SBTHP Introduces Olive Oil Soap

by Melanie Magolan

At the end of every year, SBTHP hosts olive picking at Santa Inez Mission Mills. The olives are pressed into oil and bottled. It’s a big seller in the gift shop, with people waiting all year for the new batch of the Olio Nuovo. It’s also very popular with Santa Barbara tourists.

The olive grove at the Santa Inés Mission Mills. Photo by Christa Clark.

However, there are more uses for olive oil than just eating. This year, we decided to return to a project that had been conceptualized a few years ago, and turn it to soap. SBTHP found local small-batch soap maker William Smariga, and his company Salty Bros Soap, and a partnership emerged. The result? Three types of soap, plus lip balm.

Olives at the Mission Mills. Photo by Tim Aceves.
How Does Olive Oil Become Soap? A Quick Science Lesson

All soap has the same basic recipe: oils, mixed with sodium hydroxide – also known as lye. The types of oil vary, and other ingredients such as colorants and scents can be added, but the chemistry is the same. When combined, the oils and lye react and go through a process called saponification. The resulting molecule has two sides, one of which is attracted to water (hydrophilic), and other of which repels water (hydrophobic). The hydrophobic side attaches to the oils and dirt on your skin or other surfaces, and the hydrophilic side attaches to water and washes away, bringing those oils and dirt along for the ride.

Castile soap, or olive oil soap, is one of the earliest types of soap in existence. It would have been one of the varieties available to residents of early California, either on the annual supply ships, or made locally once olive trees were established enough to bear fruit.

The Soap Process

After extensive consultations with our soap expert, we decided to make two batches of soap. One is a pure Castile soap, unscented and uncolored. Although Castile soap does not create a lather, it is great for people with allergies to scents and other additives, and has many household uses.  The other is a mix of olive oil and coconut oil, split in half to make two scents.. The scents we ultimately decided on were citrus and rosemary, as scents that are appropriate for both the Presidio and Casa de la Guerra’s time periods.

We also made the last-minute decision to make lip balm, in addition to the soap. 12 oz. of olive oil can make over two hundred tins of lip balm. The balms are scented with peppermint essential oil.

SBTHP’s entire olive oil-related line. Photo by Tim Aceves.

The soap was delivered in February, but had to rest for a month to fully dry and reach its final size. This rest also allowed the initially overpowering scent of the rosemary soap to mellow out. All three varieties of soap, as well as the lip balm, are currently available in the Visitor’s Center Gift Shop, at the Casa de la Guerra, and on our online store.

Melanie Magolan is the Director of Visitor Experience for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

New SBTHP Spring Programs Respond to Community Feedback

by Kevin McGarry

In 2019, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) joined the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ISCS), an organization that supports the work of historic sites as places of memory in the effort to create a more just future. Through ICSC, SBTHP received a pandemic-related federal grant from the Institute of Museum & Library Sciences (IMLS) designed to help communities recover from the pandemic. This funding, received in 2021, provided resources to evaluate our educational programs. To conduct this work, we wanted to hear and learn from diverse community members to ensure that new programming would be more inclusive and resonate with the culturally diverse students we serve.

To accomplish this, SBTHP staff and volunteers organized multiple community focus groups and educator interviews, held over Zoom. Focus groups participants were strategically selected to reflect the diversity of our city and county. During the focus groups we asked participants for their input about our pre-pandemic programming, what educational topics and approaches matter most to their communities, and what could be done to improve SBTHP’s youth and family programming.

SBTHP is now putting everything we learned into action. Here are two programming changes that came out of the process:

From Early California Days to Our Communities, Our Stories

SBTHP’s Early California Days was our flagship school program that we have offered to hundreds of Santa Barbara County third graders each spring. Early California Days began in the early 2000s and had never been updated. Our school programming needed to more closely align with the current History- Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, adopted in 2016.

Our Communities, Our Stories is SBTHP’s new immersive field trip experience for elementary school students (grades 3-5) that begins with an interactive tour highlighting the daily life of the diverse communities that lived in the Presidio Neighborhood over time. The tour is followed by a hands-on, student-centered and community-focused activity designed to help students synthesize and build upon the information they’ve learned. The facilitated activity provides an opportunity for the students to learn more about themselves and their classmates.

The Our Communities, Our Stories field trip experience will leave students with a deeper understanding of our culturally diverse Santa Barbara community and its history as well as a foundational experience that will encourage them to learn/explore more about their community.

Celina Garcia (left) leads a discussion about memorialization and statues. With the statue of King Carlos III behind her, Celina asks students how they think history is often memorialized and what they would choose to memorialize. Students were then given supplies to build their own memorials or statues out of air-dry modeling clay and shared their work with their classmates. Image by Kevin McGarry.

From Founding Day Festival to Community History Day

El Presidio Royal de Santa Barbára was established by the Spanish Crown on April 21. 1782. For over fifty years, SBTHP has held an annual Founding Day event in April to commemorate this date. In the late 1990s Founding Day programming evolved from a commemoration ceremony to a larger community event. Noting waning attendance in more recent years, SBTHP worked to broaden the scope of the event to wider celebration of the City’s Birthday, however no structural changes were made to the program itself. Recent efforts described above have provided the organization with the momentum and insight to better respond to our community’s current needs, which include the acknowledgment of underrepresented local community histories. The result of this process is Community History Day, which will be held on May 1, 2022.

Learn more about Community History Day >>

Community History Day is a celebration of the diverse cultures, communities, and histories of Santa Barbara. Community History Day’s free, family-friendly festival atmosphere will include educational, hands-on learning stations, local artists and vendors, activity booths from local nonprofit organizations, live music and dance performances, and history tours, exhibits, and experiences that focus on the layered histories and diverse communities of the Santa Barbara and its Presidio Neighborhood over time. 

Community History Day will capture the imagination of visitors who may encounter aspects of local history they were not aware of and will also ideally see themselves and their families’ experiences represented in the program. 

We are grateful to the community members and teachers who shared their time and expertise with us in the focus groups. We have their feedback in mind as we implement these new ideas, in hopes that we can better serve our mission, and the needs of families in Santa Barbara County.

SBTHP Launches New Strategic Plan!

by Anne Petersen

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) is proud to launch our 2022 – 2024 strategic plan and to share it with all of you.

In 2019, SBTHP completed its first ever strategic plan. The extensive planning process during 2017/18 included the remarkable participation of over seventy community stakeholders in focus groups, combined with internal work including a SWOT analysis, and multiple convenings of board and staff at every stage. The process was also marked by the disastrous Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow in Montecito. One community member arrived for a focus group on a weeknight accompanied by a swirl of wildfire ash from outside, and said, “I hope I can get home tonight; I heard the fire might jump the freeway.” He stayed for the focus group, nonetheless.

We felt a remarkable synergy during that process, as our community came together to mourn the environmental devastation and loss of lives during those natural disasters, but also, to give their time to brainstorm with SBTHP the many ways we can be of greater service to the community. The launch of the 2019 – 2021 strategic plan felt like a new beginning, after a period of reflection, deep discussion, and a certain amount of necessary chaos as we worked towards a shared vision. That process was transformative, not only because it resulted in our first plan, but also because it led to a new mission statement, and value statements that inform our work as a staff and board every day.

The development of our 2022 strategic plan shares many qualities of the earlier one. We conducted workshops with staff and board members to gather input, and circulated drafts for review and comment before approval on February 28, 2022. We experienced the same synergy among the staff and board, and a shared commitment to our mission and values that drove the previous plan. We also experienced an altogether different unprecedented catastrophe with the Covid-19 Pandemic. In fact, the pandemic overlapped two of the three years of the 2019 – 2021 Strategic Plan. As a result, we faced challenges and distractions which diverted our attention away from some of our original goals. We tabled some objectives and we foregrounded others, and we responded directly to the surge in racial justice activism in 2020 with the launch of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan.

We conducted our planning for the 2022 – 2023 Strategic Plan during the Omicron variant surge in January and February 2022. Our workshops were held on Zoom, and we could not gather in person, but we worked hard, together, nonetheless. The results are a clear re-commitment to our mission and values, and to the direction of the previous plan. We approached the process as a refresh rather than a new plan, in order to build on the momentum of our earlier work, while acknowledging the changed circumstances of our world. Among the objectives in the new plan you will find evidence of new skills learned during the pandemic, a brand assessment project with an expanded scope, a reinvestment in the Presidio Neighborhood, a commitment to a high maintenance standard for the historic resources and venues we manage, and much more. We will keep you updated as we implement the plan and hope that the results will be visible and tangible to our community.

The Presidio Research Center is Open for Business

by Tim Aceves

This past month saw the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) return to a bit of pre-pandemic normalcy, with El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP reopening seven days a week and the Presidio Research Center (PRC) once again welcoming the public. While many are familiar with the aforementioned, it is more than likely many people have never set foot inside the PRC.

The Presidio Research Center, present day. Image by Tim Aceves.

The PRC, Alhecama Theatre and the buildings currently home to Zaytoon Lebanese Cuisine and La Playa Azul Café once encompassed the Santa Barbara School of the Arts (founded in the 1920s). The school would eventually close in 1938, but the buildings have had long lives serving the community.

Image of the PRC in the 1940s, courtesy of the Gledhill Library, Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

The PRC was created in 1986, formerly located behind the Cañedo Adobe, the Center moved to its present location fifteen years ago. The mission of the PRC is to develop and curate a collection of research materials and cultural objects to support the archaeological, research, educational, and curatorial programs of SBTHP and El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP.

Interior restoration and rehabilitation of what is now the PRC’s reading room, 2003. Image by Michael H. Imwalle.

Using original blueprints, building permits, and paint analysis, SBTHP restored the façade of the 1928 Spanish colonial revival building to its earliest appearance. The project began in 1999 with significant basement work (excavation, waterproofing, retaining walls, and drains) from 2001-2003, rehabilitation of the interior spaces including restoration of the floors, doors, windows, ceilings, and hardware from 2004-2005, and the interior furnishings, bookshelves, lighting, restrooms, and security from 2006 until the PRC officially relocated in 2007.

PRC exterior during the renovation. Image by Michael H. Imwalle.

The PRC is home to a multi-format collection of materials about the history of the Presidio Neighborhood. This includes published books about local history, but it also includes photographs, scrapbooks, newspapers and journals, oral histories, and much more. “Santa Barbara is blessed with a number of great historical societies and institutions and what makes the PRC collections really unique is that we have an incredible depth of coverage for the history of this area, and how that is present across many different source types,” said SBTHP Archivist and Librarian Dez Alaniz.

These black binders hold the PRC’s historic and local neighborhood photos, representing contributions from community members and other historical institutions. Image by Tim Aceves.

“When doing research here you may encounter multiple types of sources that are relevant to your research, and that’s really special,” they added. Alaniz joined SBTHP in October after working for several years as a librarian UC Santa Barbara. Alaniz grew up on ancestral Kizh and Tongva lands in the San Fernando Valley before attending UC Davis. “My experiences as a queer, Chicanx researcher and student at UC Davis as an undergrad were hugely influenced by working with archives and historical materials, and experiencing that ‘wow, somebody created this AND held on to it!’ feeling has never gotten old to me.”

SBTHP Archivist & Librarian Dez Alaniz thumbs through a binder of historic photographs depicting Santa Barbara’s Nihonmachi (Japan Town), one of many historical communities present in the PRC’s collections. Image by Tim Aceves.

