Category Archives: Exhibits

Meet Unita Ahdifard, SBTHP’s 2020 Public Humanities Graduate Student Intern

by Kevin McGarry

In 2019, UC Santa Barbara’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) offered its first Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Program, which includes internships and fellow-designed community projects. These paid opportunities enable fellows to apply their academic training in community settings. SBTHP partnered with the IHC and hosted its first Public Humanities Graduate Fellow internship last summer. The success of this partnership’s pilot year led us to continue offering this unique internship opportunity in 2020.

Unita Ahdifard, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in UCSB’s Department of English, was selected for 2020 internship after SBTHP staff interviewed a slate of applicants in March 2020. Her work with SBTHP’s Public Engagement department officially began on June 15, 2020, and her work will help us to increase the public’s awareness and interest in our house museum, Casa de la Guerra, as well as increase visitors’ knowledge of how the site’s history relates to contemporary issues facing people in the Santa Barbara community.

Unita will work with staff to develop more interpretive programming to pilot at the site, and assist with expanding our online and digital resources relating to the history of Casa de la Guerra and the De la Guerra family. 

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Unita says she has always been passionate about museums, archives, and historical homes; “whenever I visit a new city, one of the first things I usually do is find a way to learn more about the history of the particular place, be it through a park, museum, or reconstructed “old town.” Unita’s current graduate work focuses on women writers and Anglo-Persianate relations in the early modern period, postcolonial theory, and the boundaries around fictional and nonfictional genres in travel writing.

When asked what she hopes to gain from joining the team for the summer, Unita explained: “I’m looking forward to learning more about how historic preservation happens on the ground, especially with the SBTHP’s work with the Casa de la Guerra. Non-profits such as the SBTHP do the incredibly important work of making community history accessible to the public, keeping history alive through the tangible experience of walking through historic neighborhoods and structures, and being able to learn about the daily lives of their inhabitants from decades and centuries past. I’m excited to contribute to this public history and preservation work however I can during my time here.” 

Welcome aboard, Unita! 

A Sneak Peek of our new Exhibit at the Pickle Room

Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, the last Chinese family-owned and operated business in Santa Barbara’s Chinatown, was a longtime favorite for locals and tourists alike before closing its doors in 2006 with the retirement of operator Tommy Chung. Opened in 1947 by Tommy’s father, Jimmy Yee Chung, Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens had been an important part of the diverse community of people who have lived and worked within the Presidio Neighborhood. In March of 2007, SBTHP purchased Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens from the Chung family. Shortly thereafter the building was purchased by the State of California, becoming a part of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park and a historic resource that will be preserved and protected in perpetuity.

The installation of new exhibit panels inside the Pickle Room. Photo by Tim Aceves.

Following the acquisition of Jimmy’s, SBTHP formed a community advisory committee to help guide us in a series of programs related to Santa Barbara’s Asian American history. The group helped SBTHP begin an oral history project focusing on Chinese and Japanese Americans in Santa Barbara. In addition, through its interpretive planning process, the organization developed a concept for a permanent exhibit inside the historic Jimmy’s building, now home to our tenants Three Pickles Deli and The Pickle Room, owned and operated by Clay Lovejoy and family.

Installers work on the new exhibit panels inside the Pickle Room. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

Our new display includes a life-size photo mural of Jimmy Chung and his son Bill serving drinks to local patrons at the bar, as well as multiple oral history quotes and photos that help tell the story of the Chung family and the life they created in Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood. The display includes original artifacts from Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, as well.

Jimmy’s Oriental Garden panels being installed inside the Pickle Room. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

The display is dedicated in memory of Thomas Yee Chung and Robert Harry Lovejoy for their efforts to preserve and restore Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, an icon of Santa Barbara’s Chinese-American Community. Special thanks to UCSB graduate student Mika Thornburg, Demachkie Design, SBTHP’s dedicated volunteers, our partners at California State Parks and all community donors that made this special project possible.

A Q+A with our summer intern, Emma John

Emma John is a second-year PhD student in History at UC Santa Barbara interested in public history and nineteenth-century U.S. history with a particular focus on women.  As an IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellow, John recently completed an internship at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, and has been working with the Casa de la Guerra, a historic house museum maintained by the Trust and former residence of José de la Guerra, the fifth comandante of the Presidio.

