In 1915, a Santa Barbara city councillor had the idea of building a campground so that motorists touring the coast would “lay in a supply of groceries, take in our theaters, spend a little money, and get an idea of what Santa Barbara really is.” It opened in 1922 and has been operating ever since. But not everyone has a travel trailer, so they have recently added some beautifully restored and redesigned Airstream trailers to the Santa Barbara Auto Camp so that anyone can stay there.
“Each Airstream has been uniquely designed to connect yesterday with today, without giving up modern comforts,” says [architect Matthew] Hofmann. “Our spaces also help connect people with their inner souls and outer environment… and one way we did this was to maintain simple lines and remove the clutter.”
Each Airstream comfortably sleeps four people and has been locally renovated in Santa Barbara with sustainable construction methods and materials. The units feature all new, all electric appliances, home-style fixtures, and creature comforts found in luxury lodging. Each Airstream also comes with its own outdoor barbecue grill and complimentary use of two retro-styled Huffy beach cruisers and riding helmets.
As hotels and motels for travelers became more common, auto camps like the one in Santa Barbara fell out of fashion. According to the Montecito Journal:
Auto courts were becoming suspect in the 1940s. Then FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover attacked motels and auto camps in an article called “Camps of Crime.” The anonymity of auto court life versus hotel life had led to a class of travelers who were one step above tramps, said some. Communities no longer were so welcoming of these visitors who became known as “tin can tourists.” Citizens were critical of the dilapidated condition of the auto courts as well as the loose morals of these travelers.
Trailer parks have a bad reputation to this day, and most cities are trying to get rid of them. This is a real shame; they are a form of land tenure that can work very well for tiny houses and small prefabricated units, since they have so many shared facilities and do not require land ownership. It is great to see yet another that is being brought back to life.