart. The first was when residents witnessed a game on April 27, 1894. It was an exhibition match between teams from Santa Monica and Riverside at the Agricultural Park’s Floral Festival. Then in 1898, a polo team was formed by members of Santa Barbara Country Club (where the Music Academy is now) and the club played their first game at the Agricultural Park on May 19, 1899.

The Agricultural Park flooded in wet weather and players decide they needed an alternative field. This resulted in the Westside dirt field being used for games in 1900. By 1902, local interest in the sport had increased tremendously and numerous dirt polo fields began in the area. One of the first Santa Barbara men to play polo was Clinton B. Hale who became the first president of the Santa Barbara County Polo Association. Another avid early player was Dr. Elmer J. Boeseke Sr., (mayor of Santa Barbara in 1907 and 1911) who arranged in 1911 to have the Santa Barbara polo group recognized by the (United States) Polo Association thus marking the official birth of the organized Santa Barbara Polo Club.

Between 1899 and 1932 there were seven separate private polo fields in Santa Barbara and Montecito. They all gradually disappeared. The club did eventually relocate to its current location at Carpinteria and the first game played was February 1926, when the visiting Midwick team from Alhambra roundly trounced the Santa Barbara players 10 to 1, thereby inaugurating, if somewhat ignominiously, the new Fleischmann polo property.

In 1936, the Jackson family became part owners of Santa Barbara Polo Club and eventually owned the complete complex. In 1937, Ann Jackson (who played polo and had a ladies team) built the vintage cottage style polo clubhouse. The Jackson family eventually sold the club in 1963 to Rudy Tonng of Hawaii. In 1975, the club was put into trusteeship and is leased to the SBPRC Management Company, Inc.

The first Opening Day Sunday of the 2019 season is Sunday, May 5. Members of the public are always welcome to attend all the polo games.

The ladies dominated the field at this 1937 polo match played at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club. At that time, construction of the condominiums was still many decades away, and the field was framed by an unobstructed view of the foothills.

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