Emma John, working in the Presidio Research Center. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

As a Public Humanities Graduate Fellow you are interning this summer at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP). What work are you doing in the internship? 

This summer I have tackled a few projects. I started the summer designing new programming activities for Casa de la Guerra. These programs are meant to foster new types of engagement with the space—either moving through it differently or, for school groups, connecting the de la Guerra story to what students are learning about in Social Studies classes. At the moment I am helping design a brochure for Casa de la Guerra. This has involved consultation with museum employees, research, and selecting appropriate images from the Presidio Research Center to best represent the museum and the de la Guerra family. When finished, the brochure will provide a brief but informative introduction to the site.

What has your investigation into the history of the De la Guerra family revealed about the historical and continuing significance of the Casa de la Guerra site for the Santa Barbara community?

Learning about the de la Guerra family has been key to answering the larger questions I had about the history of Santa Barbara. Coming from the East Coast, I knew very little about the history of California.  Casa de la Guerra is not only significant to Santa Barbara’s history, but to California’s history. When they were first building Casa de la Guerra, Spain ruled Santa Barbara. By the home’s completion, Santa Barbara was part of Mexico. Jose died in 1858 as a citizen of the United States. Casa de la Guerra is representative of the significant cultural changes that have impacted Santa Barbara from the town’s inception.

Additionally, Casa de la Guerra has historically served as a town center. Jose de la Guerra was held in high esteem by Santa Barbara and his home often served as a site of social and civic functions such as weddings or settling legal disputes. Plaza de la Guerra was specifically built where it is and named in honor of the family in 1853.  Given that Plaza de la Guerra is back in the news, it is interesting to consider the site’s historical roots and significance.

Your research is helping to shape new interpretive programming at Casa de la Guerra. What might this programming look like?

Something great about the de la Guerra family is that several researchers have already documented their lives. I am utilizing that work to create programming that helps visitors imagine Casa de la Guerra as it existed in the nineteenth century—a bustling hub of activity.  For students I am trying to create programming in line with California curriculum standards. This might mean imagining the de la Guerra family in the context of Westward expansion, or considering the civic issues of Plaza de la Guerra.

Emma John at Casa de la Guerra, photo courtesy of UCSB IHC.

There are ongoing discussions about revitalizing De La Guerra Plaza, just opposite Casa de la Guerra. Is your work at SBTHP informing any of those discussions?

I have been considering ways of incorporating Plaza de la Guerra into museum programming. While it is important for museums to consider contemporary issues, it is also important to consider the longevity of programming versus current events. The goal is to incorporate contemporary issues such as talks of revitalizing Plaza de la Guerra while also making sure there are other programming ideas that will be relevant even after town discussions have shifted elsewhere.

Your research interests are in New England house museums; has this internship aligned with some of that work and/or pushed you in new directions?

Again, growing up in the Northeast has led to some, *ahem* strong regional biases.  However, I have been overcoming those biases while learning about Santa Barbara’s history and the history of California in general.  It has been great to get out of my historical comfort zone and imagine how my research interests make sense in California.

What has been the most exciting or rewarding part of the internship so far?

I love learning about local history wherever I am, and this internship has provided an unmatched opportunity to do just that. The trust does so much cool working interpreting and teaching Santa Barbara’s history and I’m thankful to be a small part of it.

How has your work so far in the Public Humanities Graduate Fellows program influenced your understanding of the role of public humanists in their local communities?

We had such a wide variety of guest speakers [in the Skills for the Public Sphere course] and internship opportunities this past spring—things that I had not even considered would fall under the umbrella of public humanities. So I certainly have a greater understanding of what is possible as a public humanist. Additionally, I’ve been learning about the importance of teamwork and collaboration. Historians are really good at solo pursuits such as archival work and writing. We tend to joke about the amount time we spend reading and thinking about dead people (one of my friends once baked a birthday cake for a nineteenth century missionary whose diary she was reading).  However, public humanities requires good relationships with the living.  As someone who is pursuing public history and humanities I’ve appreciated the opportunity to develop those skills of creating history with others.

Emma John at Casa de la Guerra, photo courtesy of UCSB IHC.

Click here to learn more about IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Internships. This article was originally published on the IHC website.

