Category Archives: All News

EF School International Students Tour El Presidio SHP!

EF Students at El Presdio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

On Wednesday, July 19, a group of international students from Santa Barbara’s EF School visited  El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park for a tour.  There were fifteen young adult students from over ten different countries. They brought with them their experiences and perspectives from their native countries. It was a pleasure and a wonderful learning experience to provide a tour of the park for this special group!

Here are some of the reflections from their visit:

Laura (Spain)- “It was really cool to see and learn about the Spanish history in Santa Barbara. My favorite part of the tour was the church. I felt like I was home.”

Alice (Japan)- “I never knew there were so many Japanese in Santa Barbara before. I liked seeing the cups and boxes that we still use today back home.”

Vittoria (Italy)- “It’s nice to learn something about the city that is your home for a little while. So much history and culture in Santa Barbara.”

Sarah Hilliard (EF instructor) – “For my students this is not only a language exchange but a cultural exchange as well. I love showing them how so many different cultures have created the town that I call home. I believe it’s important for them to learn a little bit about where they are living because its helps them feel like a part of the community. The tour is a great hands-on historical experience.”

Grasshopper for Grandpa screens at the Alhecama Theatre

By Kevin McGarry

Film pays tribute to Santa Barbara’s Chinatown and the family-owned bar and restaurant that brought a community together for over 60 years.

Sue Udden and Helene Wong staff the check-in table. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

Grasshopper for Grandpa, a film by local director/producer Casey McGarry first premiered at the 2015 Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). The short documentary tells the story of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, a celebrated Chinese restaurant and bar in Santa Barbara for 60 years. Jimmy’s opened in 1947 by the Chung Family. Located at 215 E Canon Perdido Street, Jimmy’s quickly became a favorite hangout for a diverse community of people living in or around Santa Barbara’s Chinatown, a neighborhood located inside original quadrangle where the Spanish had established El Presidio Royal de Santa Bárbara in 1782.

Anne Petersen and Bob Lovejoy chat during the reception. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

Jimmy’s outlived all the other Chinese-owned businesses on the block but eventually closed its doors in 2006 with the retirement of Tommy Chung, Jimmy’s son. The distinctly Chinatown-esque building, constructed in 1947, is now the last visible remnant of Santa Barbara’s historic Chinatown.

The sold-out crowd at the Alhecama Theatre. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

Casey’s well-crafted Grasshopper for Grandpa not only gives background to the history of Santa Barbara’s too-often forgotten Chinatown, but also explores why Jimmy’s in particular grew to be so special to so many people– and why its stewards, owner Tommy Chung and 30-year bartender Willy Gilbert, made the experience there so special and left a lasting impression on so many “regulars” and passersby. After the bar closed, in March of 2007, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation purchased Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens from the Chung family. The acquisition of Jimmy’s uniquely enhances SBTHP’s ability to interpret the multi-layered history of Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood.

Barbara Chung during the Q&A. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

The film doesn’t stop there, however. In September of 2013, after the bar reopened after being beautifully restored to its 1947 form by longtime happy hour regular and patron, Bob Lovejoy, and his son, Clay. The restoration is highlighted in the film and leaves the audience with a hopeful look at a legacy and community that the collaboration between Bob and the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation helped to restore. Bob’s bar is called the Pickle Room and the Jimmy’s sign now hangs inside about the bar reminding all patrons of the legacy of the Chung family.

The Panelists gather at the end of the evening. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

There were 150 people in the audience at screening of Grasshopper for Grandpa at the Alhecama Theatre at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park on June 1, the theatre’s maximum capacity. Before the film, there was a reception outside the theatre. Following the film, Santa Barbara Independent’s Matt Kettman, a Jimmy’s, (and now Pickle Room) regular, moderated a panel discussion that included Bob, Casey, film producers Milo Wolf and Maureen McFadden, SBTHP’s Mike Imwalle, and Tommy’s younger sister, Barbara Chung.

Grasshopper for Grandpa posters and dvds will be available to purchase in the Presidio gift shop soon. Casey’s latest documentary film, The Boatmaker, debuted at the 2017 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

For more photos from the screening of Grasshopper for Grandpa, please visit our Flickr album here.

Kevin McGarry is director of Programs at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

2017 Founding Day Festival

By Kevin McGarry

Founding Ceremony. Photo by Fritz Olenberger.

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) held its annual Founding Day Festival on Saturday, April 29th, 2017 from noon to 4:00 pm at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. This unique public educational program offers Santa Barbara residents and visitors a free, family-friendly opportunity to visit the historic park and come together to learn about and commemorate Santa Barbara’s rich history. In all, approximately 800-1,000 people attended this year’s event.