While many visitors may be most familiar with the Spanish and Mexican colonial histories of the Presidio park area, these are not the only community histories that are found in the PRC’s collections. In the early 20th century, the Presidio neighborhood was inhabited by Chinese- and Japanese-Americans and their families, whose businesses, homes, and community spaces stood within the historic boundaries of the Presidio Park. Through intentional and sustained community engagement with the living residents of the community, the PRC was able to collect oral histories, historic and family photographs, and cultural objects owned by members of the thriving Asian-American community in downtown Santa Barbara.

Purchased sometime in the 1930s in Kyoto, Japan, this paper wrapping accompanied a silk kimono donated to SBTHP. Image by Tim Aceves.

With the PRC reopening, guests can reserve two-hour time blocks to conduct research in the library (available Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Tuesday/Thursday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.). The PRC’s website also contains digital collections of oral histories and photographs, along with catalogs of books, subject files, maps, and other archival collections.

Alaniz guides a group of UCSB undergraduate students through a recent tour of the PRC. Image by Claire Giroux.

For those who are looking to do more than just research, the PRC is currently recruiting volunteers. Examples of volunteer projects include sorting through and describing photographs, digitizing images for our online collections, transcribing oral histories, and evaluating collections. SBTHP is offering a paid internship to interested undergraduate students to work more in-depth with our collections and gain experience in a museum, library, and archive setting.

Students explore a hand-painted, silk kimono. Image by Claire Giroux.

The Presidio Research Center is located at 215 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, California. For more information regarding research or volunteer opportunities, please contact Dez Alaniz by email or by phone (805) 961-5369.

Mission Mills Goats

by Andrew Doran

Towards the end of 2021, Santa Barbara County received over 8 inches of rain, turning the foothills and mountains from a dry, golden brown to a vibrant green, more reminiscent of the rolling hills of Ireland or Scotland. With the new grass and new vegetation, the Santa Inés Mission Mills property needed ways to help tame the new seasonal growth, so SBTHP turned to a small herd of goats:

“The goats and sheep have been in the Rasmussen and Mills Groves for about 2 weeks. They have grazed down the grass in that time and were removed today while their handler, David Uribe, sets up a new location on the Mills property,” wrote Leeann Haslouer, the Santa Inés Mission Mills State Historic Park Agricultural & Maintenance Supervisor. “They have 2 dogs that live with them to protect them from predators such as coyotes, bobcats, & mountain lions. The dogs’ names are Lulu and Scooby; the breed is Great Pyrenees.”

All images courtesy of Leeann Haslouer.

2021 Santa Inés Mission Mills Olio Nuovo

By Michael H. Imwalle

On the frigid morning of December 18, 2021, Santa Inés Mission Mills Agricultural and Maintenance Supervisors Leeann Haslouer and Tom Walton hosted twenty-four volunteers for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual volunteer olive picking day and post-event barbeque.

Volunteer olive pickers, image by Leeann Haslouer.

Historically, we have picked our olives as early as mid-October, but for some reason, the olives were slow to ripe this year. Ideally, we want to have fifty percent ripe olives (black) and fifty percent green olives to provide the best yield and freshest flavor. Thanks to the dedication of the volunteers and Lupe Peña Hernandez’ crew of professional pickers, we harvested a total of 3.95 tons of olives.

7,900 lbs. = the total weight of 2021’s harvest

2021 olive crop, image by Michael H. Imwalle.

Figueroa Farms milled the olives on Monday, December 20th. The olives yielded more than 130 gallons of liquid gold! Nine days later, Figueroa Farms bottled and labeled 40 cases of 2021 Olive Nuovo and they were delivered to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP on January 5th.

Bottled olive oil is delivered to El Presidio SHP, image by Michael H. Imwalle.

Bottles and cases are now available for purchase at the Presidio Gift Shop >>

2021 Santa Inés Mission Mills Olio Nuovo, image by Tim Aceves.

(Header image by Michelle Newcomb) is Now Available in Spanish

by Tim Aceves

One of three goals in SBTHP’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Plan speaks to Audience and Outreach, and the first objective is “Knowing & Building our Audience:”

SBTHP will begin to analyze and remedy barriers to access and inclusive engagement with audiences known, and as-yet unknown.

As more and more of SBTHP’s programming became virtual, our website became a more dynamic resource for delivering information and rich, engaging content to the public. Combined with the inability to hold in-person events for more than a year and half, it became essential to provide a more accessible experience online for all Santa Barbara’s residents. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, just over 40% of residents in Santa Barbra County speak a language other than English at home. Many of those residents are Spanish speakers, leading SBTHP to prioritize a Spanish website.

A translated lecture description on

With the help of Lena Morán-Acereto of Bridging Voices – Uniendo Voces, and funding thanks to a grant from the City of Santa Barbara via the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture, we’re now able to offer a Spanish-translated website. By simply selecting your language at the top of any SBTHP’s webpages and you’ll be able to view the translated content. The website will automatically re-direct for visitors depending on their browser language.

Toggle between English and Spanish at the top of any of‘s pages.

Our website is fluid and constantly changing, so we acknowledge that this is just a first step of many as we continue to update and provide a more user-friendly experience for our entire community.

To visit in Spanish, please visit >>

SBTHP Welcomes Mujeres Makers Market to El Presidio SHP

by Tim Aceves
Mujeres Makers Market papel picado from the Fiesta markets in August of 2021, image by Tim Aceves.

This past August, with the cancellation of Fiesta festivities in De la Guerra Plaza – Casa de la Guerra’s courtyard was full of papel picado as the Mujeres Makers Market led a two-day vendor market. The community market featured women of color creatives selling or curating original handmade, vintage, or reproduced items such as jewelry, clothing, home décor, ceramics, plants, and much more.

Vintage goods for sale during the Mujeres Makers Market in August 2021, image by Julia Crowson.

This Sunday, November 7, El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park will host the Mujeres Makers Market once more. Celebrating Día de los Muertos, the market will take place on the parade grounds and in the orchard at El Presidio SHP from 10AM – 4PM. SBTHP will be sponsoring free arts and crafts tables, including skeleton puppet, papel picado, paper masks, and marigolds – and El Presidio SHP will be free to the public all-day.

In anticipation, we interviewed founders Daniela Aguirre, Maritza Flores, Elysia Guillén, Lilli Muñoz, and Leah Ortega; their Q&A is below >>

Mujeres Makers Market Founders (from left to right): Elysia Guillén, Lilli Muñoz, Leah Ortega, Daniela Aguirre, and Maritza Flores. Image by Julia Crowson.

For those who aren’t familiar with Mujeres Makers Market – what should they expect when they visit El Presidio SHP on November 7?

Our community organization is focused on creating a space where women of color can come together and celebrate each other, and really form a community. In the spirit of taking care of one another, this family-friendly open-air event will feature a DJ, photo booth, La Catrina contest, altars (ofrendas), food truck and kid-friendly workshops. Guests will experience, hear and learn about the traditions of Día de los Muertos and are invited to contribute to the community altar by bringing a photocopy of their loved ones. 

The Mujeres Makers Market at Casa de la Guerra in August of 2021, image by Julia Crowson.

It has been quite the year, what are some of your favorite memories from the past year of markets?

There are countless favorite memories, but it would be our first Mujeres Makers Market event, it was a big hit! Our family, friends, colleagues and community (even pets) showed up, it was constantly busy throughout the day. We had over 120 applicants, most of our vendors sold out before noon, and for many vendors it was their first time participating at a market. This is when we knew that there was a need in our community. The location was perfect as most of us (co-founders) grew up in the Eastside neighborhood and this space held a soft spot for us. We were constantly thrilled to meet locals from the community who welcomed us with open arms – it felt like we were part of a rich, evolving tradition. And we’re excited that we grew that tradition.

Mujeres Makers Market’s Eastside Market, located on the corner of Milpas and Cota Street. Image by Julia Crowson.

This past August at Casa de la Guerra it was hard not to feel the Fiesta spirit – what can patrons expect from this upcoming market?

Día de los Muertos is a deeply personal, significant occasion, one in which families of Mexican heritage come together to rejoice in the belief that death is a natural part of life, and that relatives who have died are not truly gone. We envision our upcoming event as an honorable remembrance, bringing our community together, and celebrating this beautiful tradition. To get into the spirit we will have…folk art activities centered on the building of a community altar to honor and celebrate the lives of deceased love ones. Everyone is encouraged to participate by bringing photos and memorabilia of those they wish to remember. Get ready to dance, shop, eat and see what all the magic is about.

Fiesta themed cookies by Sweet Lorraine’s Cookies, image by Julia Crowson.

Where’s the best place for people to find out more information about this market’s vendors?

We highlight our vendors on Mujeres Makers Market social channels, specifically Instagram and Facebook. A picture and bio of their business is included to promote these vendors. We tag their business on our post, this way you’ll know how to reach the vendor directly. We recently launched our website, where new and recurring vendors and shoppers can check out information on our upcoming events.

Looking forward towards 2022, do you see the market changing at all?

We look forward to evolving and growing, hosting workshops and raising money for local non-profit organizations that help underrepresented women. We hope to continue creating special events centered around International Women’s Day, Día de los Muertos and Las Posadas, among other events. We plan to collaborate with other organizations that align with our mission and values.

What have you learned from this past year?

We are a small and mighty team of five women. We are micro business owners, full-time employees and are involved in a million other things. But we are determined to make a difference in the community and provide a positive influence for the women of color leading by example. Developing this market has been so beautiful in so many ways, but owning a business is never smooth sailing all the time! We are firm believers that there is space for everyone to pursue their dreams and we will only ever rise by lifting others up. We’ve welcomed hundreds of talented WOC vendors from across the Central Coast (even as far as San Francisco and San Diego) to our public market events. Our Mujeres Makers Markets wouldn’t be successful without our vendors and shoppers, and support of our community. The silver lining of the pandemic was finally taking a pause and focusing on our creative outlets and passions. We are happy to provide a safe space for our vendors where they have a sense of inclusion, community and connection. And our shoppers are people that are craving cool and relevant shopping experiences while supporting small, local and WOC businesses.

If you could change one thing from the past year, what would it be?

We wouldn’t change anything as even our smallest mistakes we have learned from. We wish we had started this market sooner but it was needed at the right time.

SBTHP and the Mujeres Makers Market invite you to contribute to the community altar, located in the Presidio Chapel beginning November 4 (from 11 a.m to 4 p.m.). The Mujeres Makers Market will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on November 7 at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. El Presidio SHP will be free to the public that Sunday only; for more information about market and the vendors please visit their website >>

Tim Aceves is the Associate Director of Advancement for SBTHP.

The Switch to Virtual Programming

by Tim Aceves

When SBTHP closed its doors to the public in March of 2020, SBTHP staff were presented with an opportunity that faced many organizations whose programming had been dependent on in-person attendance: what now? “Some of the initial challenges of transitioning to online programs included just trying to figure out what platforms and resources we had available,” said Director of Programs Danny Tsai, “(along with) what new equipment we needed to produce and share content with the public and teach the public how to navigate and use the new technology.”

Ultimately, they decided on Zoom Webinars to connect with the community. “At first, we were not sure if we would get more or less engagement with our move to online. We were pleasantly surprised that we reached a broader audience from all over the country and world,” said Associate Director of Public Engagement Kevin McGarry.

