This year the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) once again hosted an entry in the Old Spanish Days Fiesta Parade on August 5, 2016. This year’s group, like last year’s included a strong contingent of Presidio descendants representing Santa Barbara’s founding families. The descendants were coordinated by SBTHP Genealogy and Descendants Committee Member and Docent Suzi Calderon Bellman. Several docents from La Purisima Mission State Historic Park also participated, along with staff and docents of SBTHP. From all reports, ours was one of the largest walking entries in this year’s parade! For more images of the parade entry by Suzi Calderon Bellman, Rocky Bellman and Michael Imwalle visit our Flickr Album here.
During the I Madonnari festival, this year held from May 28 to May 30 2016, color and imagination bring the parking lot of Old Mission Santa Barbara to life. A kaleidoscope of 150 scenes created by local—and international—artists cover the pavement in a festival borrowed from Italy but perfectly suited to Santa Barbara’s love for art, music, food, and community fun.
This year I had the privilege to paint a square representing the El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Hitsoric Park, and wondered how exactly to illustrate the site’s Spanish Colonial heritage for the average of 25,000 visitors who attend. The finished product brought together a number of inspirations I had picked up during my research and time as an education intern with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, focusing on the people of Spanish and Mexican California and the art and music with which they beautified their world.
The soldado playing guitar was based on pictures of living history docents at the Santa Barbara Presidio, performing traditional Spanish songs for dancing. In the scene I painted, he is playing next to a woman who was based loosely on a portrait of Francisca de la Guerra. Though born in the mid-nineteenth century, and not the colonial Spanish period the soldado represents, as a member of the prominent de la Guerra family she kept Spanish heritage alive throughout her life, and was known to particularly love Spanish folk songs. I altered the portrait somewhat to have her sewing an altarpiece for the Presidio chapel, which was inspired by the painstaking crafts performed by soldier’s wives and other women of Spanish and Mexican California, and the beautiful floral designs festooning altar cloths, shawls, and paintings. An image of St. Barbara with her characteristic tower is also present on the altar cloth, and Presidio architecture is visible in the background.
I enjoyed this opportunity to try to bring some of Santa Barbara’s past occupants and their stories to life, and felt privileged to be part of an event where artists bring together stories as varied and vibrant as our community!
Dana Hughes is a UCSB graduate student in the History Department and a 2015 Higman Intern.
Several years ago, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation received a donation of papers from longtime member and volunteer Elizabeth Hvolboll featuring the musical program reenacted every December at the Presidio and Casa de la Guerra called “Las Posadas.” The collection of sheet music and lyrics makes up the entire repertoire of El Coro del Real Presidio de Santa Bárbara, the local group that celebrates and performs music of the Californios, founded by Elizabeth Hvolboll and Luis Moreno. Besides many individual songs for “Las Posadas” and Christmas, there are another 50 folders of folk and mission music that the group has performed over the years.
This collection complements other materials in the Presidio Research Center, such as the Early California Music audio collection. Some of the artists represented are The John Biggs Consort of California Mission Music, Musica Antigua de Alta California, and Elizabeth Hvolboll performing in the Chapel. The Research Center also has a number of songs, songbooks, and articles about California and Spanish music in the vertical files.
The guide to the El Coro del Real Presidio de Santa Barbara collection can be viewed in the Online Archive of California, along with other Research Center collections. To make an appointment to use the Research Center, please contact Laurie Hannah at 805-965-2004.
Laurie Hannah is the librarian at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation
On March 24, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation lecture series fans were treated to a rare lecture and book signing on the American Civil War period as it relates to Santa Barbara. Tom Prezelski, a former Arizona State Representative and independent historian, gave a presentation in support of his recently published book Californio Lancers The 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry in the Far West, 1863-1866.
Descendants and history enthusiasts gathered to hear how members of the de la Guerra family and other Central Coast families enlisted to serve the Union Army, lending their legendary horsemanship to the effort. Prezelski shared his research on the problems and accomplishments of these Californios with an audience of their descendants, eager with questions to explore at the end of the lecture. The author was pleased to sign books at the reception, before returning to Arizona.
In April 2016 I was fortunate to attend the 41st Annual California Preservation Conference at the San Francisco Presidio. Conference Partners the California Preservation Foundation, the Presidio Trust, and California State Parks Office of Historic Preservation hosted four days of workshops, mobile workshops, study tours, and paper sessions in and around the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
I began the conference with an eight-hour behind the scenes study tour of Alcatraz entitled, “From Civil War to Civil Rights: Structure Stabilization at Alcatraz.” The morning was spent with National Park Service Historical Architect Jason Hagin visiting ongoing stabilization and rehabilitation projects on the island. Projects ranged from the stabilization of Civil War-era fort underlying the main cell block to the recent “restoration” of the political slogans painted by the American Indians of All Tribes (IOAT) that occupied the island from November 1969 to June 1971.
