Community members work to get Bessie the Cow back on her feet
Santa Barbara community members are coming together to support the rebuilding of the historic local landmark “Bossie the Cow.”
After standing atop the roof of 901 N. Milpas for more than 80 years, on the morning of Aug. 7 Old Bossie, the beloved historic plaster cow was strangely found destroyed and in pieces.
The building Old Bossie called home was originally built in 1939 to house the Live Oak Dairy. The building’s original owners paid sculptor Alfred Kuhn to build the plaster cow as homage to the cows who pastured in Montecito and provided fresh milk and cream to local residents.
In addition to standing over the local restaurant known as Bossie’s Kitchen, Old Bossie has been the icon of local family owned ice cream parlor, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, which has operated inside the building since the 1960s. Bossie is also a part of a rich tradition with Santa Barbara High School, where seniors have been sneaking onto the roof to paint the old cow in different colors for more than 50 years.
“We arrived at work today to find that Bossie was no longer on her podium and she had fallen onto the roof and was broken into many pieces,” owner and CEO of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, Michael Palmer, said. “My first question was ‘how did this happen?’ But my first feeling was sadness.”
Mr. Palmer told the News-Press it remains unclear what exactly happened to the statue and said he doesn’t know, at this point, whether it was vandalism, old infrastructure, or if Old Bossie herself just rotted out.
As they figure out what happened to Bossie, Mr. Palmer said the more important issue is when and how they get her back to where she stood for all those years. McConnell’s does not own the building so he said they are currently in the process of working with a third party to see what they can do to get Bossie back on her feet.
Going forward, Mr. Palmer said he is already planning to organize some sort of community benefit to help support the costs of rebuilding the statue, but has already heard of several Santa Barbara community members and groups taking action in fundraising to get Old Bossie back as soon as possible.
One community organizer, Dori Koehler, has been living in Santa Barbara for 25 years and is married to Bruce Koehler, the owner of local landscaping company, Down to Earth Landscapes.
Mrs. Koehler told the News-Press she started her GoFundMe “Heal Bossie” almost immediately after hearing the news of her fall. She said her husband, as a fifth generation Santa Barbara native and graduate of Santa Barbara High has always shared stories about the statue and its importance to the community.
“He and I both felt very devastated for what we saw happen to something that has been here for so long,” Mrs. Koehler said. “The building has a deep emotional connection for my in-laws and my family.”
Mrs. Koehler said she plans to donate the funds of her “Heal Bossie” fundraising campaign to wherever it is needed most. She has already raised more than $600 in just a few days. Mrs. Koehler also said she has heard of many other alumni groups who have also started raising money individually and hopes all the groups can find a way to unite in their fundraising efforts in the near future.
Mr. Palmer told the News-Press he is planning on connecting with fundraising groups like Mrs. Koehler’s this week in an effort to organize an undivided group of people to raise the money together to make it happen.
“Basically, we want to see the building and the business made whole again,” Mrs. Koehler said. “Especially with a pandemic going on, we just want to do everything we can do to help.”
For more information about Mrs. Koehler’s GoFundMe fundraising campaign “Heal Bessie” visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/23kjw6579c.