The Chinese Railroad Workers of North America Project, recorded on November 11, 2020.

SBTHP hosted Advances in Preservation and Archaeology of Asian American Places, which discussed the historic Harada House, the comparative archaeology of towns in China and locations 19th century immigrants moved to in the United States (recording above), and the archaeology of the Gila River concentration camp where Santa Barbara’s Japanese Americans were sent during World War II. More recently, Santa Barbara Belonging celebrated Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a month-long series of panels and performances. “The three-part series brought together our community to learn about and discuss the ongoing prejudice and discrimination that our Asian American community faces,” said McGarry.

Santa Barbara Belonging: Commemorating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Part Two: A Community Conversation, recorded on May 19, 2021.

In conjunction with community partners, SBTHP presented a multi-month series titled Santa Barbara: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. A virtual extension of a symposium held at the Alhecama Theatre in June of 2019, this year’s series covered ways the city has historically addressed planning, current issues of concern, and options moving forward to ensure equitable and sustainable development.

Understanding Yesterday: Architectural History & Theory, part one of Santa Barbara: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. Recorded on March 24, 2021.

Online programming also included discussions on new interpretations of the history of the Anza Expedition, the Chumash community that lived at Mission La Purísima Concepción (video below), José de la Guerra’s commerce with Asia and Liverpool, the identity struggles migrants face when coming to the United States from Mexico, and Sheila Lodge’s newest book Santa Barbara: An UNcommonplace American Town. “Overall, the feedback (from the public) has been very appreciative and positive,” said McGarry.

’Amuwu: Uncovering the Chumash Community at Mission La Purísima Concepción, recorded on August 12, 2021.

Looking forward, both McGarry and Tsai expressed a keen interest in keeping virtual programming as a core component of future programs. “We currently have progressed to a hybrid model of organizing programs that have both a limited in-person (experience) and a virtual component,” said Tsai. An example of this was the Asian American Neighborhood Festival, which was hosted as a 1st Thursday event on October 7th.

Artwork for this year’s festival by local artist DJ Javier.

To learn more about the Asian American Neighborhood Festival visit For the latest on upcoming lectures, visit

Tim Aceves is the Associate Director of Advancement for SBTHP.

Repairing and Painting the Flagpole at El Presidio SHP

By Michael H. Imwalle

While preparing El Presidio de Santa Barbara SHP for reopening on July 15, 2021, Michael H. Imwalle noticed that the halyard to the Presidio flagpole had been vandalized.

The vandalized halyard.

Someone cut the rope leaving it dangling from one clip and the halyard would need to be repaired before we could raise the flags again at the park. After briefly searching for a local company that could repair flagpoles, Imwalle contacted Brad Houchin of Brad’s Flagpole Repair, a steeplejack by trade.

Steeplejack Brad Houchin climbing to replace the halyard.

Steeplejacks are people that climb buildings, towers, steeples, poles, etc. to make repairs. Houchin graciously came up from the Ventura the next day to climb the pole and restring a new halyard so that we were able to fly the flags for the park opening.

The repaired halyard.

Houchin asked if we had ever considered painting the flagpole. The existing 27-foot tall flagpole consisted of recycled oil field pipe with a stationary pulley attached to a threaded steel cap. In the spirit of the park reopening, we asked Houchin for a proposal to paint the pole white, install a decorative finial, and install a new pulley on a rotating truck. The rotating pulley prevents the flag from wrapping around the pole when the wind changes directions. After checking with California State Parks for administrative approval, we accepted their proposal and scheduled the work for the following week.

The new bronze finish finial with rotating pulley.

Monday July 19th, Houchin returned to the Presidio to begin sanding and priming the bare metal flagpole. He began sanding at the top, wiping the sanded pole, then applying a coat of white primer.

Steeplejack Brad Houchin sanding and priming.

The following day he installed the new bronze finial, new rotating pulley, and painted the final coat on his way back down the pole for the last time. July 22nd the park was open for the first time with a freshly painted flagpole flying new flags.

The finished flagpole now greets guests entering El Presidio SHP.

Michael H. Imwalle is the Associate Executive Director of Cultural Resources for SBTHP. All images are his own.

SBTHP Joins Museums for All in a County-wide Initiative

By Anne Petersen

The Museums for All program launched in 2014 as an equity initiative to serve a broad public. Co-hosted by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM), the program requires that participating museums offer free or low-cost admission to visitors who present their SNAP EBT (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefit Transfer) card. In California this program is called CalFresh. By removing cost as a barrier to entry, Museums for All intends to encourage more widespread museum attendance and help support the next generation of museumgoers by fostering a culture of welcome and accessibility.

 The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation became aware of this program a couple of years ago and had participation in mind when creating our 2020-2022 Diversity Equity and Inclusion Plan. While our participation is meaningful on its own, the impact county-wide would be difficult to measure. During the pandemic and related shutdowns and museum closures, the Santa Barbara County Museum Director’s group began meeting frequently online and offering mutual support. I coordinated a presentation about Museums for All earlier this year, and the group embraced the concept and agreed they wanted to create a county-wide initiative for participation.

Museums for All recognizes any city with three or more participants in the program as a “Hub City.”  While we hoped to be recognized as a “Hub County,” reflecting our cooperation county-wide, Museums for All does not yet have that designation. Regardless, we have made astounding progress in a short amount of time and are promoting our county-wide efforts as a collective. We currently count eighteen participating Santa Barbara County museums! Museums for All has reported on Santa Barbara’s rapid registration rate in their newsletter and let us know that of the Hub Cities in their program, only the City of Chicago has more participating institutions!

Visitor Center at El Presidio se Santa Barbara State Historic Park.

At SBTHP, The Museums for All program is available to visitors to El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, which is open now, and later this year when it reopens, Casa de la Guerra. Visitors who show their SNAP EBT or CalFresh cards will receive free admission.

We look forward to continuing work with our colleagues to promote Museums for All and encourage participation and access to museums for everyone.

El Presidio SHP Reopens with Enhancements

by Anne Petersen

After being closed for fifteen months due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased to announce that El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park has reopened to the public with new enhancements designed to support public safety and an improved visitor experience.

Map from the new self-guided tour brochure for El Presidio SHP.

A new self-guided tour brochure presents updated information about the park, with a clear path of travel and an upgraded map. New signage complements the park with beautiful imagery and interpretive content. 

New interpretive sign at the excavated Presidio aqueduct. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

El Presidio SHP contains several exposed archaeological sites dating to the construction of the fort in the late-eighteenth century. The sites have all been enhanced with new protective rope and pole barriers.

Enhanced barriers at the Presidio northwest corner archaeology site. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

SBTHP has implemented Covid-19 public health protocols according to public health guidelines designed to protect the safety of our visitors and staff. New features include touchless hand-sanitizing stations throughout the park, plexiglass barriers in the Visitor Center, and an electrostatic sanitizing sprayer to disinfect commonly used areas, including park bathrooms.

Touchless hand sanitizing stations at the Park’s public restrooms. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

We are grateful for the support of the Union Pacific Foundation and California Humanities for their support of these important enhancements for public access to El Presidio SHP. With this support we ensured not only that we could reopen the park safely after an unprecedented public health crisis, but also that we could offer an improved visitor experience when we did reopen.

To plan your visit to El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park please click here.

New Documentary about Santa Barbara City Landmark St. Paul A.M.E. Church Now Available

by Anne Petersen

On May 31, 2020, Healing Justice and Juneteenth Santa Barbara issued a list of demands for action that included in part: “We demand protection and preservation of Black landmarks.” The demands identified specific buildings to be designated as historic resources including St. Paul A.M.E. Church at 502 Olive Street.

St. Paul A.M.E. Church, Santa Barbara. Image originally obtained from Laura K. Simmons for publication in African-Americans on the Central Coast: A Photo Essay (Black Gold Cooperative Library System, 1993).

There had been an African Methodist Episcopal church on the site of 502 Olive Street since 1906, when it was the only structure on the entire block, and Olive Street was known as Canal Street. It was built by the local African American congregation to serve as a house of worship for its members. By 1930, the Church, possibly a newer building constructed after the 1925 earthquake, had taken on the form we recognize today—a larger and more substantial building with an attached dwelling. In 1990 St. Paul A.M.E. Church was added to the City’s list of potential Historical Resources and assigned the note: “potential Landmark status.” A City landmark is the highest level of designation offered by the City. 

St. Paul A.M.E. Church as it appears on the 1930 Sanborn map.

Following the release of the demands from Healing Justice, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and almost 700 other individuals and organizations sent letters to the City Historic Landmarks Commission requesting the immediate designation of St. Paul A.M.E. Church and the wider preservation of Black Landmarks. On August 11, City Council approved the Landmark Designation.

Producers/Curators Darrell M. McNeill and Sally Foxen-McNeill.

In February 2021, local producers/curators Darrell M. McNeill and Sally Foxen-McNeill screened their new project, Celebrating St. Paul A.M.E., as part of the Santa Barbara Black History Month Culture House, which they hosted online this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Darrell and Sally generously worked with SBTHP to help share the documentary widely with the public, and we know this project will be of interest to the local preservation community as well as the general public. The documentary features current Reverend Elbert Sherrod, former Reverend Jeff Clark, church elder Margaret Young, and former Santa Barbara resident and St. Paul church member Diane Hale, who discuss the church as an institution and its importance for the local Black community. You can watch the documentary below >>

We asked Darrell and Sally a few questions about their documentary and how we can keep up with their future projects:

What inspired you to choose St Paul A.M.E. Church as the subject for a documentary?

The idea came from Sally, a lifelong Santa Barbara resident. When we were mapping out programming for this year’s edition of Culture House, we had several concepts with regional Southern California and national/general interest, but nothing grounded here to Santa Barbara proper. As good as the programming was, it wasn’t as locally connected as other Black History Month programming being developed by our colleagues and supporters like SB Healing Justice, Juneteenth SB and several other culture forward Black groups we’ve aligned with when we first launched Santa Barbara Black History Month Culture House in 2020. Sally suggested St. Paul A.M.E. as it had been granted City Landmark status in the summer of 2020, in no small part due to the demands of these groups (and others) that it be recognized. St. Paul’s story still resonated with so many people within the Black community but felt very much insulated within and muted outside of it. So, since we had to pivot to online exclusive programming for the 2021 edition of the Culture House during the pandemic, a documentary about the church seemed like a natural fit. Sally actually attended the church many years ago and has friends who were connected to either the church or the pastors and they were all very happy to participate or make referrals.

What can you share about your future projects, and how can we stay informed about your work?

We are working on creating an online home for all of the content we’ve created for the 2021 Santa Barbara Black History Month Virtual Culture House, so the programming we did this February has an opportunity to reach a broader audience. Sally remains a staunch advocate for the Santa Barbara community and is continuing her efforts as a Council Member of the Neighborhood Advisory Council. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association.

As for other projects, I’m currently doing research for a book I’m writing about the historic and cultural erasure of Black creators, performers and contributors to rock and roll music. I am also Director of Operations for the Black Rock Coalition. We had a program on deck at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for 2020 that was scrubbed due to the pandemic but we’re getting it back on track for November 2021. I’m also editing a documentary I developed about contemporary Black comedy and creatives that was originally scheduled for the Virtual Culture House, but had to be cancelled due to technical issues. And, naturally, we hope to find another pop-up space for the Culture House in 2022.

