The house was constructed for Mrs Sarah Balls, the widow of Brisbane builder turned publican John Balls who had died in 1895. Mrs Balls continued the hotel business after her husband's death, and she must have made a good fist of it too - at one time she owned the Stock Exchange Hotel in the city, which still stands and is still one of the favoured watering holes of the CBD.
Santa Barbara was built by DF Roberts to a design by EP (Percy) Trewern who became an extremely successful residential architect during the inter-war period. He also worked on commercial buildings - Inchcolm on Wickham Terrace is one of his designs. Here is a photograph of Santa Barbara from around 1936.
And here is a recent photograph.
The land on which this house stands was formerly part of the grounds of Merthyr, a grand home owned by former Queensland premier and the first Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Samuel Griffith. Griffith died at Merthyr in 1920 and the land was subdivided in 1929. The house was retained at that time, with some of Sir Samuel's children residing there. Mrs Balls obtained a portion of the severed land and Santa Barbara was built there. This is what Griffith's house Merthyr looked like prior to later being demolished (in 1963) because no funds were available to maintain it.
Merthyr (named after the town in Wales where Griffith was born) was a large brick home designed by James Cowlishaw and built during the 1870s. It had a slate roof and cedar interior, with the main feature being the lavish ballroom in the centre of the house. It's a shame the house has been lost, but its name lives on in nearby Merthyr Park and Merthyr Rd, one of New Farm's major roads.
Click here for a Google Map.