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A Timely Idea: Part Six

This series, A Timely Idea, tells the history of the Music Academy of the West – a story of innovation, rising to meet great challenges, and transformational philanthropy. Be sure to catch up on parts onetwothreefour, and five.

Part Six: Travels and Treasures

Once their splendid new Santa Barbara home was remodeled to their liking, J.P. and Mary Jefferson set about making Miraflores their new base of operations. They were joined in their beachside abode by their staff, including maids, a cook, a butler, and two of the most important players in the Jefferson story: Carl Lundahl, their chauffeur and the caretaker of Miraflores, and Helen Marso, J.P. Jefferson’s longtime personal assistant.
Carl Lundahl was born in Sweden in 1893 and immigrated to the United States in 1911. He served briefly in the U.S. Army in the waning days of World War One, during which time he became an American citizen. He also worked for some time at his brother’s dairy farm in Warren, Pennsylvania, which is where he first became acquainted with the Jeffersons. Lundahl began working for the Jeffersons shortly thereafter, and he and his wife Arabella accompanied them when they relocated to Santa Barbara. Helen Marso was born in Pennsylvania in 1881, the eighth of ten children. After graduating from secretarial school, she went to work for John P. Jefferson in Warren, Pennsylvania. Jefferson was immediately impressed by her intellect and talents, and soon Helen Marso had become his right-hand woman. She served for several years assisting him with his business interests in Warren before, like Lundahl, joining the Jeffersons in their cross-country move. For J.P and Mary Jefferson, Santa Barbara was a retirement destination. After all, by the time they moved into the finished house they were 67 and 54, respectively. But the Jeffersons did not spend their retirement sitting idly in their mansion. Far from it. They owned a yacht, the Invader, and travelled the world extensively during the decades following their westward move. A detailed record of one such trip—a 10-month cruise to the South Seas—survives thanks to Carl Lundahl, who served as the Chief Engineer of a 15-person crew and kept a meticulous log of this 1922 voyage.
The Jeffersons travelled to Europe on a number of occasions, as well, and were there when the Santa Barbara earthquake of 1925 did major damage to the city. Luckily, their house and property escaped mostly unscathed. J.P. Jefferson wrote in August of that year to Carl Lundahl, who had stayed behind for that trip, that “we were certainly fortunate to get off so well.” He added that he and Mary “have had a long and interesting time,” and that “while in Spain . . . we had good comfortable cars and very good chauffeurs.” On one of these trips to Spain, Mary Jefferson sent back a shipment of gorgeous tiles depicting the story of Don Quixote, which she used to decorate a small courtyard that still exists on the property. John Percival Jefferson passed away on September 2, 1934 following a long illness. He was 82 years old. Mary Jefferson continued to live in their Miraflores home for the next 16 years, surrounded by items and furnishings collected during their voyages around the world. She was accompanied during these years by the ever-loyal Carl Lundahl and Helen Marso. She remained active in the Santa Barbara community, even donating to the Music Academy of the West’s scholarship fund during its early days. Mary Jefferson passed away at the age of 85 years old on June 21, 1950.
J.P. and Mary Jefferson left behind no children. Their named heir was their niece, Alice Wetmore Brann, whose father had helped the Jeffersons to secure the Miraflores property from the Santa Barbara Country Club. After several specific bequeathals—including $75,000 and a beachside cottage for Carl Lundahl—Brann was left with the bulk of their fortune, a large estate in Pennsylvania, and Miraflores. She did not have any desire to keep the Santa Barbara property, however, and announced her intention to sell it. Helen Marso, who had inherited $150,000 and some stock from the Jeffersons, bought the estate for the sum of $100,000. She then gave that property—where she had lived with the Jeffersons for over three decades—to a new conservatory then finishing its third year of operation: the Music Academy of the West. – Henry Michaels Resonance editor, Audience Services and Community Access Manager, Music Academy of the West
Sources: The research of Konnie Gault

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