Is there anything else you would like to share?  

We are both incredibly gratified so many Santa Barbarans have supported us over the last year-plus, especially this past February when none of us could be in the same room. We eagerly look forward to when we can all openly and freely congregate, dialogue, exchange and embrace, not just physically or intellectually, but spiritually. For those who want to keep tabs on us and what we’re doing, please reach out to us at

SBTHP is grateful to Darrell M. McNeil and Sally Foxen-McNeill for sharing their work about this important new City landmark with a wide audience. We continue to support the related initiative to document and preserve the history of the African American community in Santa Barbara. On April 13, SBTHP spoke at City Council in support of a grant application to the California Office of Historic Preservation to create a Black/African American Historic Context Statement for the City of Santa Barbara, which was approved unanimously, and we will submit a letter of support along with the application.

Our local historic preservation program helps define who we are as a community. Historic buildings remind us of our moments of triumph, help us remember and grieve our tragedies, and help document the daily life of our diverse residents and the institutions they built. We will continue to support efforts to ensure that historic preservation work in our community is as inclusive as possible.

SBTHP is featured in the National History Day “Ask an Expert” Series

By Anne Petersen

National History Day (NHD) is a nonprofit organization committed to encouraging the study and practice of history by high school students in the United States. They provide curriculum materials and support to schools to help students develop the skills to conduct historical research and writing. National History Day is most well-known for its annual National History Day Contest, when over 600,000 students across the United States compete locally and regionally, with the top candidates advancing to the national competition at University of Maryland College Park.

The Flores Adobe/Comandancia of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara in the early 1920s. Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center

In order to support and prepare students for the contest, National History Day provides teachers with a wealth of resources. One of these tools is a videos series called “Ask an Expert,” in which historians working in a variety of fields offer advice and suggestions to students about different aspects of historical work. I was pleased to be invited this year to create a video with NHD staff on the importance of looking at multiple perspectives in historical research.  

Crop of the site of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara from 1853 map by Vitus Wackenreuder.

NHD discovered the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) via the National Endowment for the Humanities, (NEH) one of their major partners. Last Fall SBTHP received an NEH CARES grant to support our 7th-grade school program, Where We Are From. NEH subsequently recommended SBTHP to National History Day.   

Many people assume that historians work in universities and write academic publications. This video allows SBTHP to help broaden students’ knowledge about where historians work and what they do by featuring our historical work at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. The video explores not only our preservation work, but also how students can explore history through the study of a place, including their own community, using its maps, architecture, and social history. We hope the video will also be helpful to local schools and will be incorporated into our future school programs.

Anne Petersen addresses why multiple perspectives are important to developing a rich understanding of historical events and topics. The video includes how maps and primary documents available at the SBTHP can be used to analyze multiple and competing perspectives in history. To learn more, click here

Plaza de la Guerra Reconsidered Symposium (1999) Now Available Online

Plaza de la Guerra is once again at the forefront of community conversations about Santa Barbara’s downtown revitalization. On December 18, 2020 the City’s De la Guerra Plaza Revitalization Advisory Committee recommended that City Council move a newly-designed concept plan out of the Committee and into the City’s Development Application process.  The concept plan had been in the works for over one year. You can read more about the origins of this recent work here and sign up for project updates here.

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) is an active stakeholder in this revitalization process.  We held a seat on the recent Advisory Committee at the invitation of City Council, but that reflects only our most recent engagement.  In 1999, SBTHP worked with the City to create and exhibition about the history of the Plaza as well as an accompanying catalog of the exhibit, Plaza de la Guerra Reconsidered, which was published in 2002. 

On June 12, 1999, SBTHP hosted a related symposium titled “Plaza de la Guerra Reconsidered: Past is Prologue” which was held in City Council chambers. The symposium was introduced by SBTHP Executive Director Jarrell jackman and moderated by Chief Curator Patrick O’Dowd. Speakers included:

  • Dora P. Crouch, Professor Emeritus, School of Architecture, Renessalaer Polytechnic Institute, New York
  • Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, Milford Wayne Donaldson Architects (and later CA State Historic Preservation Officer and Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation)
  • Dave Davis, Community Development Director, City of Santa Barbara
  • Carroll William Westfall, Chair, School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame, South Bend
  • Robert Winter, Professor Emeritus, History Department, Occidental College, Los Angeles

With the City’s recent renewed interest in making improvements to the Plaza, we believe the symposium would be of interest to the community and the presentations still hold great relevance. We are grateful that Tony Ruggieri of Santa Barbara City TV was able to transfer the contents of a VHS tape in the Presidio Research Center collection and upload them to the City of Santa Barbara’s YouTube Channel, which you can view below or by clicking here!

The Pandemic Painting Project by Claudia Hoag McGarry

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased to offer a series of notecards by local artist Claudia Hoag McGarry based on her paintings of beautifully diverse aspects of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.  The images are part of an extensive “Pandemic Project” Claudia began in Spring 2020.  At this point, Claudia has created over 300 paintings, and she continues to paint, almost daily.

The artist, Claudia Hoag McGarry

We asked Claudia for more information about her project and her passion for painting.  Below are portions of that interview, edited for length.

Q: How did this project begin? Have you always painted? Or is this something that began with the pandemic?

A: My sister and my husband both had the idea simultaneously to give me art supplies. So, without having even asked for them, I received canvases, watercolor paints, acrylics and watercolor paper. Quarantine and Covid had begun to inch its way into all of our lives. So, I started painting. I had hardly painted since I was 20 and in college. I only took one art class in my 20s. It was figure drawing.

The Presidio Northeast Corner, by Claudia Hoag McGarry

Q: Tell us about your process.

A: All through my 300 paintings from 4/4/2020 to 11/4/2020, I painted when I awoke. Early, around 6 am, I make my coffee, turn on the news, or sometimes just music, watch the light come through the windows where we live near the ocean bluffs on the Mesa, and I paint. It usually takes me 2-3 hours per painting and somedays I do 2 a day.

Claudia paints in her living room and keeps the paintings on display around the room as she works.

Q: How would you describe the meaning of this project for you during this time?

A: This was something of a gift. It was a gift to me because I learned that in the 43 years that I had not painted, now I was flourishing and happy as a painter. It was therapeutic during a stressful time of this awful societal illness and political upheaval. But, equally satisfying was the reaction I received from many friends on social media. People started praising my work and finally, 2 weeks after posting daily, someone asked me if that day’s work was for sale. Within 3 months I had sold 60 paintings. They were going everywhere: NY, Texas, Poland, Utah, etc.

Among other places, Claudia finds inspiration on the Mesa in Santa Barbara, where she lives near the ocean.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

A: I taught English Skills at SBCC [Santa Barbara City College] for 32 years. I also have had three novels published and four plays produced, some shown at the Alhecama [Theatre in El Presidio SHP]! I have optioned a television pilot and written screenplays. We raised three children into adulthood who are all very caring, smart, artistic and musical. My husband is a talented musician. Moving on to painting seems only natural in how my life has progressed. It happened so organically. I feel so fortunate in every way. I am thrilled and humbled to share my art with your wonderful organization.

You can find Claudia’s Santa Barbara Presidio series notecards here.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, our Gift Shop sales are online only, and we offer both shipping and curbside pickup. 

Natural landscapes also inspire the artist. Painting by Claudia McGarry

SBTHP’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

by Anne Petersen

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) is committed to following best practices in our field in our ongoing efforts to be responsive to our community. In fact, demonstrating progress towards national standards in the history, museum, preservation and nonprofits fields is one of the goals in our 2019-2021 Strategic Plan. Today, we can announce that we have taken a significant step towards that aim as we present our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Plan (2020 -2022).

The development of this plan was neither quick nor simple. Its origin lies in the planning work conducted in 2018 to develop our strategic plan, including input from the many community members who participated in focus groups and contributed to the direction of the plan. New organizational value statements we developed through that process include, in part:  

“SBTHP promotes the diversity of cultures that comprise(d) the Presidio Neighborhood.”

and also:

“SBTHP values and celebrates cooperation, partnership, equity, inclusivity, and diversity.”

We recognize that truly living our organizational values is not an inevitable outcome of announcing them. To address this, we included an objective in our strategic plan to develop a DEI Plan in order to create specific and measurable goals and objectives for this work. We also committed to sharing our plan publicly to ensure accountability from the organization.

Our staff and board began diversity, equity and inclusion training with Just Communities and consultant Judy Guillermo-Newton in the Fall of 2019. The Santa Barbara Foundation generously funded this work. The training, completed in March 2020 (days before the statewide shutdown due to COVID-19), provided our staff and board with a common language for the work ahead, and helped identify principle areas of focus and improvement to fulfill the promise of our strategic plan.

The ensuing months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and nationwide antiracism movement as a result of the murder of George Floyd, galvanized our resolve to complete our DEI Plan, even as we, board and staff, struggled with uncertainty in our field, and in our daily lives. Today we present this 2 1/2-year DEI Plan, not as an accomplishment, but as a first step, and a declaration of the important work ahead of us. We also recognize that we will be updating and issuing subsequent versions of this plan as we continue our organizational transformation.

We are learning that to make a DEI initiative stick, and to create real organizational change, requires hard work. It takes time, and a significant amount of discussion, self-reflection and discomfort from within the institution. It cannot belong to one person, and while we have learned from, and been inspired by the work of many others, the path ahead is ours to walk. We commit to continue the hard work and introspection required to make our organization more of service to, and embedded in, our community as we implement this plan.

Visit our website to see our DEI Policy Statement, and Goals, and also a downloadable pdf of the full plan. We have also added a list of free resources from the nonprofit, local history, museum, arts and preservation fields that we will be consulting as we conduct our work, and which we believe will be helpful for others.

The Interesting Life of 914 Santa Barbara Street

by Anne Petersen

The white, wooden building at 914 Santa Barbara Street in El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park (SHP) has had quite a life. Its multiple adaptive reuses have ensured that it not only survived, but that it continued to be valued by the community and to contribute to the character of Santa Barbara’s Downtown.

1930 Sanborn map crop, showing the Santa Barbara School of the Arts campus with 914 Santa Barbara Street highlighted.

The structure was originally two residences, built sometime during the early twentieth century. At that time the 900 block of Santa Barbara Street was residential, with small wooden houses dotting the curb. Until the 1925 earthquake, the much older second commandant’s quarters of the Presidio, or Flores Adobe, anchored the center of the block.

Santa Barbara School of the Arts Office at 914 Santa Barbara Street. Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.

In 1926, the new Santa Barbara School of the Arts, operated by the Community Arts Association, joined the two structures to be used as offices. The offices were intended to be temporary, while the School built its impressive Spanish Colonial Revival campus on the same site. Due to the Great Depression, however, that dream was never realized. The conjoined residences remained in use as offices for the Community Arts Association, and later the School District’s Adult Education Program and Santa Barbara Junior College.

In 1982 the entire Santa Barbara School of the Arts campus was added to El Presidio de Santa Barbara SHP because the site of the Presidio’s northeast corner is located in the parcel. As park operators, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) are both lucky and proud to have a family-run local business occupying the building and allowing continued community access to this special place.

