Category Archives: Collections

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.

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.

Connecting Santa Barbara’s early 20th-century Japanese-American Community to those interned at Gila River during WWII

Dr. Stacey Camp of Michigan State University (left) and Koji Lau-Ozawa (right) analyzing ceramic artifacts and field notes from the Chapel excavations. Image by Michael Imwalle.

During the month of July 2019, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) hosted Stanford PhD Candidate Koji Lau-Ozawa at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park to conduct research on the previously excavated remains of the early 20th century Nihonmachi (Japantown) of Santa Barbara. I was lucky enough to assist as Koji’s assistant in this process. The goal of the project was to find as many pre-World War II Nihonmachi related artifacts as possible in order to compare them to findings from Gila River, one of ten official Japanese-American Incarceration Camps used during the war to unconstitutionally incarcerate nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans. 

Photographing artifacts for analysis. Image by Ashlynn Deu Pree.

While Koji came into this project with a plan, having worked in archaeology for 13 years, I, coming from a background in history, had no idea what to expect. Very quickly I was thrown into the world of archaeology with my main goal of the month being to re-catalog as many artifacts as possible, most of which had not been looked at since the 1970s. I learned very quickly what this entailed: picking a bag, finding its catalog number, searching through the catalog, identifying  and dividing artifacts by material type, weighing, re-cataloging, and finally re-bagging the artifacts. I went through this process almost 750 times. On day one I learned the difference between “shard” and “sherd.” By week two I was attempting to identify different types of ceramic sherds, and by week three I no longer needed to ask whether something was porcelain, whiteware, or improved whiteware. 

Hundreds of bags of re-catalogued artifacts. Image by Ashlynn Deu Pree.

Over the course of the month we re-bagged and cataloged thousands of artifacts and by the last week we began analyzing what we had discovered. From various bottle bases with maker’s marks, to so-called “geisha girl” porcelain, we had a lot to choose from. We decided to narrow it down to specific pits identified on hand drawn 1970s maps of the excavation site. I was determined to use as many identification marks as I could to date these pits as accurately as possible. While many of the bottles were harder to identify, two distinct foil milk bottle caps were clearly labeled “Durbiano… Santa Barbara.” We were also able to find an “Old Continental Whiskey” bottle in its entirety. Using this information and City directories from Santa Barbara’s Public Library, we will be able to find exactly when this dairy company existed and whether it corresponded with the Nihonmachi.

1911-1912 Santa Barbara City Directory listing a Japanese Mission at 925 Santa Barbara Street. Image by Ashlynn Deu Pree.

While my work in this project is coming to an end, I am grateful to Koji for the opportunity as a history major graduate to learn so much about archaeology. Thank you as well to Archaeologist Mike Imwalle and SBTHP for having us. We hope that this project can fill what we believe to be a void in our historical record, by providing a better understanding and perspective of the lives of pre-war Japanese American communities and how these lives were affected and changed by incarceration.

Written by Ashlynn Deu Pree

Ashlynn Deu Pree cataloging artifacts from the circa 1970’s Bonilla House excavation. Image by Michael Imwalle.
Koji Lau-Ozawa with Shoyu (soy sauce) bottle from the Chapel site marked “Noda” which is the area in Chiba Prefecture where it’s manufactured and is an early version of Kikkoman. Image by Ashlynn Deu Pree.

SBTHP James Osborne Craig Drawings at Indigo Interiors

Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased to have loaned three architectural drawings by James Osborne Craig from its permanent collection to the Architectural Rendering exhibit now on display at Indigo Interiors. Two of the historic drawings are of De la Guerra Plaza; projected schemes for the unrealized redesign of the Plaza, and the third rendering is the courtyard of El Paseo, which Craig designed shortly before his death in 1922.  These drawings give context to the work of well-known contemporary architects represented in this dynamic show.

Indigo owners Tom and Genny Cummings invited locally based architects, Brian Cearnal, Jeff Shelton, Mark Shields, Fred Sweeney and Christopher de Rose, to show a selection of drawings from their commissions and projects. The opening reception during Downtown Santa Barbara‘s First Thursday program on September 1 was packed with the participant’s friends and family and many others who appreciate great architecture and its contribution to one’s daily life. The exhibit will run through the end of October.


