Category Archives: Collections

Collections Highlight: Sign from the Casa de la Guerra Porch

by Nora Kassner

Photo by Mike Imwalle.

In June of 2011, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum donated a wooden sign to SBTHP. Reading “This Side Private,” the sign illuminates the later years of the de la Guerra family’s residency in Casa de la Guerra. A 1912 court case, possibly the reason for the sign, pitted Josepha de la Guerra and her tenant, Miss Burk, against Francisca de la Guerra de Dibblee. The question: whether shoppers coming to Miss Burk’s art store could use the house’s courtyard or whether it belongs solely to family members still living in the Casa. Francisca won the suit, but the case foreshadowed the growing commercial use of Casa de la Guerra.

Facing the East wing of Casa de la Guerra. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

From 1912 until they moved out in 1942, Delphina and Herminia de la Guerra, Pablo de la Guerra’s daughters, stayed in the East wing of the Casa as shops, and eventually the El Paseo complex, sprung up around them. At some point during those thirty years, they put up this sign to keep the public away from their rooms.  Casa de la Guerra’s period as a family residence ended when the sisters moved out. The Historical Museum’s generous donation will help visitors to the Casa explore this critical period in the building’s history.

The sign is currently on display in the East wing of the Casa, where Delphina and Herminia once lived. For more information about Casa de la Guerra, including the hours of operation, click here.

Noras Kassner is a Classics major at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN.  She interned in the curatorial department at SBTHP during the summer of 2011.

“Windows to the Past” – The Santa Barbara Post Office Project, Part I

By Michael Orth

Every once in a while SBTHP encounters a puzzle in the Presidio Neighborhood. Pieces from the past materialize in the present and offer a mystery to archaeologists and historians. In 2009, former postal employee and longtime friend of SBTHP, Harold Kroeger donated a number of service windows he purchased at auction that originally came from the Santa Barbara Post Office on Anacapa Street. I am working in conjunction with Archaeologist Michael Imwalle, to research unexplained facets of the property’s history.

So what is the puzzle you may ask? While many structural details about the Santa Barbara Post Office are known, the original layout of the windows inside of the building remained a mystery. The Santa Barbara Post Office, which is located at the corner of Anacapa and E. Canon Perdido Streets, was designed by architect Reginald Johnson and built in 1937. A larger volume of mail required a series of renovations to the facility in the 1970s. One internal change called for removing the small, bank teller type windows, and replacing them with larger open counters and personal mailboxes.

Attempts were made to locate Reginald Johnson’s original architectural plans of the property, or at best to find plans of the renovation that could shed light on the interior layout. Appointments with the Community Development Department, County Administration, and UCSB Architectural Archives all yielded very little insight. With no leads, research turned to periodicals and vertical subject files in local repositories.  One day while combing through a clipping file at the Santa Barbara Library, a 1937 News Press article on the opening of the post office yielded the only known photograph of the building’s interior prior to the renovations.

While an effort is still underway to locate the original architectural plans, we are now able to “see” the original placement of these donated artifacts.

Stay tuned for the next posting on The Santa Barbara Post Office Project!

Michael Orth is a recent graduate of Cal Poly, SLO with an M.A. in History and research intern at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

Diamonds in the Rough: Get out those Gloves!

By Laina Malm-Levine

Jimmy's Oriental Gardens, photographed in 2007.

When I first heard about a project to catalog the collections related to Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens from Anne Petersen, I couldn’t wait to open the front door of the bar, located on Canon Perdido Street next to Three Pickles, to see what treasures awaited me. And there are treasures, believe me. After taking a quick tour through  Jimmy’s, a Chinese restaurant operated by the Chung family from 1947-2006, and the storage areas that currently house objects related to the business, I could tell I had an exciting and dusty road ahead of me.

The author at her work station in the former restaurant kitchen at Jimmy's Oriental Gardens. Photo by Anne Petersen.

I’m currently three-quarters of the way through cataloging the contents of the storage shed. Having received my masters in Museum Studies, with a focus on collections management, I wanted to take the time to properly and meticulously document the Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens collection. The first step is identification, which includes noting the object’s function and usage. After which I perform a quick dusting, using safe chemicals and gloves. After an object is relatively free of dust I’ll make sure to take a photograph, which will be used for identification purposes. When SBTHP decides what objects they’d eventually like to accession into their museum collection, a more professional photograph will be taken, which will also be used for identification and research. After a photograph is taken, I take measurements of the objects and do a basic condition evaluation. Again, for now, this is a basic assessment; when an object is formally accessioned into the collection a proper condition report will be made. All objects are currently housed in cardboard boxes. Once all objects are cataloged, they’ll be moved into archival boxes, organized by number.

There have been more than a few objects that have caught my attention. The first day of cataloging, I found an old fly swatter with a leather swatter face. There is a gold fly embossed on the brown leather. I can only imagine that this hung behind the bar, ready for those hot summer days.