Ignacio and Delia Elias, owners of La Playa Azul. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

La Playa Azul originally opened in 1977 at 902 Santa Barbara St. and operated there until it moved to 914 Santa Barbara Street in 1988. The site of 902 Santa Barbara Street is now the location of the reconstructed Northeast corner of the Presidio. Playa Azul owners Delia and Ignacio Elias operate this locals favorite. Their beautiful outdoor patio, seafood dishes and happy hour win praise from anyone who visits! SBTHP is proud of this long-term relationship with one of our best local businesses.

June 2020 roof replacement work at 914 Santa Barbara Street. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

Historic buildings age, like any organic object, and require ongoing care to survive through the generations. This summer, SBTHP replaced the roof and gutters on 914 Santa Barbara St. and repaired some of the adjacent woodwork. We are proud to partner with Delia and Ignacio Elias to care for this piece of Santa Barbara’s history, in what has evolved to be a long-term and treasured collaboration.

Major Repairs to a Small Gem in the Presidio Neighborhood

by Anne Petersen

In Fall of 2019 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation began repair work on a 1928 commercial building at 131-137 East De la Guerra Street. This modest Spanish Colonial Revival building holds four businesses and one residence. It is included within El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park because if its proximity to the front gate of the original fort. Built with interior gutters, the structure had leaked internally for years without our notice. And once we became aware, precious time passed as we worked on plans, estimates, permits and hired a contractor for the work.

The building is not the oldest, most historically important, or architecturally unusual structure in the Park. Does that mean it is not significant? Not at all. This little building contributes to the qualities and atmosphere that help make up the character of the Presidio Neighborhood. Its low height, inviting display windows and smaller retail spaces give it a scale that makes it comfortable for pedestrians, and imminently usable for local small businesses. Its architectural details give it personality and connect it to the larger city-wide story of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture built after the 1925 earthquake.

Arch motif above Beads. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle. 

The businesses inside are also special. They include Kurt and Leigh Legler’s Warbler Records, the last record shop downtown where you can also find refurbished turntables and other gifts. Mike Pico’s Mailboxes Express has been in the building for over twenty years and serves the entire Neighborhood with his PO Boxes and shipping services. During the holidays be prepared to queue up to mail holiday packages! Steven Soria at Make Smith Leather Co. is our newest tenant. His third-generation leatherworking enterprise just reached its second anniversary, with a workshop in the back and classroom and retail space in the front. Lee and Barbara Nelson at Beads have anchored the corner of the building for over thirty years. Their combination brick and mortar and online business selling a variety of beautiful beads, supplies and beaded jewelry, continues to draw artistic customers with a DIY ethic.

Older, smaller, commercial buildings truly help cities thrive. In a 2017 article touting the results of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s (NHTP) Atlas of ReUrbanism study, former NTHP Executive Director Stephanie Meeks reports:

[In] a comprehensive, block-by-block study of the American urban landscape, areas of older, smaller buildings and mixed-age blocks boast 33 percent more new business jobs, 46 percent more small business jobs, and 60 percent more women- and minority-owned businesses.1

131- 137 E. De la Guerra Street is one of these buildings, and its tenants contribute to the vibrancy of our community by offering essential services and artistic enterprises that enhance the uniqueness of Santa Barbara’s downtown. Our mission at SBTHP is to steward the past and present of the Presidio Neighborhood and inspire preservation advocacy throughout the County in order to create a more vibrant community.  In caring for this building, we are both fulfilling our stewardship mandate, as well as caring for the “present” of the neighborhood, those small, local businesses, and the community that supports them.

Decorative iron gates at the entrance to Warbler Records. Photo by Michal H Imwalle. 

To repair 131 – 137 E. De la Guerra Street, we worked in two stages. The first involved pulling off the plaster, reframing the wall, replacing the gutters, restoring and reinstalling the retail windows, replastering and repainting the wall, installing new gutters, and reinstalling the awnings on the Santa Barbara Street side of the building. We completed this work in Fall 2019. Early in 2020 we began the same work on the De la Guerra Street side of the building. The outbreak of the COVID -19 pandemic slowed this work considerably and added exceptional stress to our retail tenants. We are pleased to announce that the work has been completed, and our thoughts are with our tenants and we try to support them through the compounding challenges of construction and pandemic-related closures.

Repair work begins on Santa Barbara Street. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

In January 2020, the Santa Barbara City Historic Landmarks Commission, in recognition of this building’s contribution to the Presidio Neighborhood, and representation of post-earthquake Spanish Colonial Revival Style commercial architecture, designated the building a Structure of Merit. SBTHP would like to offer special thanks to our partners in this project, Harrison DesignChannel Coast Corporation and Ehlen Spiess and Haight. We encourage you take a walk downtown to this lovely gem, visit the shops, and experience for yourself why it feels like such a special place. There’s a lot to see and do throughout El Presidio SHP!

Completed De la Guerra Street façade July 27, 2020. Photo by Anne Petersen.

1. Stephanie Meeks, “Density Without Demolition,” City Lab, June 11, 2017. Accessed September 23, 2019

A Brief History of the Presidio Chapel Bells

by Tim Aceves

11,000 miles.

Presidio Chapel bell, dedicated San Pascual Bailon, present-day. Image by Tim Aceves.

That’s how many miles the bells at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP have travelled since they were first cast in Mexico. From Zacatecas, Mexico, to San Blas, Mexico, to Santa Barbara, California, to Milton, Massachusetts, to Los Altos, California, and ultimately back to their home at the Presidio – these bells have had quite the journey since they were originally cast back in the late eighteenth century.

The Presidio Chapel bells, before installation in 2001. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

Both bells originate from Zacatecas, Mexico, where they were cast in 1781 and 1792, and each had quite a different journey before they were returned to SBTHP. The oldest, dedicated San Pascual Bailon, left El Presidio in 1855 when they were moved to Our Lady of Sorrows. In 1904, the bell was purchased by Spencer Borden of Massachusetts. Mr. Borden then left the bell to Milton Academy where it rang daily, calling students to class, until 1981.

Close-up of 1792 bell, dedicated to La Purísima Concepcíon. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

The second bell, which reads “LA PURISIMA CONCEPCION ORA PRO NOBIS ANO DE 1792” translates to “THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION PRAY FOR US YEAR OF 1792,” also went to Our Lady of Sorrows and remained there until 1929. It was then installed at El Retiro San Inigo Jesuit Retreat House in Los Altos, California. In 1978, El Retiro returned the bell to SBTHP.

Chapel bells being installed in 2001. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

In 2001, the bells were installed in the newly rebuilt Presidio Chapel bell tower, where they still ring loudly over the Presidio Neighborhood.

A fun fact…

As designs were being finalized in 2001, research was being conducted by Michael H. Imwalle, Associate Executive Director for Cultural Resources at SBTHP, as to how the bells were rung at the Presidio. They would have been used to call the residents of the Presidio for mass, the rosary, rations, and to sound quarters for the watch at night. They also regulated work schedules, welcomed the arrival of prominent visitors, signaled alarms, and celebrated festivities.

Gregorio Silverio pictured after World War II, from the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

During a visit to San Antonio Mission, Mike was shown a file that contained an inventory of seven Franciscan bell patterns from the last Indian bell ringer at San Luis Obispo Mission. Gregorio Silverio rang the bells for sixty-three years, beginning in 1889, and had been taught by the previous bell ringer Florentino Naja who had been ringing bells since 1820. Also on that inventory was a recording from 1947 or 1948 of Gregorio ringing the bells over the radio station KVEC. With the help of the San Luis Obispo Mission, they were able to locate a reel-to-reel recording and created a digital audio tape (DAT), which is now preserved at the Presidio Research Center.

To learn more about the travels of the Presidio Chapel Bells, please contact the gift shop to purchase La Campana, Spring 2017 where the article “Ups and Downs: The Well Travelled Bells of the Santa Barbara Presidio Chapel” by Michael H. Imwalle was originally published.

Meet Unita Ahdifard, SBTHP’s 2020 Public Humanities Graduate Student Intern

by Kevin McGarry

In 2019, UC Santa Barbara’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) offered its first Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Program, which includes internships and fellow-designed community projects. These paid opportunities enable fellows to apply their academic training in community settings. SBTHP partnered with the IHC and hosted its first Public Humanities Graduate Fellow internship last summer. The success of this partnership’s pilot year led us to continue offering this unique internship opportunity in 2020.

Unita Ahdifard, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in UCSB’s Department of English, was selected for 2020 internship after SBTHP staff interviewed a slate of applicants in March 2020. Her work with SBTHP’s Public Engagement department officially began on June 15, 2020, and her work will help us to increase the public’s awareness and interest in our house museum, Casa de la Guerra, as well as increase visitors’ knowledge of how the site’s history relates to contemporary issues facing people in the Santa Barbara community.

Unita will work with staff to develop more interpretive programming to pilot at the site, and assist with expanding our online and digital resources relating to the history of Casa de la Guerra and the De la Guerra family. 

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Unita says she has always been passionate about museums, archives, and historical homes; “whenever I visit a new city, one of the first things I usually do is find a way to learn more about the history of the particular place, be it through a park, museum, or reconstructed “old town.” Unita’s current graduate work focuses on women writers and Anglo-Persianate relations in the early modern period, postcolonial theory, and the boundaries around fictional and nonfictional genres in travel writing.

When asked what she hopes to gain from joining the team for the summer, Unita explained: “I’m looking forward to learning more about how historic preservation happens on the ground, especially with the SBTHP’s work with the Casa de la Guerra. Non-profits such as the SBTHP do the incredibly important work of making community history accessible to the public, keeping history alive through the tangible experience of walking through historic neighborhoods and structures, and being able to learn about the daily lives of their inhabitants from decades and centuries past. I’m excited to contribute to this public history and preservation work however I can during my time here.” 

Welcome aboard, Unita! 

A Sneak Peek of our new Exhibit at the Pickle Room

Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, the last Chinese family-owned and operated business in Santa Barbara’s Chinatown, was a longtime favorite for locals and tourists alike before closing its doors in 2006 with the retirement of operator Tommy Chung. Opened in 1947 by Tommy’s father, Jimmy Yee Chung, Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens had been an important part of the diverse community of people who have lived and worked within the Presidio Neighborhood. In March of 2007, SBTHP purchased Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens from the Chung family. Shortly thereafter the building was purchased by the State of California, becoming a part of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park and a historic resource that will be preserved and protected in perpetuity.

The installation of new exhibit panels inside the Pickle Room. Photo by Tim Aceves.

Following the acquisition of Jimmy’s, SBTHP formed a community advisory committee to help guide us in a series of programs related to Santa Barbara’s Asian American history. The group helped SBTHP begin an oral history project focusing on Chinese and Japanese Americans in Santa Barbara. In addition, through its interpretive planning process, the organization developed a concept for a permanent exhibit inside the historic Jimmy’s building, now home to our tenants Three Pickles Deli and The Pickle Room, owned and operated by Clay Lovejoy and family.

Installers work on the new exhibit panels inside the Pickle Room. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

Our new display includes a life-size photo mural of Jimmy Chung and his son Bill serving drinks to local patrons at the bar, as well as multiple oral history quotes and photos that help tell the story of the Chung family and the life they created in Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood. The display includes original artifacts from Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, as well.

Jimmy’s Oriental Garden panels being installed inside the Pickle Room. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

The display is dedicated in memory of Thomas Yee Chung and Robert Harry Lovejoy for their efforts to preserve and restore Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, an icon of Santa Barbara’s Chinese-American Community. Special thanks to UCSB graduate student Mika Thornburg, Demachkie Design, SBTHP’s dedicated volunteers, our partners at California State Parks and all community donors that made this special project possible.