Sharing Historic Theater Seats with our Neighbors in San Luis Obispo!

by Anne  Petersen

The recreated marquee of the Obispo Theatre at the San Liuis Obispo County History Center. Photo by Anne Petersen.
The recreated marquee of the Obispo Theatre at the San Liuis Obispo County History Center. Photo by Anne Petersen.

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.

Alhecama Theatre seats in storage. Photo by Anne Petersen
Alhecama Theatre seats in storage. Photo by Anne Petersen

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.

Mike Imwalle tours Exhibits Committee members John Schutz and Bob Tedone. around the Alhecama Theatre.  Photo by Anne Petersen.
Mike Imwalle tours Exhibits Committee members John Schutz and Bob Tedone. around the Alhecama Theatre. Photo by Anne Petersen.

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.

Mike Imwalle with members of the SLO History Center's Exhibits Committee, John Schutz and Bob Tedone trying out the seats.  Photo by Anne Petersen.
Mike Imwalle with members of the SLO History Center’s Exhibits Committee, John Schutz and Bob Tedone trying out the seats. Photo by Anne Petersen.

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.

Eva Ulz and Terease Chin enjoy the seats installed at the History Center. Photo by Anne Petersen.
Eva Ulz and Terease Chin enjoy the seats installed at the History Center. Photo by Anne Petersen.

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. 





Artist Specializing in Depictions of Early California Visits the Presidio.

by Anne Petersen

SBTHP archaeologist Michael Imwalle presenting a lance point from the collections of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park to David Rickman. Photo by Anne Petersen.
SBTHP archaeologist Michael Imwalle presenting a lance point from the collections of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park to David Rickman. Photo by Anne Petersen.

In November 2012 author and illustrator David Rickman paid a visit to El Presidio SHP.  David paints amazingly evocative images of early California, with an emphasis on the dress and equipment of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century residents.  His paintings are based on meticulous research into both the historic record and historical collections.  He has worked frequently for the National Park Service and for California State Parks.  In fact, if you have been to a state or national park interpreting early California history, you have likely seen David’s work.

David Rickman photographing a mid-nineteenth century bit in the collections of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, donated by Carol Storke.   Photo by Anne Petersen.
David Rickman photographing a mid-nineteenth century bit in the collections of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, donated by Carol Storke. Photo by Anne Petersen.

David’s recent visit was part of the research phase for a new project for California State Parks: a costume guide and manual for California’s Mexican and early American periods which will be used as a tool system-wide through State Parks. David visited collections throughout southern California on this trip, and documented objects at many of them.   At El Presidio SHP, David was most interested in archaeological material uncovered in the Presidio site, of which many highlights are on display in the Documenting Everyday Life exhibit on the Presidio’s Northeast Corner.   Staff Archaeologist Michael Imwalle assisted David with pieces he was interested in, including lance points and spurs, which he photographed for his records.

Although we hope that State Parks or another agency will commission a future publication focusing on California’s Spanish colonial period, which includes the primary interpretive period for El Presidio SHP, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation will benefit enormously from David’s forthcoming work.  We are committed to interpreting all the layers of history of the Presidio neighborhood, and David’s research will enhance the accuracy of our presentation of material culture.

Anne Petersen is Associate Director for Historical Resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

Launching into our 50th Anniversary, and a New Online Collections Website (It’s a Big Day)!

by Anne Petersen

In 2013, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary and we want you to be a part of it!   We have several wonderful and creative ways for you to join in our year-long celebration, from drawing mental maps of the Presidio Neighborhood, to sending in photographs and stories, which we are collectively calling the SBTHP Memories Project. For more information and all the tools you need to contribute material to our Memories Project, visit our new 50th Anniversary webpage .  We also have an amazing slate of community events planned for the anniversary year.  You can keep tabs on all the latest event information through our calendar.

The header for our new Online Collections website, created by Christa Clark Jones.

Today, after one year of preparation, we are also launching a new website to present digital collections from the Presidio Research Center.   The new site, called Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation Collections Online, uses an open-source software designed for small museums and libraries to present their collections on the internet.  We have big plans for Collections Online, including uploading digital images of photographs, objects and audio files, so you can more easily see what kind of treasures are accessible through the Presidio Research Center. Special thanks go to project volunteers Atahan Eryol, a Computer Science intern from UCSB, for programming work to configure the site, and to Dan Petersen, a professional programmer, for hosting the software at no cost to SBTHP and for providing ongoing technical support.

