Long before patio dining came to 5096 Carpinteria Ave., the property across from Maple Avenue housed the McLean family, including a solemn Baptist minister and his son, a real estate agent with a photography hobby that landed him a spot in Life Magazine.
Thomas McLean fought in the Civil War before becoming a minister in 1870. When sent to Carpinteria to work at the Baptist Church on the corning of Carpinteria and Linden avenues, Thomas brought along his wife, Ellen, and their five children.
The family first lived in an old two-story house on Carpinteria Avenue near Elm Avenue. Later, the McLeans purchased five acres and built a house along Carpinteria Avenue (then the Coast Highway) in the location now occupied by Teddy’s by the Sea.
According to a letter from Marjorie Cadwell Edmunson excerpted in Jayne Craven Caldwell’s book “Carpinteria as it was,” Reverend McLean “was a stern, god-fearing man.”
He and his wife raised a jovial, good natured son, Bert, who remained Carpinteria’s most eligible bachelor until his death at age 90. According to a document written for the Carpinteria Valley Historical Society by Jenny Annear, “Being friendly and outgoing, (Bert) was a favorite escort for many of the single women in the community.”
Bert opened Carpinteria’s first real estate office in 1917, Annear stated. He shocked the conservative little town by taking on a female business partner, Miss Lottie Shepard.
Today, Bert is best remembered for his photography hobby. His flower photos appeared in many seed catalogues, and about 4,000 of his locally shot photos are archived at the Carpinteria Valley Museum of History, where they provide an important chronicle of businesses, landscapes and people of days past.
Bert’s national splash arrived when Life Magazine published his photo of a steer with its head stuck in a barrel, horns protruding from the base. The publication earned Bert $500—big money for a hobbiest photographer.
In its youth, the City of Carpinteria moved into the old McLean house. Immediately after the 1965 incorporation election, the city was headquartered in the building on Carpinteria Avenue that now houses Gonzo’s Cycles. City Hall moved into the McLean house in July of 1966 and relocated in July of 1967.
In 1971, Kentucky Fried Chicken moved into the McLean house-turned-City Hall, and in the late 1980s Chuy’s brought in its beach town brand of Mexican food. Chuy’s seamlessly transitioned into Cabo’s Baja Grill and Cantina in 2001. History continued with Cielo Restautant in 2015, The Nugget in 2016 and the property’s current occupant, Teddy’s by the Sea.