SBTHP Receives Grant from National Endowment for the Humanities

Just recently, The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of NEH CARES. $40.3 million in grants were awarded to more than 300 cultural institutions across all 50 states and the District of Columbia to support essential services, staff, and programs. 

“Over the past few months we have witnessed tremendous financial distress at cultural organizations across the country, which have been compelled to furlough staff, cancel programs, and reduce operations to make up for revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “NEH is pleased to provide $40 million to preserve thousands of jobs at museums, archives, historic sites, and colleges and universities that are vital to our nation’s cultural life and economy.” 

SBTHP’s $29,634 grant will fund the second iteration of the new, annual school program, Where We Are From (WWAF). In partnership with Santa Barbara Junior High School  and UC Santa Barbara‘s History Department, WWAF is a multi-week, cross-disciplinary, interactive program held at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park that reaches approximately 400 seventh-grade students and their families. The program involves hands-on, multimedia and digital learning activities utilizing the Park’s historical resources and digital learning platforms. The grant will also provide SBTHP with the opportunity to hire four graduate students from UC Santa Barbara’s History Department as project consultants and co-facilitators.  

“The knowledge and practice of history is vital to sustaining healthy individuals and communities,” said SBTHP Associate Director of Public Engagement Kevin McGarry. “Where We Are From is the programmatic embodiment of SBTHP’s institutional mission and values. The project highlights and promotes the diversity of Santa Barbara, especially the layered, cultural history of the Presidio Neighborhood. Where We Are From is a student-centered educational experience designed to deepen the connection the participating seventh graders have to their own family stories, as well as our collective past as a multi-cultural community. The hope is that the program will inspire the students to make that first step toward a deeper commitment to shaping a better future for us all. Thank you NEH for recognizing SBTHP and our partners’ commitment to this important goal.” 

Students gather at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park to participate in “Where We Are From” last year.

As SBJHS history teacher Kristin Martinez-Pettit explained, the goal of this program is to “build a sense of community amongst the students as well as stoke their interest in the human story while cultivating their own.” SBJHS’s Principal, Lito M. García, says that the positive effects the program on his students has revealed the “importance of collaborating with a local organization to enhance our students’ understanding of their city, their home.” The NEH CARES grant will also allow SBTHP to adapt the program for new modes of learning designed for remote access. Mr. Garcia explains, “As we have entered new ways of educating our youth beyond the school site the need for access to digital platforms and devices is greater than ever. Where We Are From must continue for several reasons. One, the educational value of research, reading, writing, and speaking. Two, the intrinsic value of knowing more about the community you live in. Three, the need to have access to and the ability to learn remotely.”

Students participate in “Where We Are From.”

For the highly competitive NEH CARES grant category, NEH received more than 2,300 eligible applications from cultural organizations requesting more than $370 million in funding for projects between June and December 2020. Approximately 14 percent of the applicants were funded. 

To learn more about NEH, click here >>

To learn more about SBTHP’s educational programs, click here >>

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse: A Community and Global Icon

by Robert L. Ooley and Rodney Baker

Robert L. Ooley, FAIA, is the Santa Barbara County Architect. His office is located in the courthouse with responsibilities that include the oversight and management of any restoration projects and architectural work that occurs at the courthouse. Rodney Baker is past president of the Santa Barbara Courthouse Docent Council and Honorary Trustee of the Courthouse Legacy Foundation. As a volunteer, he coordinates all conservation projects at the courthouse and is involved in the training of prospective courthouse docents. The following article was published in La Campana, Spring 2020.

Grade school civics classes taught everyone that the nation is divided into states, states are divided into counties, and counties into cities. There is only one place in the nation where this is not true, Washington, D.C., which is a state, county, and city; and only one place in California where the city and county are the same, San Francisco. Otherwise, most counties have multiple cities formed within them. The distribution of resources among state, county, and municipalities varies, but generally functions as follows. Counties provide public health care, general law enforcement, courts, district attorney, property assessment, elections, and tax collection. Cities provide municipal services to residences, including: water, sewer, streets, and other general infrastructure. In some cases, cities also offer election services, as is the case in Santa Barbara.

Now, all of this general government business needs to be located somewhere, typically in a city hall, a courthouse, or government administration complex. In the early days of California statehood, the County of Santa Barbara housed these services in a repurposed adobe structure. Since Santa Barbara is the “seat” of Santa Barbara County, both city and county functions occupied the same building for a short time until a city hall was established.

Local government was first housed in the 1841 Aguirre Adobe on East Carrillo Street. While this provided a central location, the building was woefully undersized for government functions from the start.1 Between 1853-54, the Kays Adobe and surrounding land were purchased by Santa Barbara County and the adobe structures were converted to government offices, a courtroom, and a sheriff’s office.2 The Kays Adobe, which was originally a mercantile building, was situated on the land where the current historic courthouse is located. The 1875 Greek Revival Courthouse was designed by Peter J. Barber, a prominent architect of the day, and who served two years as Mayor.3 The adjacent Hall of Records was created by a local master carpenter, Thomas Nixon, in the Richardsonian Romanesque style.

View of the main entry of the 1875 Santa Barbara Courthouse designed by Peter J. Barber. Courtesy of Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

When the County Grand Jury raised the need to replace these buildings, an architectural competition was held in 1919. Several design firms from across the state submitted proposals.4 Many years would pass before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors could proceed with a new courthouse complex. As part of the 1919 architectural design competition, the William Mooser Company placed second. Some seven years later, while recovering from the devastating earthquake of 1925, the County Board of Supervisors selected The Mooser Company to undertake the design and construction of the new Santa Barbara Courthouse. The William Mooser Company was active across the state in the early part of the 20th century designing private residences, commercial buildings, and public structures, including courthouses, hospitals, and juvenile housing facilities.5

The William Mooser Company was based in San Francisco, and up until the mid-1960s it was the oldest architectural/engineering firm in California.6 Three generations of William Moosers led the firm: William Mooser I (1834-1896), William Mooser II (1868-1962), and finally, William Mooser, III (1893-1969).

William Mooser I was San Francisco’s first City Architect. William Mooser II was, at one point, the director of San Francisco’s City Public Works and a key figure in the Federal Public Works Act Administration for the Western United States. He was responsible for the first Building Code in San Francisco. His notable works include the Aquatic Park in San Francisco and Santa Barbara Courthouse. William Mooser III spent most of his college years in Europe studying architecture. He spent significant time in Spain and southern France, absorbing the culture and architecture. He returned to the United States to assist his father with the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. William Mooser III’s experience in the Andalusian region of Spain was particularly crucial in giving the architects an edge in the 1919 design competition, as the Spanish Colonial Revival Style was becoming very popular in California about this time. Santa Barbara civic leaders wanted the architecture of the new courthouse to reflect this trend and echo the city’s history.7

Design sketch of Anacapa Street elevation. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum’s Gledhill Library.
Construction drawing of Anacapa Street elevation. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.
Courthouse Complex

The effort to design and construct the new courthouse was highly collaborative, and Santa Barbara County leadership and local civic leaders were deeply involved in every aspect of the design process. The initial design of the Santa Barbara Courthouse remained unchanged, from the beginning construction sketch to the final Anacapa Street elevation. Mooser’s drawing of the Anacapa Street elevation represents what the courthouse looks like today, unchanged.

It was the cost of putting this complex together that drove many of the final details. For example, Hall of Records’ stone base (or plinth) is made of sandstone blocks. Then, exterior plaster was applied to the concrete building walls and against the edges of these large stones. When the Service Wing was being constructed the exterior detailing had switched to a method that made it less expensive to construct. The plinth was created using exterior plaster at a thickened depth, then troweled to match the real sandstone on the adjacent Hall of Records. This method continued for the remainder of the complex. Authentic sandstone was only used around significant doors and arches.

The Santa Barbara Courthouse Complex is comprised of four distinct buildings, joined by an arched bridge. The construction sequence was completed, starting with the Hall of Records and ending with the Santa Barbara Street Jail Wing. Each construction phase progressed from foundations to finishes. The Hall of Records shows what the architect had intended with the entire complex in its interior detailing. Only in the Hall of Records is there finished plaster scored with a dense bristle brush to simulate the wood grain in the massive support beams. The ceiling of the Hall of Records, like that of the Mural Room, Law Library, and the two original courtrooms, has been completed with intricate shapes and figures executed in a method referred to as “Dutch metal,” a technique that combines copper and zinc to simulate gold leaf applications. The symbols, images, and shapes that make up the design harken from the heraldic days of medieval times.

The interior courtyard of the Hall of Records is flooded with light from a fifty-foot skylight above. Courtesy of the County of Santa Barbara.

The general design of the Hall of Records is that of an outdoor courtyard. A space that one might stumble upon while navigating a narrow passage in Spain that explodes into a sunlit courtyard, surrounded by quaint shops. This approach explains why there is a fifty-foot diameter skylight that floods the interior space of the Hall of Records with light. The Hall of Records is narrower than the adjacent Service Wing by seven feet, most notable on the garden side of the building. This is because the original stone jail was located nearby and was still being used while the new Courthouse was under construction. This reality required that the Hall of Records be reduced in width to allow the old jail to remain functional for a time.

Floor plan of Hall of Records showing narrowing width. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.

The adjacent building, the Service Wing, is much less adorned in its interior detailing. This space is much like the backside of Hearst Castle; unfinished and rather pedestrian. Originally designed to house a community history gallery on the ground floor and an office for the District Attorney on the third floor, the gallery was never completed. Instead, a floor was inserted during construction to provide more office space. To the careful viewer, one will notice that the three large windows to the left of the Spirit of the Ocean Fountain reveal a floor line about a third up from the window sills. The County Architect’s office was once located in the space (the first window) above the Spirit of the Ocean Fountain. The babbling water of the fountain could be heard during the day. The wrought-iron grilles that shroud the opening of the three windows of this façade from the street appear to be sloppily made. If one looks closely, it is clear that none of the vertical or horizontal iron bars align. They appear randomly placed. One may also observe this irregularity in other ironwork around the complex.

Partial Anacapa Street elevation of three windows. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.

Another strange detail is the balcony on this elevation. Balconies are usually accessible by a door or a pair of doors. This is not so in the Santa Barbara Courthouse. Many of the balconies that one can see on the building, like that on the Anacapa Street side of the Service Wing, Garden side of the Figueroa Wing, or the large balcony over the entry on Figueroa Street, require climbing steps up and then a climb out of a window. A great example of this are the windows in the Law Library on the second floor of the Figueroa Wing (while access to the balcony outside the windows is prohibited, visitors can view the windows and balconies).

The Santa Barbara Courthouse’s main archway shown from the Anacapa Street side. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.

The Santa Barbara Courthouse’s Grand Arch is one of the most captivating features of the building. It provides an iconic marker in navigating around the complex. “Meet me at the arch honey” can often be heard during the day as a multitude of tourists descend upon the courthouse during operating hours. The Main Court Wing, comprised of the Anacapa hallway and Figueroa hallway, provides space for Superior Court and Court support operations. These portions of the building
also house the primary historical spaces: Mural Room, Second Floor Lobby, two Original Courtrooms, and the Law Library. These spaces are among the most ornate and detailed of all the areas in the Santa Barbara Courthouse Complex. The Hall of Records completes the five primary spaces on the site. Remember the precise detailing in the Hall of Records discussed above? The beam detailing in the remainder of the building is much different. The detailing had to be simpler for the project to stay within budget, which we all know did not happen.

