Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight, February 5, 2015

Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight

On the dark winter evening of February 5, 2015, El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park emitted a candlelight glow  which beckoned visitors into the adobe rooms.  Inside, guests participated in cooking and spinning demonstrations, early California dancing, a meeting with the comandante, and more.  Others stayed warm by firesides in the parade ground, sharing stories and music.  This magical night has become an anticipated annual education program for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. It is also a great opportunity to collaborate with one of our important partners, the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, on their signature event series, First Thursday. For all of the beautiful photos from the evening, taken by Michael Imwalle, please see our Flickr album here.

SBTHP’s 2015 Annual Meeting: check out the photos!

Photo by Clint Weisman Studio.
Photo by Clint Weisman Studio.


On January 24, 2015 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation held its 2015 Annual Meeting of the Membership and Community Awards Presentation. Please see our Flickr album from the event here, and share the photos with your family and friends! We are pleased to debut our annual group photo taken at the meeting here on Dispatches.  This has become a favorite annual tradition for the organization.  Thanks to all our members for their support, and we’ll see you soon at our next program!



Making Wine at El Presidio SHP: The First Vintage

by Michael Imwalle, with assistance from Gabe Smith

Tasting duties. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.
Tasting duties. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

In May of 2013 former Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation weekend interpreter Gabe Smith and I embarked on an experiment to make wine from the California Mission wine grapes growing at El Presidio de Santa Barbara SHP in the Presidio Heritage Garden. SBTHP staff and volunteers harvested and crushed the grapes at Oreana Winery in October 2013 (see more here). The Presidio heritage grapevines are grown from cuttings taken from a Spanish Colonial period vine at San Gabriel Mission, so they are truly heritage fruits.  Historically, the California Mission wine grape made inferior quality drinking wine. Often wine for consumption at mass was ordered from Mexico or Spain while grain alcohol was added to locally produced wine to make a fortified wine called angelica. In April 2014 we began the painstaking process of testing and tasting the wine as we decided whether would be able to drink it or start our first batch of “Heritage Balsamic Vinegar.”

After storing the wine in our wine cave beneath the Alhecama Theatre, this October Gabe decided to blend some of the wine to make it more “palatable.”  We began blending and tasting the blends of mission grapes with varying concentrations of Pinot Noir and Viognier. With a limited number of tasters, the favorite wines were 100 percent Mission Grape, a 50/50 blend of Mission Grape and Pinot Noir, and a 75/25 blend of Mission Grape and Viognier.

On November 26th of this year, Gabe and I bottled seven cases of Presidio Mission Wine including at least two cases of each variety described above.

Again Oreana winery was generous enough to let us use their facility to bottle our wine. Thank you to Oreana winemaker Danny Miles for his help through the entire process right down to adding the foil caps to the bottles. We look forward to trying this again next year and watch for taste of the 2014 El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP Heritage Wine at the next Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation event you attend.

Blended wine. Photo by Michael H. imwalle.
Blended wine. Photo by Michael H. imwalle.

Michael Imwalle is the archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

What’s new in the Presidio Heritage Garden?

by Sam Richardson, Timmy Johnson, Elise Goodell, Lottie Johnston, and Francis Brand

Hello! We’re back, with two new members of the Presidio Heritage Garden Intern team from Anacapa School: Timmy and Francis! Welcome, Timmy and Francis. If you see those rowdy boys around, say hi and give them a smile!

Outstanding in their field Sam, Timmy, Elise, Lottie, and Francis.
Outstanding in their field Sam, Timmy, Elise, Lottie, and Francis.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve done oodles! On October 13th, we built a trellis for Kentucky Wonder green beans. We’ve planted fava beans over at El Cuartel, started pots of garlic, and planted cotton seeds (which we harvested from last year’s cotton).

One of our recent “projects” was planting clippings from the pomegranate and fig trees. First we cut small branches off the tree and peeled a strip of bark from the base of each branch to expose the cambium. Then, we wiped the blade of the pruning shears with alcohol so it’s clean, then again cut the branch bases at a diagonal angle. Finally, we rolled each branch in root hormone powder and potted them individually.

On November 5th, we re-labeled all the plants at the Presidio garden. It may have taken us the whole class time to do it, but Sam and Timmy got to learn how to spell Mediterranean and banana along the way. At last! Starting on the 21st, we denuded/pruned Arbor grapes, which we continued to do until December 10th. It’s a grape big job!

More recently we re-planted the cotton into bigger pots and thinned out our carrots. Some small trees needed to be moved (during which, Silly Sam broke a shovel), and Lottie cut down a large tree branch that was growing in the wrong direction. Go Lottie! Watering hasn’t been a necessity lately, thanks to the much-needed rain these past few weeks.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation these past few months, and will be sad to go after our last few weeks in January, following the Christmas break. Thank you to all the employees and visitors who’ve said hello to us while we’ve been here, and a big thanks to Mike Imwalle. Happy Holidays!

We at SBTHP will miss seeing this group of energetic interns moving en masse around the park with big smiles and arms full of tools.  Their work is evident in every garden space.  Have you stopped by recently to check it out?

Las Posadas Program Takes an Early California Christmas Tradition to the Streets!