Baile de California performs. Photo by Brittany Myles.

SBTHP’s annual Founding Day Festival provides the time and space for community members and visitors to not only commemorate Santa Barbara’s founding moment but also to celebrate its layered cultural history and the diverse communities and institutions that today call Santa Barbara home. Our 2017 Festival celebrated this cultural diversity by successfully showcasing why Santa Barbara continues to be such a wonderful place to live and visit.

Folk Orchestra of Santa Barbara performs. Photo by Brittany Myles.

Directly following the 2017 Founding Day Ceremony, festival attendees enjoyed three hours of living history stations and performances by local artists, including the San Marcos High School Jazz Combo, The Folk Orchestra of Santa Barbara, Mariachi Las Olas de Santa Barbara, Spanish guitarist Chris Fossek, and flamenco dancers from Linda Vega Dance Studio. In addition, seven local artists and vendors hosted booths and sold their locally-made products, and Presidio descendants gathered to share their family history.

Community booths at the festival. Photo by Brittany Myles.

Many educational booths were offered by local nonprofit institutions, including the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library, the Santa Barbara Public Library, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

Linda Vega Dance Studio. Photo by Fritz Olenberger.

The Burger Bus of Santa Barbara and Kona Ice provided festival goers with delicious food. Brass Bear Brewing and Standing Sun Wines offered free tastings in one of the Presidio’s interpretive heritage gardens. In all, our 2017 Festival attracted an estimated 800 visitors to the site, doubling last year’s participation and bringing many first-time visitors to the park.

Friends from the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library. Photo by Brittany Myles.

The SBTHP Programs Department would like to thank all local dignitaries and city officials, visitors, community members, Presidio descendants, artists, local institutions, living history interpreters, and SBTHP volunteers whose involvement in the festival helped to make this year’s Founding Day an unprecedented success. We can’t wait for next year’s festival.  ¡Viva Santa Barbara!

For a great article about the from our friends at Noozhawk click here.

For more photos from our Flickr Album, click here.

Kevin McGarry is director of programs at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. 

The History Relevancy Project Launches at Founding Day!

by Heidi Ortloff

History Relevancy project team members Nora Kassner, Heidi Ortloff, Ashely Baker, Yahjaira Cea, and Paola Dela Cruz. Photo by Heido Ortloff.

The History and Relevancy Pilot Project unveiled their first outreach effort during the Founding Day Festival at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park on April 29, 2017.  This project is a collaboration between UC Santa Barbara, California State Parks, and the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP). Together, we hope to explore the topics of migration and immigration, while also building on the park’s relationship with the surrounding community.

UC Santa Barbara Student Yahjaira Cea assisting SBTHP Board President Teraese Chin with her story. Photo by Heidi Ortloff.

On Founding Day, project staff invited visitors to share their families’ immigration stories and learn more about the pilot project. Throughout the event, visitors recorded their family stories, while UC Santa Barbara students plotted their histories on a large world map. We were able to capture the family stories of several Presidio descendants who had ancestors that traveled from Spain, to Mexico, and finally to Santa Barbara. Participants related various reasons for their family’s arrival to the Santa Barbara region, from escaping bad weather, to religious persecution, economic opportunities, and avoiding war.

UC Santa Barbara student Yahjaira Cea felt a strong sense of community after listening to various visitors’ stories noting that, “The growth of the map throughout the day expressed the beautifully diverse community that makes Santa Barbara [what it is] today.”

We hope to continue exploring the importance of immigration in our community with further outreach efforts later this year and we thank everyone who participated at our Founding Day booth on April 29.

Heidi Ortloff is an interpreter with California State Parks assigned to El Presidio SHP.

Early California Days April 6, 2017

Director of Advancement Alyssa Kichula at the Cocina. Photo by Anne Petersen.

On April 6, 2017, staff at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation welcomed 300+ local third graders to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park for Early California Day, a day of living history demonstrations related to life in early California. Demonstrations included gardening and native plants, blacksmithing, archaeology, life of the Soldados , wool spinning, Chumash storytelling, and pottery.

Docent Sean Barnwell with students at the adobe and construction station. Photo by Anne Petersen.

We had a a busy day, and several of our newly-trained docents made their debut at the program.  We our proud to serve over 700 Santa Barbara County Students over this two-day program every spring.  If you would like to be a part of it, we can use your help!  The next Early California Days will be on Thursday  May 11. For more information, or if you are interested in volunteering for this event, please contact Kevin McGarry, Director of Programs, at or (805) 965-2004.

Docent Suzi Calderon Bellman discusses women’s work, including laundry, mending and keeping chickens. Photo by Anne Petersen.