The Anna S. C. Blake Manual Training School: The Remarkable Antecedent of UC Santa Barbara on Display at Casa de la Guerra through late May

by Kevin McGarry

In celebration of the opening of a special temporary exhibit on loan from the UC Santa Barbara Library, The Anna S. C. Blake Manual Training School: The Remarkable Antecedent of UC Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) offered the community two free educational programs in early March at Casa de la Guerra.

In 1892, Anna S. C. Blake opened a sloyd school at 814 Santa Barbara St. (near De la Guerra St.) on the site of what is today Anacapa School, located in El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. Sloyd schools emphasized manual training and were closely linked to European folk art traditions and the Arts and Crafts movement. Renamed the Anna Blake Manual Training School after Blake’s death in 1899, the school remained grounded in the Progressive-era belief that all students should have access to a holistic education emphasizing both intellectual and practical knowledge in order to develop educated citizens.

Visitors gather in the exhibit gallery during First Thursday. Photo by Anne Petersen.

The exhibition focuses on the school’s early years and explores how Santa Barbara reformers thought about the intersection of education, the manual arts, and social mobility in the 1890s, and the implications of those beliefs on higher education today. All exhibit photos are from UCSB Library’s University Archives Photographs collection.

The exhibit opening during March 1st Thursday. Photo by Anne Petersen.

Our first opening event for the exhibition was a free 1st Thursday program (co-sponsored by Downtown Santa Barbara) on March 7th, from 5:00 to 8:00pm. Guests were welcomed in the Casa courtyard by SBTHP staff and volunteers and enjoyed free refreshments and some of the beautiful music of early California performed by local guitarist and vocalist Luis Moreno. Many visitors also had the opportunity to meet and learn from the scholars who researched the history of the School and curated the special exhibition, Dr. Sarah Case (Managing Editor, The Public Historian, and Continuing Lecturer at UCSB) and Nora Kassner (graduate student in History at UCSB).

Sarah Case presents the history of the Anna Blake School. Photo by Anne Petersen.

On Sunday, March 10th at 2:00pm SBTHP staff and UCSB History Associates organized a special lecture by Dr. Sara Case and Nora Kassner at Casa de la Guerra. Approximately 25 people attended the lecture and learned about the history of the Anna S. C. Blake Manual Training School. The lecture was followed by a reception and an exhibit showing.

Nora Kassner presents profiles of some of the Blake School students. Photo by Anne Petersen.

To learn more about the history of the Anna S. C. Blake School and its important ties to the Presidio Neighborhood and to UC Santa Barbara read Sara and Nora’s piece in our Winter 2019 issue of La Campana (available for sale for $5 at our Presidio or Casa de la Guerra gift shops) and/or come visit Casa de la Guerra before the end of May to see the exhibit in person!

Kevin McGarry is the associate director for public engagement at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. 

Building Community Exhibit Travels to Cate School

cateThe Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation‘s exhibit, Building Community: Reginald D. Johnson, Architect was recently installed in the MacBean Library at Cate School in Carpinteria. SBTHP was pleased to partner with Cate School during the preliminary preparation for the exhibit and also grateful to them for the opportunity to have the show displayed at this beautiful campus which was designed by Reginald Johnson in 1927. Curator Rose Thomas gave a brief presentation to board members and staff during a reception hosted by the school.

Building Community: Reginald D. Johnson, Architect opens at Casa de la Guerra

2016 Building Community Postcard front (575x800)by Anne Petersen

On March 10, 2016 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation opened its long-anticipated exhibit, Building Community, about architect Reginald Johnson’s contributions to Santa Barbara.

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.

Doug Campbell and Mary Louise Days with a historic service window from the Santa Barbara Downtown Post Office.
Doug Campbell and Mary Louise Days with a historic service window from the Santa Barbara Downtown Post Office.

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.

Photo by Anne Petersen.
Photo by Anne Petersen.

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.

Elliot and Mary Brownlee stand with a painting of the barn at Cate School.  Photo by Anne Petersen.
Elliot and Mary Brownlee stand with a painting of the barn at Cate School. Photo by Anne Petersen.

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.

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Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

Reginald Johnson Exhibit Takes Shape

by Anne Petersen

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased to announce an upcoming exhibition on the Architect Reginald Johnson’s (1882 – 1952) Santa Barbara projects, which will open at Casa de la Guerra next year.  Johnson is recognized locally for his work on several community institutions, including the U.S. Downtown Post Office, the Biltmore Hotel, the Music Academy of the West, and Lotus Land.