Partial Anacapa Street elevation showing small bell tower at the upper corner of this elevation. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.

The superstructure is comprised of steel “I” beams encased in concrete. The wood formwork to hold the concrete while it sets were sandblasted before being erected. Once the wet concrete was poured into the formwork, it took on the texture of the wood formwork. When the concrete was painted brown, it was difficult to determine if it was wood or concrete. This construction trick helped to reduce costs and speed up the work. There are very few wood elements in the framing and construction of the Santa Barbara Courthouse. In the main lobby, by
the U.S Forest Service Topographic Map, there are small wood beams, painted with various colors and shapes, mounted on the ceiling. These are only there for aesthetics. This same detail is used throughout the building along the main second-floor hallways. The distinct rafter tails, elements just under the roofline, are also wood, and again are only to complete the aesthetics of the roof detail. They are in no way structural or supportive to the Courthouse roof. Another interesting fact that even most locals do not know is that there is a bell in a small tower at the very corner of the building, near Anacapa and Figueroa Streets. This bell was relocated to this spot from the first fire station in Santa Barbara. This bell can still be rung, but the method to do so cannot be disclosed here.

Santa Barbara Street elevation of Jail Wing. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.

The fourth building of the complex is the Jail Wing; this is the portion of the building facing Santa Barbara Street. In the authorization of the Courthouse Complex, the Jail Wing was initially eliminated from the project due to cost. However, Leo Preisker, Chair of the Board of Supervisors for the better part of twenty years, gave the contractor the green light to construct the Jail Wing, arguing that the presence of prisoners necessitated the construction of a jail. The Jail Wing also housed the Sheriff’s operations. Most of the prison cells remain and are mostly used for records storage. While there is very little ornamentation on the inside of the Jail Wing, there are a few painted elements in the Sheriff Civil Office. This wing was the original location of the County Sheriff’s Office, and since the office served the entire County, painted on the beams are the seals of each city in the county at the time the building was constructed. The majority of ornate detailing is on the exterior of the Jail Wing. A common misconception about the Jail Wing is that many believe the stone turret located high up on the Santa Barbara Street elevation is accessible. It is not accessible at all; it is purely an architectural castle feature, and designed to invoke defensive notions of medieval times.

The local community has been involved in the Courthouse since the very beginning. It was well before the earthquake that many in the community had become deeply involved in how the city was to evolve. The planning of streets, planting trees, and organization of public spaces. The notion that a collective community heritage was being erased with each new project prompted this involvement. The events surrounding the 1925 earthquake only gave a sense of urgency and immediacy to this civic engagement, which soared to its height during this time. It was through the establishment of the Community Drafting Room and design review boards, pressed by historic preservation advocates like Pearl Chase, that led to what is seen throughout the Santa Barbara community today, especially downtown. Countless thousands have fond memories of Fiestas, concerts, Earth Day celebrations, community galas and myriad weddings; many taking place at the Santa Barbara Courthouse. This history of community use underscores the fact that the Santa Barbara Courthouse is more than just a civic building where justice is dispensed, and vital records are kept. Over the years, community members have involved themselves in what happens at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, beginning with the oldest organization, called the Courthouse Docent Council. The Docent Council is now in its 40th year with over eighty trained tour guides who offer their knowledge of the property twice daily for free.

Community Involvement and the Making of a Landmark

The Courthouse Legacy Foundation and the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery Foundation are the newest non-profit organizations to join the effort to preserve the complex and its historic elements. The creation of the Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation occurred in 2004; this 501(c)3 non-profit is focused on executing conservation projects at the Santa Barbara Courthouse that keep it in shape for all to enjoy. Some of their work is known already, including: the recreation of the Spirit of the Ocean Fountain, the restoration of the Main Arch Ceiling in association with the Pearl Chase Society, conservation of the Mural Room, and the current effort to conserve the stone on the Main Arch. The Bisno Schall Clock Gallery Foundation is focused on the care of the Seth Thomas Tower Clock, located in the Observation Tower.

Scan of tracing of imagery of the large support beams. These images can be found on the vertical surface of each side of each beam. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.

The Courthouse Complex was first recognized as a place of historical importance in 1981 when the property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1982, the property was designated a City of Santa Barbara Historic Landmark, and in 2003, the property was designated a California State Historic Landmark. It took the better part of six months to document and verify the facts required to complete the necessary forms for designation as a California State Historic Landmark. Once this work had been completed, completion of the National Parks Service nomination forms required much less time. A year of working the nomination through with both State and National architectural historians produced a document wherein which all the facts were vetted, and the nomination could proceed to public hearings and Nomination Sub-Committee review. The Santa Barbara Courthouse was named a National Historic Landmark in 2005. The benefits of being a designated historic landmark include access to grant funding only available to State or National Historic Landmarks and greater protections against changes that impact the historic fabric of the complex.

Conservation Projects

Over the previous twenty years, several conservation projects have been completed, from the restoration of the flagpole to the conservation of the central archway facing Anacapa Street. There is not enough space to talk about all of the projects, so a few highlights will have to do for now.


The flagpoles, located near the corner of Anapamu and Santa Barbara Streets, are comprised of two masts from sailing ships: the bottom pole from the U.S. Naval Frigate, USS Congress (1841), and the top pole from a vessel of unknown origin, but thought to be a Spanish cutter. The two masts were connected by a hound’s ring and Crow’s Nest from which men could view across the oceans for land or foe. The upper, much lighter mast was held in place against the bottom mast by a locking block fit into a wedge keyhole. The hound’s ring stabilized the upper mast against the bottom mast and forces of wind on the sails.

The flagpole was removed, and once the two poles were safely on the ground, a close inspection revealed that the crow’s nest anchors had completely rusted away—nothing held the nest in place but the dense layers of paint. The flagpoles were restored, including arranging for local Boy and Girl Scouts to repaint each pole. The Scout helpers each earned a community service patch for their efforts. The finished flagpole was dedicated on Flag Day in 2001 by the California Historic Preservation Officer, Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA.

In 2008, work was undertaken to preserve the imagery on the ceiling of the Main Arch. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.
Main Arch Ceiling

It is incredible that thousands of visitors pass through the Main Arch and never look up. Work had to be done to conserve the imagery on the ceiling of the Main Arch. Understanding what we needed to do, how to get it done, and who could help us get this critical work done were the first steps of the project. It was the Pearl Chase Society that stepped up and said, “We can’t let this ceiling go without restoration— not on our beat.” So, for the next seven weeks, the County Architect spent weekends up on a scissors lift tracing all of the graphics, carefully mapping them to a photograph of the ceiling. In 2008, the paint restoration of the main arch ceiling was finished and can now be viewed by all visitors who walk under the main arch of the Santa Barbara Courthouse.

Work being done to restore the ceiling of the Main Arch, 2008. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.
The Mural Room

The Mural Room, originally The Assembly Room of the County Board of Supervisors, is one of the most visited rooms in the entire building. The room is detailed with wood, fabric, tile, leather, textiles, and wrought iron. The ceiling is a highly decoratively-painted, Dutch- metal replica of the ceiling in Sicily’s Cattedrale di Monreale (Cathedral of Monreale). Many of the artistic elements found in this cathedral can be found in the Santa Barbara Courthouse. This can be attributed to two facts: the architect William Mooser III spent considerable time in Spain, and the painter, John Smeraldi, came from the Monreale area in Italy. The conservation work was prompted by a fire in the building that led
to a greater understanding of the real condition of the mural and its underlying supporting structures. After a successful fundraising effort and ten weeks of work, the conservation project was completed, which included museum lighting that highlights the paintings and ceiling.

The Mural Room is one of the most visited rooms in the entire building. The room is detailed with wood, fabric, tile, leather, textiles, and wrought iron.Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.
The Spirit of the Ocean Fountain

The Spirit of the Ocean Fountain, so named because of Santa Barbara’s association with the sea, was carved in situ by Ettore Cadorin, who emigrated from Italy. The subjects of this piece are based upon local teenage models who happened to be brother and sister. The piece, while it looks like one large block of sandstone, is actually five stones. As each block was stacked upon the other, lead shims were placed to level and precisely position the blocks. The composition of the blocks begins with the base blocks, those that express the lower torso, legs, and fish head. There is a left and right block with a vertical seam at the mid-point of the fish head. The next block is what we call the “people block.” This is the block that expresses the upper torso and chest of the male and female figure. The remaining blocks make up seaweed and corn stalks either side of the “people” block.

The Spirit of the Ocean Fountain. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.

The carving method used is referred to as “pointing,” and is a process of using a framed pointing needle to transfer the shape being carved from the model to the full-sized blocks. Reference points are created on each, the model and then the full-sized permanent piece that is maintained until the piece is nearing completion. Only then can these reference points be removed, and the final work is completed. When visiting the Courthouse, take binoculars to view the Spirit of the Ocean Fountain and look for small dimples on the surface of the stone, most noticeable on the face, arms, and legs. Look closely, because those dimples can be mistaken for pits in the stone. These dimples are the transferred points from the model to the stone and represent where the carver removed the excess stone to achieve the shape being created. The dimples remain as part of the artist’s execution of the piece. The original “people” block is stored in the basement of the Santa Barbara Courthouse, in hopes of displaying it in the building at some point in the future.

Details of the “people” block, Spirit of the Ocean Fountain. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Architect Courthouse Archives.

The sculpture had to be replaced because sandstone is not a very durable material, and naturally weathers faster than other materials. In the case of Spirit of the Ocean Fountain, this deterioration was accelerated by the application of waterproofing in the 1960s when there was an effort to protect the piece from the elements. This only served to entrap the moisture and contributed to the failure of the stone from the inside out. Porous stone needs to breathe to stay dry. While the piece looked okay to the casual viewer, the surface of the stone is the only part that remained mainly because of the painted-on waterproofing that glued the sandstone particles together. It was much like an ice cream cone with chocolate frozen on top. Once the ice cream begins to melt, all you have is the hardened chocolate shell. As part of the restoration of the piece, methods were included to ensure that the piece could evaporate moisture more effectively.


1. Patricia Gebhard and Kathryn Masson, Santa Barbara County Courthouse (Santa Barbara: Daniel & Daniel, 2001), 15.

2. Ibid.

3. Peter J. Barber collection, 1871-1909, BANC MSS 2002/200, Box 1, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California.

4. Superior Court Grand Jury Records, Santa Barbara Courthouse Court, Clerk’s Office.

5. Ray McDevitt, Courthouses of California (Berkeley, California: Heyday Books, 2001), 364.

6. Robert L. Ooley, FAIA, “The William Mooser Company: Bridging the Generations” (Conference Session Presentation, California Preservation Foundation, San Francisco, 2004).

7. Ibid.

Choosing Our Community’s Historic Resources: St. Paul’s AME Church at 502 Olive St.

On Sunday May 31, the Santa Barbara Chapter of Black Lives Matter and Juneteenth Santa Barbara issued a list of demands for action that included in part:

We demand protection and preservation of Black landmarks.

The demands identified specific buildings to be designated as historic resources including St. Paul’s AME Church at 502 Olive Street. Why is this request and this building so important? 