For more photos from Early California Day by Mike Imwalle and Anne Petersen, please visit our Flickr album, here.

Welcome New SBTHP Docents!

We are so proud of our 2017 docent class at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation!  This talented group of volunteers has been training for the past six weeks to offer an excellent visitor experience at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park.  Their graduation comes just in time– we are expecting 300 eager third grade students on site next week for our popular Early California Days school program!

Would you like to join us and get involved?  It’s not too late!  Just drop a note to Director of Programs Kevin McGarry at


Restoration of the 1928 Ross Dickinson Mural in the Alhecama Theatre

by Michael H. Imwalle

Patty West cleaning the mural surface. Note the un-cleaned portion to her left. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Built in 1925, the Alhecama Theatre at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park was originally called the Little Theatre; it became the Pueblo Theatre in 1937. It consisted of a single-story multi-use auditorium with a raised stage. The building 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) that thrived from 1920 to the mid-1930s. In 1928 painter Ross Dickinson painted a mural depicting a Mediterranean village scene on the wall opposite the stage.

Patty West examining the edges of the Celotex panels around the holes cut for the projection booth. Photo by Ashley Emma.

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. In order to project films, five rectangular openings were cut through the Dickinson mural.

Installation of the Celotex patches to infill the holes. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Outhwaite Foundation in 2016 and additional funding from a special appeal to members of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP), the mural has recently been restored. In January of 2017 Patty West, director and chief conservator for the South Coast Fine Arts Conservation Center, began a two-phase project to clean and restore the 1928 mural.

Tracing the design on to the Celotex panels. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

The first phase of the project began with the meticulous cleaning of the mural’s surface with a very mild detergent mixed to match the pH in oil paints used by Dickinson. After more than a week, and thousands of filthy cotton balls later, the cleaning was completed. The next phase of the project was to patch small cracks and tears in the underlying Celotex paneling on which the mural was painted. The final stage of the repairs was to insert Celotex panels to fill in the holes cut for the projection booth in 1939. This was accomplished by finding an identical match to the surface texture of the original Celotex, then building a frame within the wall to which the new panels would be attached.

Close-up of in-painted design on the new Celotex patch. Photo by Patty West.

After the new panels were installed, it was time for the final stage of the restoration, the in-painting of the new panels and all the other repaired surfaces of the original mural. The in-painting was done by lightly tracing the design onto the new panels then painting the final image with reversible conservation paints to match the surrounding mural colors. After nearly a month, the restoration was complete! Thank you Patty, the Outhwaite Foundation, and SBTHP members who contributed to the restoration of this fabulous remnant of the Santa Barbara School of the Arts!

Completely repaired and restored mural. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Michael Imwalle is the Associate Executive Director for Cultural Resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Cate School Volunteer Day at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park

On Wednesday February 2, 2017, Cate School teachers Renee and Peter Mack arrived at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park with eleven students to volunteer for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. SBTHP Executive Director Anne Petersen welcomed the group and Associate Executive Director of Cultural Resources Michael Imwalle provided the group with a brief introduction into the history of the Presidio and adobe construction. After the introduction SBTHP Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Garcia gave them an introduction to “Whitewashing 101.”

Students whitewashing the last section of the exterior of the Presidio Chapel. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Students whitewashing the last section of the exterior of the Presidio Chapel. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

Students divided into four teams and efficiently tackled a variety of projects including tasks related to storm damage and storm preparedness. One group cleaned drains filled with sediment after the February 17th deluge, and another filled sand bags for protecting historic structures during future rains. Under Eduardo’s direction two groups worked on preparing and whitewashing the exterior of the Presidio Chapel, the first defense wall, and the comandancia. buildings and walls around the Northeast Corner complex. Thanks to students Brandon Man, Grace Blankenhorn, Brie Walker, Alice Zhang, Piper Brooks, Jackson Weinberger, Carlo Jacobson, Bryce Jackson, Abnishek Suresh, Nick Carlson, and Ryder Dinning for all your hard work!

SBTHP Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Garcia with his army of Cate School students whitewashing the first outer defense wall. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
SBTHP Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Garcia with his army of Cate School students whitewashing the first outer defense wall. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Volunteers whitewashing the back wall of the Comandancia. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Volunteers whitewashing the back wall of the Comandancia. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

Without hard working volunteers like the Cate School volunteers, it would be impossible to maintain all the adobe structures in the park. We appreciate your annual contribution and look forward to working with you again next year!

Group photograph of Cate School faculty and student volunteers. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Group photograph of Cate School faculty and student volunteers. Photo by Mike Imwalle.