In the afternoon Park Service Ranger John Cantwell gave a very special interpretive tour of the island. Alcatraz was the first developed as a lighthouse installation and during the Civil War, the military expanded its presence as part of a larger multi-site system of defensive structures designed to ring the San Francisco Bay. Attendees were treated to a tour of the basement under the main cell blocks to see the remnants of the Civil War-era fort and to the top of the lighthouse. We truly got to see the island from bottom to top!
The following Day I participated in another study tour titled “Adaptive Reuse in the Presidio’s Main Post” with Rob Thomson, Michelle Taylor, and Rob Wallace of the Presidio Trust. We visited several buildings on the main post including the Officer’s Club, the Montgomery Street Barracks, the Inn at the Presidio, and were introduced to the ongoing Presidio Parklands Project. I also attended the following sessions, “Simpler National Register Nominations: The MPD Approach” and “Saving Our Historic Post Offices.”
On the last day of the conference I participated in another study tour entitled “El Polin Springs: Habitat Restoration, Cultural Landscapes, and Archeology in the Presidio.” El Polin Springs is a natural, year-round water source that provided water for Native Ohlone, Spanish-colonial, Mexican, and U.S. Army-era settlers.
The tour included a visit to the small settlement of El Polin to see the spring and several archaeological features including an adobe houses of the Miramontes and Briones families. The day finished up with a tour of the archaeological lab where it was nice to touch base with archaeological colleagues from the Presidio Trust. Like the model of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park within the State Park system, revenues garnered from the rents of adaptively reused buildings within the San Francisco Presidio are reinvested by the Presidio Trust into new development projects within the park.
Michael Imwalle is the Archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation
The History Center for San Luis Obispo County recently installed a new exhibit titled “Once Upon a Time in the West: a History of San Luis Obispo County” about the historic Obispo Theatre, a movie theater that opened in 1928 and was much beloved by the local community until it was lost in a fire in the mid-1970s.
In order to help furnish part of the recreated interior of the theater, Director and Curator Eva Ulz put a call out to area museums and historic sites inquiring about a loan of 1930s-era theater seats.
The timing was perfect for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, as we had recently removed theatre seats which had been installed in the 1930s at the Alhecama Theatre and placed them in storage. During SBTHP’s restoration of the Alhecama, built in 1925 as the Pueblo Theatre to serve the Santa Barbara School of the Arts, we learned that the theater had originally been designed as a multipurpose space. As a result, we removed the later rake seating and restored the original hardwood floors.
We were thrilled at the opportunity to lend four of the seats to the History Center to help interpret a theatre in the region from a similar era. In late January of this year two members of the History Center’s exhibits committee made the trip down to pick up the seats, and Archaeologist Mike Imwalle gave them a tour of the Alhecama. In early March, SBTHP Board President Terease Chin and myself visited Eva Ulz at the History Center to see the Alhecama seats in the new Obispo Theater display.
SBTHP is proud of this great collaboration with the San Luis Obispo County History Center, and we encourage you to visit our friends there on your next trip north along the coast. We also hope you’ll join us at an event or program at the Alhecama Theatre, a beautifully restored historic resource in El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.
Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
The exhibit traces the arc of Johnson’s career from his early work, to iconic projects including the Biltmore, Cate School, Bellosguardo (The Clark Estate) and Cuesta Linda (Lotusland). The exhibit also includes several acclaimed small house projects which contributed to Johnson’s evolving sense of architecture’s role in designing a high quality of life for everyone.
We devote an entire gallery to what some believe to be the pinnacle of his career, the Santa Barbara Downtown Post Office, 1937. A Depression-era project for which Johnson took no commission, the Post Office is a triumph of federal institutional character with a mix of Santa Barbara style. The gallery also includes a wall devoted to William Atkinson, who designed the bas reliefs on the interior, and a feedback activity designed to building awareness of the potential sale of the Post Office by the U.S. Postal Service.
The final portion of the exhibit explores Johnson’s late-career middle class and public housing projects through which his ideals about the architecture of community life crystallized. An emphasis on the relationship with the outdoors, and spaces for the community to gather characterize these projects.
We had a wonderful opening reception for the show on Thursday March 10. If you missed it, we will be open during First Thursday next Thursday May 5 from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm, and during regular museum hours until September 18.
Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
On February 4, 2016 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation hosted a popular annual program, Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. On that unseasonably mild evening the Presidio came to life with the smells of chiles in the kitchen, and the sound of guitars drifting from the Chapel. The commandant hosted visitors in his sala, and a Presidio resident introduced guests to her chickens and described some of her regular tasks, including laundry and mending.
SBTHP is proud to participate in Downtown Santa Barbara’s1st Thursday program for this event. For more photographs from the evening by Myriah Nina Photography and Suzi Calderon Bellman please visit our Flickr album here.
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