St. Paul A.M.E. Church, Santa Barbara. Image originally obtained from Laura K. Simmons for publication in “African-Americans on the Central Coast: A Photo Essay” (Black Gold Cooperative Library System, 1993).

The way a community decides to designate places as historic can affect its long-term historical memory. In addition to recognizing those who built it, designating a building and thereby assisting with its preservation helps define who we are as a community. Historic buildings remind us of our moments of triumph, help us remember and grieve our tragedies, and help document the daily life of our diverse residents and the institutions they built.

Crop of 1907 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing St. Paul’s AME Church at the corner of Canal (now Olive) and Haley Streets.

There had been an African Methodist Episcopal church on the site of 502 Olive Street since 1906, when it was the only structure on the entire block, and Olive Street was known as Canal Street. It was built by the local African American congregation to serve as a house of worship for its members.

St. Paul’s AME Church as it appears on the original 1930 Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Map, Volume 1 corrected to 1958 in the collection of the Presidio Research Center.

By 1930, the Church, possibly a newer building constructed after the 1925 earthquake, had taken on the form we recognize today—a larger and more substantial building with an attached dwelling.

In 1990, St. Paul’s AME Church was added to the City’s list of potential Historical Resources and assigned the note: “potential Landmark status.”  A City landmark is the highest level of designation offered by the City. Today, in response to the demands of local activists, we sent a letter to the Historic Landmarks Commission requesting that this building be added to the agenda of the next Designation Subcommittee for consideration for landmark status. This important African American resource has held its ground and served its community for over 100 years, and deserves recognition for the history it represents, in addition to its beautiful architecture. The time to designate it is now. 

Is this the only building deserving of recognition? Not by a long shot. We have much more work to do. The field of historic preservation and museums have not always been at the forefront of diversity, equity and inclusion. We need to improve, and we begin by looking inward. Our organizational values include “Promote the diversity of cultures that comprise(d) the Presidio Neighborhood.” Today we extend those values outward into our City, County and beyond. We stand with those who are striving, fighting, and praying for equity and justice in our country in the face of persistent racism. As an organization we will continue improve our service to the community of Santa Barbara and to lift up its complex, sometimes disheartening, and often heroic stories until all the voices, past and present, are able to be heard. 

Our colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture have created a new digital resource, Talking about Race. We will use this resource internally, and we share it here as it may be of interest to you as well.

Replacing the Presidio Chapel Doors

by Michael H. Imwalle

The project to lovingly restore the Santa Barbara Presidio Chapel doors is complete. The process entailed the fabrication of new doors, mounted on new pivot hinges on a new threshold, and the restoration of the existing lock hardware. In November 2019, recently-elected SBTHP Board member Joe Handerhan and his team from Channel Coast Corporation began the project by measuring and drawing the existing doors, hardware, and molding profiles to create shop drawings to manufacture the replacement doors.

Once the 1985 doors were documented, carpenter Teo Ellinwood began ripping and planing lumber to assemble the door panels. The door frames were fit together using mortise and tenon joinery. The molding profiles of the old doors were used to cut custom router blades so that the raised detail of the door panels were a perfect match! More than sixty eight-inch-long hand-forged nails made by Santa Barbara Forge were used to fasten the door panels to the frames. With the door panels finished it was time to start the installation. Each nail had to be driven through a pre-drilled pilot hole, heated with a torch, bent over at the tip, heated with a torch again, then bent over the back of the frame.

The new doors were delivered to the site and sandblast to raise the grain of the wood to match the weathered wood surrounding the entrance to the chapel. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

In order to install the new doors, the existing threshold needed to
be replaced so that new pivot hinges could be installed. The original threshold was rotting and could no longer support the weight of the doors, each weighing more than one hundred and fifty pounds. Once the threshold was replaced, the new doors were delivered to the site and sandblasted to raise the grain in the wood to match the weathered wood surrounding the entrance to the chapel. Juan Ramirez arrived onsite to help Teo fit the new doors onto the new pivot hinges and to help remove the original hardware from the old doors.

It was a delicate dance replacing the threshold and the doors, all the while leaving the chapel open to visitors and being able to lock it securely each evening. Once the new doors were hung, painter Luis Castro (the stain master) began applying a custom stain to the new doors. The stain is made by adding ground iron oxide pigment to a mixture of turpentine and linseed oil. Luis has been mixing this special stain for projects at El Presidio SHP for more than ten years.

New doors are ready to receive the original hardware. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

With the doors mounted and stained, it was then time to install the original lock hardware. On February 10, 2020 the new lock hardware was installed using custom hand-forged nails made by horseshoer Larry Sell of Sierra Forge Farrier Service. That afternoon the new chapel doors were locked with the original hardware for the first time. SBTHP and California State Parks are extremely grateful to the John and Beverly Stauffer Foundation and all the individual contributions that made this project possible. Hopefully these doors will welcome celebrations of life, marriage, and community for many generations to come.

The finished Presidio Chapel doors. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

Michael H. Imwalle is the Associate Executive Director for Cultural Resources at SBTHP.

SBTHP to Welcome Santa Barbara Junior High School 7th Graders

The History and Relevancy Project is a collaborative effort by California State Parks, UC Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) to bring specialized educational programming exploring the universal themes of migration and immigration to CA State Historic Parks. As a part of this pilot project, we plan to offer a customized field trip to all of Santa Barbara Junior High School’s 400 seventh graders on September 26 and 27, 2019 at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. In preparation, we invited two of SBJHS’s seventh grade teachers for a tour of the Presidio in early August. Here is seventh grade history teacher Kristin Martinez-Pettit’s reflection on the process thus far:

SBJHS 7th grade teachers Kristin Martinez-Pettit (left) and Nicole Neimroozi (right) along with SBTHP’s Director of Programs Danny Tsai during a tour of the Presidio. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

All students should know that their story is relevant and part of Santa Barbara’s history. Through a series of meetings with representatives of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, UC Santa Barbara and CA State Parks, seventh grade English and Social Studies teachers at SBJHS, with the help of our teacher librarian and community liaison, are planning and facilitating a project to help students connect their stories to the city of Santa Barbara. The project will include class visits from CA State Parks and UCSB staff and a field trip for all of our seventh graders to visit the El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park in late September, organized by the SBTHP Programs Department. Our goal through this project is to build a sense of community amongst our students as well as stoke their interest in the human story while cultivating their own.

“Our goal through this project is to build a sense of community amongst our students as well as stoke their interest in the human story while cultivating their own.

In preparation for our trip, we met with SBTHP representatives, educators, and teachers to create the best learning experience for our students. After a series of meetings and our preview of the Presidio grounds and planned activities, teachers began planning the logistics of the trip. Every preparation meeting for our planned field trip has been insightful, informative, and helpful as we attempt to merge the history of Santa Barbara with learning in the classroom.

SBJHS 7th grade teachers Kristin Martinez-Pettit (center) and Nicole Neimroozi (left) with SBTHP’s Associate Director for Public Engagement Kevin McGarry (right) and UCSB History Professor and SBTHP Board Member, Dr. Randy Bergstrom.

Written by Kevin McGarry

Japanese Film Crew Charts the Course of 19th Century Boatman at El Presidio SHP

By Anne Petersen

On June 8, 2019 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) hosted a Japanese film crew from NHK Broadcasting Center in Tokyo at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. The crew is making a documentary film about Jukichi Oguri, a Japanese boatman who was lost at sea for 484 days before being picked up by the British ship Forester and brought to Rancho Refugio to convalesce. Oguri’s drift, according to the filmmakers, remains the longest in history to be survived. You can read more about this incredible story here

NHK film crew members, including Production Coordinator Michi Murayama (front left);  Director Yasuyuki Kuwata (third from the right); Actor Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (second from the right); with Debby Aceves (center) and Anne Petersen (far right).  Photo courtesy SBTHP.

The filmmakers brought in Japanese actor Hiroyuki Ikeuchi to narrate the film and help the audience imagine Oguri’s experiences. We met the crew in the Presidio Research Center for an interview with Executive Director Anne Petersen about life in the Santa Barbara area around 1815.  The team asked questions about the Spanish colonization of California, restrictions on trade and foreign vessels, and Rancho Refugio.

After the historical interview, the crew met with SBTHP Board President Debby Aceves, a descendant of José Francisco Ortega, first comandante of El Presidio de Santa Barbara and the founding owner of Rancho Refugio. During Oguri’s visit, José Francisco’s son José María Ortega was likely in residence and in control, as José Francisco died in 1798. Aceves and Ikeuchi had an informative conversation during which Aceves showed the actor her genealogy chart, and her descent from Ortega. She described the ranching economy that supported the Ortega family and others during the mid-nineteenth century. At the end of their conversation, Ikeuchi noted that it is interesting that Jukicki found Ortega 200 years ago, and now here he was talking with a descendant today, also in Santa Barbara. Aceves remarked that even though he and his crew today live an ocean away, maybe we aren’t really all that far apart because they were able to find connection today through this amazing story.

Debby Aceves show the crew her genealogy chart, tracing her family back many generations to José Francisco Ortega. Photo by Anne Petersen.

At SBTHP we believe that the knowledge and practice of history is vital to sustaining healthy individuals, communities and the nation.  Our experience with this film crew and exploration of the incredible story of Jukichi Oguri demonstrate that connecting with each other and exploring our own past can produce a sense of common ground across geographic and language barriers, and across time itself.  After their visit in Santa Barbara, the crew planned to travel to Sitka Alaska, to film at locations where Jikichi was taken on an otter trading vessel, before being brought back home to Japan. Adrift Across the Pacific will air in September 2019 on NHK Broadcasting.

Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

SBTHP Hosts Dos Pueblos Concert Band at Casa de la Guerra for May 1st Thursday Event

On Thursday, May 2, 2019 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation partnered with Downtown Santa Barbara to welcome the Dos Pueblos High School (DPHS) Concert Band for a special 1st Thursday evening of live music under the stars in the Casa de la Guerra courtyard. The DPHS Concert Band includes high school students from various musical backgrounds, who learn a broad range of musical styles to enrich their musical repertoire. The DPHS Concert Band is under the direction of Mr. Dan Garske.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Paul Mori

The band played three dynamic sets and attracted 1st Thursday goers as well as many walking and driving by between 5-8pm. The broad-ranging set list included a mix of theme songs from Star Wars. This special, free 1st Thursday event began the band’s fundraising campaign to cover costs to send the students to perform at Carnegie Hall in spring 2020.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Paul Mori

Admission to the Casa de la Guerra museum was free during the program and the evening provided another opportunity for a special after hours showing of our temporary exhibit; The Anna S. C. Blake Manual Training School: The Remarkable Antecedent of UC Santa Barbara. The Blake exhibit was on loan from the UC Santa Barbara Library and displayed at Casa de la Guerra through May 31, 2019.

One of SBTHP’s core values is to provide a welcoming and accessible gathering place for Santa Barbarans and all who visit our community. Through our collaboration with Downtown Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos High School we were able to welcome many new faces to the Presidio Neighborhood. We look forward to partnering with the DPHS music programs again in the future.

Kevin McGarry is the Associate Director for Public Engagement at SBTHP.

Up-to-date news, notes, and behind the scenes at SBTHP

The NAI Blog

From the National Association for Interpretation

Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library

Helping to tell the stories of the Southwest