About a week ago I opened a box to find several hand-painted ceramic teapots. Each white vessel is painted with a bucolic landscape with two sitting figures. The hand painting is delicate and colorful. This definitely counts as a diamond in the rough! Once these objects have been properly documented, they’ll be ready for rehousing. With each visit, there are new surprises, which makes this project very exciting indeed.

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.

Digitizing the Past: the Delfina de la Guerra Collection

By Katherine Lowe

When processing a new collection, one of the fun things is thinking about ways to share the collection.  Thanks to constantly evolving technology, there are so many new and interesting ways to share historical collections with a much wider audience. Researchers can now search and browse millions of photos and letters from the comfort of home. Here at the Presidio Research Center, we are working on digitizing a portion of items from Delfina de la Guerra’s personal papers. This important collection detailing a portion of Santa Barbara’s history will be available for viewing on the website. This blog series will give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse at this process.

There is no substitute for seeing a letter or photograph in person to get a true sense of the scope of its historical value, but digitization offers us a close approximation. One of the most rewarding aspects of processing and researching historical material is viewing it up close and noticing the details that make it truly unique, such as the way the ink on a letter has faded or how the nature of handwritten letters has evolved over time. Our goal with this digitization project is to translate that feeling into a digital setting.

After selecting a portion of the materials for the digitization project, the scanning stage is next. The most important thing is for us to get a clear image that is as close to the original as possible.

Wearing gloves while scanning helps us to not introduce any damage or fingerprints. Photo by Anne Petersen

One of the advantages of digitization is the ability to zoom in for a closer view, so resolution of the scanned image is very important. For example, consider this photograph of an unidentified woman.

The following set shows what happens when you zoom in on a portion of this photograph that has a lower resolution (left) versus something that has been scanned with a higher resolution (right). The image on the left is more blurry, while the image on the right has more detail.

In the next blog post, we will discuss historical research as it relates to digitizing this collection.

Katherine Lowe is a volunteer at the Presidio Research Center. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the hidden treasures lurking in archives.

Take a Seat in the Presidio Chapel!

Several years ago SBTHP board member Tim Aguilar showed us a Mission-period bench he had acquired. Tim noted that a few benches of the same design would be appropriate additions to the Presidio Chapel.    Although we know that most of the residents of the Presidio would have kneeled on floor mats during services, a few benches like Tim’s likely lined the walls during the early-nineteenth century.  A recent donation by Virginia Ridder made reproduction of Tim’s bench possible.   Thanks to the hard work of Tim and many interns, students, an experienced carpenter, and a talented blacksmith, we now have seven reproduction benches lining the walls of the Presidio chapel.   Want to view the world from the perspective of an early nineteenth-century Spanish resident of the Presidio?   Next time you visit, pop into the Chapel and take a seat!

Carpenter Moises Rodriguez cutting wood for the benches. Photo by Mke Imwalle.
Archaeology intern Frank Arredondo assembling the benches. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Blacksmith Moises Solis from La Purisima Mission State Historic Park making hand-forged nails for the benches. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Tim Aguilar priming the benches. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
2011 Presidio Archaeology Field School students (with their instructor, SBTHP Board President Bob Hoover, on the left) add the final coat of paint. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
The benches installed along the walls of the Presidio Chapel. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

Rare Books Owned by the de la Guerra Family Now at the Presidio Research Center

By Torie Quiñonez

The Presidio Research Center recently received a donation of the personal papers of Delfina de la Guerra, the last member of that illustrious family to reside in the Casa de la Guerra. Delfina was born in 1861, and was the daughter of Pablo de la Guerra and Josefa Moreno y Castro. Aside from her travels as a young woman, she spent her whole life at the Casa, until just ten years before her death, when she went to live with a friend who cared for her until she died.

Torie Quiñonez looks for identifying marks to help date and catalog the de la Guerra books. Photo by Anne Petersen

The woman with whom Delfina spent the last years of her life was a relative of the Campbell family, currently of Virginia. They inherited a trunk that had been left with various family members and ended up having belonged to Delfina de la Guerra. A trove of personal effects from the trunk was brought to us by the Campbells, including two eighteenth century books that probably belonged to her.

One of the books is a guide to the holy city of Rome for the Catholic tourist. Printed in 1769, the year of the first Spanish occupation of Alta California, this book was almost 100 years old by the time Delfina could read it.

The other book, printed in 1788, is a work in Latin by a Father Franciscus (or Franz) Henno. It appears to have been intended for use in the religious and moral instruction of young people. If anyone reading this blog knows more about Father Henno, please comment!

These books will be cataloged and added to the Research Center’s small collection of rare books, while remaining intellectually linked to the Delfina de la Guerra Collection from which they originate.

Torie Quiñonez is the librarian at the Presidio Research Center, a library and archive available to the public by appointment at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park