Father Villa’s Band. Courtesy of the Deflina de la Guerra papers, Presidio Research Center.

At the time of launch, we are presenting two wonderful historical image collections.  The first, the papers of Delfina de la Guerra, include beautiful photographs, letters and dried flower keepsakes owned by the last de la Guerra to live in Casa de la Guerra.  Special thanks go to former Presidio Research Center Librarian Torie Quiñonez and Library Volunteer Katherine Lowe (you can see Katherine’s work here and here) for processing and digitizing the collection.  The second collection includes 21 Fiesta photographs from the 1920s and 30s donated to SBTHP by Pearl Chase.  SBTHP’s Higman Intern Stephanie Byrd created this digital collection last summer following a display of the collection during Old Spanish Days Fiesta.

Mental Map of the Presidio Neighborhood by William B. Dewey. Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.

We  have also created digital collections of all of the incoming donations via the Memories Project, including Presidio Neighborhood Mental Maps, Oral Histories from the Presidio Research Center, and stories and photographs donated by community members like you!

One of the best aspects of the Online Collections site is its interactivity.  At the bottom of each item page there is a space for comments. If you recognize people or places in historic images, please leave a comment and let us know.  Crowd-sourced image projects like this through the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution have resulted in the identification of thousands of photographs via contributions from the public.  We hope it will help SBTHP too! We have also added social media buttons.  If you like an image, or have contributed an image yourself to our site, go ahead and share it on Facebook or Twitter! You can help build interest in and awareness of our collections.

Education Intern Eden Slone with the “Memory Catcher.” Photo by Karen Schultz Anderson.

We hope you enjoy browsing our new online collections website, and find some inspiration for your own contribution to our Memories Project.  We will be collecting memories at all of our public events in 2013 via a “memory catcher” created by Education Department Intern Eden Slone.  You can also submit to the Memories Project via email at We look forward to hearing from all of you during SBTHP’s 50th Anniversary in 2013!

Anne Petersen is associate director for historical resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. 

Chinese Characters in the Collections of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens

by Laina Malm-Levine

Things are moving right along with the collections inventory project at Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens. So far, over one thousand objects have been photographed, cataloged and logged into the database. These objects include plates, woks, martini glasses, silverware, artwork, furniture, and much more. While some of these objects are more utilitarian in nature, for example, the 100+ sets of generic wooden chopsticks, there are several items that tell a more interesting story.

Several objects I’ve come across have beautiful Chinese characters incorporated into their design.  There are over ten thousand characters in the Chinese language, and while I myself do not speak Chinese, I enlisted a friend that works at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to help with the translation of several of these characters.

I’ve selected four objects found in the collection that include Chinese characters:

Photo by Laina Malm-Levine.

This symbol, which is located on an east-facing window in Jimmy’s bar, means ‘Double Happiness’.  This double character is usually associated with happy couples on their wedding day, however it is also used in many other social customs.

Photo by Laina Malm-Levine.

The following symbols are painted on one of Jimmy’s ceramic teapots. One reads the strokes of these Chinese characters from right to left. The loose translation reads, ‘Beautiful Person As Jade’.

Photo by Laina Malm-Levine

Here we find a top to one of the ceramic teapots. When viewing these characters, one reads them in a diagonal line. Start by looking at the upper left symbol and then lead your eyes to the lower right. These two characters mean ‘Auspicious’. Then you see the lower left symbol and make your eyes travel to the upper right. These two characters mean ‘As You Wish’.

Photo by Laina Malm-Levine

Jimmy’s has many of these brightly colored serving platters. Again, the viewer should read these symbols from right to left. The symbol second from the right means ‘Longevity’. Coupled with the other three, the four symbols together mean ‘10,000 Years of Longevity’ or ‘Limitless Longevity’.

Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens was a cultural and social gathering place for the community for over 50 years. The Chinese characters visible throughout the restaurant and its service items remind us of the significance of the Chung’s family business to Santa Barbara’s New Chinatown.

Laina Malm-Levine is working with SBTHP to evaluate and catalog the objects associated with the Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens property, which SBTHP acquired in 2007. As a result of this project, a core collection will be developed that will aid future researchers and help SBTHP interpret this important local business. At the time of its closing in 2006, Jimmy’s was the last Chinese-run business in Santa Barbara’s “New” Chinatown.