Rose Thomas reviews the Reginald Johnson scrapbooks at the Huntington Library. Photo by Anne Petersen.
Rose Thomas reviews the Reginald Johnson scrapbooks at the Huntington Library. Photo by Anne Petersen.

On October 16, Guest Curator Rose Thomas and I made a trip to the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino to look at two scrapbooks of Johnson projects.   Our anticipation was high, because Johnson famously destroyed his work.  Researchers must rely on the material saved by his clients, much of which is in private collections, and the few archives that hold materials.    The Johnson scrapbooks at the Huntington include wonderful photographs of Santa Barbara projects such as Lotus Land and the Harold Chase House, each mounted on a page and complete with beautifully hand-lettered titles.

Village Green in 1958. Job 2592: Robert Evans Alexander, Reginald D. Johnson, and Wilson and Merrill, Architects, Baldwin Hills Village (Los Angeles, Calif.), 1958, by Julius Shulman. © J. Paul Getty Trust.
Village Green in 1958. Job 2592: Robert Evans Alexander, Reginald D. Johnson, and Wilson and Merrill, Architects, Baldwin Hills Village (Los Angeles, Calif.), 1958, by Julius Shulman. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

One of the scrapbooks includes floor plans and hand-colored elevation drawings, along with photographs, of Village Green, a middle class housing project built in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles in 1941.  The project was one of Johnson’s last, and reflects his late-career interest in public housing.

Village Green today. Photo by Anne Petersen.
Village Green today. Photo by Anne Petersen.

Reviewing that scrapbook was timely considering we had scheduled an afternoon appointment with two residents of Village Green, Gailyn Saroyan and Steve Keylon, who are dedicated to preserving their beautiful homes and passionate about Johnson’s ideals.  Village Green is remarkable for its balance of apartments (now condominiums) and park-like natural space.  Every aspect of the sixty-four acre property was designed to create beautiful comfortable and communal-based lifestyles for its residents.  It is a remarkable oasis in the city, and one that is cherished by its current residents.

We look forward to sharing more about the exhibit with you as it developes.  An opening is planned for February 2016, so stay tuned for more detailed announcements!

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

Artists Inspired by our Haass Adobe Watercolor Exhibit

by Anne Petersen

Thomas Van Stein explains the use of shadow in Haass' s watercolor of the Orena Adobe.  Photo by Anne Petersen.
Thomas Van Stein explains the use of reflected light in Haass’s watercolor of the Orena Adobe. Photo by Anne Petersen.

On Wednesday October 14, artist and instructor Thomas Van Stein brought his Adult Education painting class to Casa de la Guerra to view our Haass Adobe Watercolor exhibition.   Van Stein is no stranger to our exhibits.  A member of the Oak Group. he participated in our recent tribute to Ray Strong, The Art of Preservation.

The Haass Adobe Watercolor collection is made up of a series of historic adobes painted in the late 1940s and early 1950s by Fridloin Haass at the request of Pearl Chase.  The extremely detailed paintings capture a moment in time at each site.  Today some of the buildings captured for the series (including Casa de la Guerra), look radically different, and others have been lost altogether.

The artists prepare to paint the Casa.  Photo by Anne Petersen.
The artists prepare to paint the Casa. Photo by Anne Petersen.

Van Stein worked with his class to pay close attention to Haass’s ability to use light and dark colors to make features either recede or come to the forefront.  He also praised the artist’s ability to  capture complex shadows and reflections, and to offer enough line detail to suggest intricate painterly features like a tile roof, without articulating each tile.

After viewing the exhibit, the class set up their easels in the Casa Courtyard and began to paint, using the inspiration of the Haass watercolors to guide them.  While assisting his students, Van Stein was also able to create his own work of art, capturing the East wing of the Casa, with a delicately painted tile roof.

Casa de la Guerra, by Thomas Van Stein. Photo by Anne Petersen.
Casa de la Guerra, by Thomas Van Stein.

We thoroughly enjoyed the class visit, which brings together several of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s areas of interest: our local architecture, historic preservation, and the appreciation of our community’s sense of place through the visual arts.

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