2014 las Posadas Suzi bellman-002The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation welcomed over 100 community members to the Presidio Chapel on Friday December 12 to begin the annual procession of Las Posadas (The Inns), a reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in Bethlehem.   The dedicated choir, led by Luis Moreno, energized passerbys on State Street and proceeded to Casa de la Guerra, where the group was welcomed by Presidio family descendants Mike Perry and Christine Herrera playing Jose and Maria de la Guerra.  The evening finished with a tamale feast and pinata for the children.  For more photos from this beautiful night, visit our Flickr page here.

We look forward to seeing everyone again next year for this free public program, one of our most cherished traditions.

Holiday Shopping at El Presidio SHP’s La Tiendita

by Susan Zamudio-Gurrola When doing your holiday shopping, consider stopping by El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park to browse through the selection of items at La Tiendita. Each purchase will help support the mission of SBTHP, and SBTHP members will receive their member discount on all purchases. Betsy Green’s new book, Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1914, recounts newsworthy events that were featured in articles written during 1914 in the Santa Barbara Morning Press and the Daily News & Independent. Interesting and often amusing things to make the headlines included declaring that the tango incited the “looseness of morals”; the account of a storm flooding Santa Barbara severely enough to wash away homes, sections of bridges and pavement; photographs of the Mexican Revolution being brought to the U.S. and shown to the public at the Mission Theater; Paris fashion dictating at the time that “ankles will now be freely displayed” instead of discreetly covered; famous individuals such as Helen Keller visiting Santa Barbara; and the legendary dancer Martha Graham once living in our beautiful city. Grab a copy of this enjoyable read today! California Missions shirtFor fashionable gentlemen who happen to also be history buffs, we have a new button-down, collared shirt which features beautiful renderings of California Missions, including the Santa Barbara and Santa Inés missions! The shirt is 100% cotton, is designed and manufactured by a family-run company based in Southern California, and is available in sizes small through XXL. Come see these high quality, attractive shirts in person at La Tiendita. Taza Chocolate MexicanoFor many of us, the rainy weather stirs up a craving for warm, comforting beverages – such as hot chocolate. To satisfy that craving, we carry discs of Taza brand Chocolate Mexicano, as well as molinillos (traditional Mexican wood-turned whisks for mixing and frothing). You might enjoy trying your hand at the molinillo. It takes a little skill to maintain momentum when turning the handle in between the palms of your hands to create froth. Stock up on Taza hot chocolate today in preparation for the next cold or stormy day. Presidio glossy tiles Dec. 2014 (800x600)Lastly, we are pleased to introduce one-of-a-kind tiles created by a Los Angeles-based duo of artists, featuring their original photographs of the Presidio. Their images are unique and beautiful, as you can see for yourself! Gift basket example (742x800)If you are in need of a holiday gift basket, please contact the gift shop manager, Susan Zamudio-Gurrola, at (805) 965-0093 about putting one together with items from La Tiendita. We have various books, note cards, art prints, hand-painted ceramics, DVDs, and our own olive oil made with olives from our Santa Inés Mission Mills property.

Alhecama Theatre Rehabilitation

By Michael H. Imwalle

The 1928 Ross Dickenson mural. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
The 1928 Ross Dickenson mural. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Built in 1925, this building was originally called the Little Theatre; it became the Pueblo Theatre in 1937. The original structure consisted of a single-story multi-use auditorium with a raised stage. It is among a cluster of eleven wooden buildings and one stucco building that date to the Community Arts Association’s Festival Arts School (later named the Santa Barbara School of the Arts) which thrived from 1920 to the mid-1930s. In 1928 painter Ross Dickenson painted a mural depicting a Mediterranean village scene on the wall opposite the stage.

The exterior of the Alhecama Theatre. Photo by Micahel H. Imwalle.
The exterior of the Alhecama Theatre. Photo by Micahel H. Imwalle.

In 1939 significant changes were made to the building including the addition of a foyer and ticket booth, a fly above the stage, and a small apartment. Modifications to the original building included the addition of a projection booth above the foyer for showing films, raising the stage  nine inches, and installing fixed, raised, theatre seats. At that time owner Alice Schott renamed the theatre Alhecama. The name was derived from the first two letters of the names of her four daughters, Alice, Helen, Catherine, and Mary.

The Alhecama Theatre while in use by the Ensemble Theatre Company. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
The Alhecama Theatre while in use by the Ensemble Theatre Company. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

In 1981 the California Department of Parks and Recreation purchased the site. The theatre was the home of the Ensemble Theatre Company for more than thirty years. When the Ensemble moved to the new Victoria Theatre in 2013, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) made the decision to restore the original auditorium floor and stage and rehabilitate the building to make it accessible and compliant with the American Disability Act (ADA).

Removing the raked seating.  Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.
Removing the raked seating. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

This entailed removing the raised or raked seating to expose the original oak tongue-in-groove floor, removing a 12-foot extension of the stage, and exposing the original pine stage floor. Other features to be restored are the original sash windows and transoms facing the Riviera, and the four sets of glass French doors facing the plaza area historically referred to as “the green.”

Exposing the theater's original stage floor. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
Exposing the theater’s original stage floor. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

ADA improvements to the building will consist of the installation of an ADA compliant restroom, installation of an accessible ramp from the adjacent ADA parking area to the entrance of the theatre, and installation of a new brick patio in front of the entrance that extends out into the lawn area. SBTHP’s goal is to return the building to its original multi-purpose configuration and make the venue available to community organizations for lectures, films, conferences, receptions, performances, and exhibits. Stay tuned for grand unveiling in early 2015. SBTHP thanks the Hind Foundation for their generous support of this project.

Michael H. Imwalle is the archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

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