On Saturday May 12 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation partnered with the Santa Barbara Public Library to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with a program at the Faulkner Gallery and tours of Santa Barbara’s Chinatown and the Nihonmachi Revisited exhibit at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park.
We were pleased and surprised that 100 people turned out to attend the event, resulting in a last-minute scramble to set out more chairs. Executive Director of SBTHP Anne Petersen made a short presentation summarizing the history of the Chinese and Japanese communities in Santa Barbara, who settled on or near the site of the eighteenth-century Spanish Presidio after that site had fallen into disrepair. Director of Programs Kevin McGarry followed with save-the-dates for several upcoming programs hosted by SBTHP to honor those communities, including the Asian American Film Series, which takes place every Friday in July at 7pm in the Alhecama Theatre, and the Asian American Neighborhood Festival on October 7, 2018 at El Presidio SHP.
After the presentation, most of the attendees walked down to El Presidio SHP and split into two groups. There one group took a 1/2 hour tour of the Nihonmachi Revisited exhibit in the Visitor Center of El Presidio SHP, hosted by Anne Petersen and Kay Van Horn, whose family resided in the neighborhood. Van Horn shared wonderful stories about her family’s relationship with Nihonmachi (Japantown) as well as the challenges they faced preceding and during World War II. Historian Kathi Brewster hosted a tour of Old and New Chinatown for the second group, covering the first and second blocks of East Canon Perdido Street and the movement of Chinatown to the East after the 1925 earthquake. After each group finished their first tour, they switched, ensuring that all guests were able to experience both tours.
SBTHP is grateful to the Santa Barbara Public Library and to our program hosts for an educational afternoon that fostered a shared sense of community and empathy for the diversity of experiences among those who helped contribute to the Santa Barbara we enjoy today.