Category Archives: Preservation Projects

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.

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.

Help Us Restore the Presidio Chapel Doors

When was the last time you walked through the large wooden doors of the Chapel at El Presidio Santa Bárbara State Historic Park?

Founding Day, 2017. Photo by Fritz Olenberger.

It was likely for an occasion that has fixed in your memory. One spent celebrating one of life’s important rituals, perhaps a beautiful wedding ceremony with your loved ones, or to participate in the joyful sounds of a concert. Dating back to the late-18th century, the Presidio Chapel served as a central meeting place and place of worship for the first European settlers of Santa Barbara.

Chapel construction, 1986.

The doors are an iconic feature of El Presidio SHP, but after 34 years of use the doors are in need of major repairs due to the deterioration of the wood. More recently, one door has had to be propped up with modern hardware just to keep it up in place – illustrating the need for a permanent solution.

Las Posadas, 2019. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

With your help, we can fund fabrication of two new custom-milled doors, hand-forged nails and door hardware, and the re-installation of the existing hand-forged lock. The total cost to replace the doors and hardware is $15,000 and we hope to complete the project this year.

Asian American Neighborhood Festival, 2016. Photo by Fritz Olenberger.

Please consider a donation to restore the entrance doors to the Presidio Chapel so that Santa Barbarans, Californians, and visitors from all over the world can continue to enjoy this special place.

Donate NOW

Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight, 2014. Photo by Fritz Olenberger.

Cota-Knox House Receives Colonial Dames of America 2019 Award for Excellence!

by Anne Petersen

(L-R) Ruth Loper, Joy Chamberlain, Kathi Hobbs Chulick, Debbie Kendrick, SBTHP Executive Director Anne Petersen, Marjory Friestad, Judith Cardinal, and Katherine Cowell Collins. Photo by Katherine Collins.

We are pleased to announce that the Cota-Knox House restoration project was awarded the Colonial Dames of America’s 2019 Award for Excellence at the organization’s annual meeting on April 29 in New York City.   The award will fund a rendering of the restoration project, a key tool in helping the community visualize the completed project and its value.

Architectural drawing of the facade detail which will inform the painted rendering of the restoration. By Harrison Design.

In 2017 the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Colonial Dames of America formed a partnership with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP), and the organization serves as its service project.  Each chapter of CDA must undertake a service project in support of historic preservation, or partner with an organization that undertakes such work.  We are proud that our Santa Barbara chapter, one of the newest chapters in the organization, made such a strong call of support for this project, ensuring that the Cota-Knox house received this special recognition.

The Cota-Knox House today. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

The Cota -Knox House (1871), located in El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, is one of Santa Barbara’s earliest brick buildings.   Its appearance today barely resembles its appearance at the time of construction due to changes wrought by the 1925 earthquake and various owners.  SBTHP is completing the planning process for the restoration which will involve a new roof, seismic retrofit and facade reconstruction. We look forward to debuting the beautifully painted rendering of the completed project very soon!  To learn more about the Cota-Knox House and how you can support its restoration, click here.

Anne Petersen is the Executive Director for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Alhecama Theatre is Santa Barbara’s Newest City Landmark!

On July 25th, the Santa Barbara City Council designated the Alhecama Theatre at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park the City’s newest Historic Landmark.  You can read more about this 1925 community theatre on the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s (SBTHP) website, here.  SBTHP recently completed a multi-year restoration of the interior and exterior of the building, and it is now available for community use and our public programs.

Landmark proclamation from the City of Santa Barbara.

The Alhecama Theatre met multiple criteria the City uses to determine landmark designations, including its character, interest, or value as a significant part of the heritage of the City, the State, or the Nation, and its embodiment of elements demonstrating outstanding attention to architectural design, detail, materials, and craftsmanship, among others. For the City’s full staff report on the landmark nomination, click here.

Debby Aceves, Mike Imwalle, Mary Louise Days and Danita Rodriguez on the steps of City Hall after receiving the Landmark proclamation,

 

SBTHP Board president Debby Aceves, Associate Executive Director for Cultural Resources Mike Imwalle, Board Member Mary Louise Days and Channel Coast Superintendent, California State Parks Danita Rodriguez spoke in support of the designation at the City Council hearing and accepted the proclamation.

2018 ArchitecTours by the Santa Barbara chapter of the AIA.

Just two weeks later, the Theatre was featured on the Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Institute of Architects annual ArchitecTours.  This year’s tours featured inspirational places to work, live and play in Downtown Santa Barbara.  More than 300 people participated on the tours.  We are grateful for the help of board members Terease Chin, Don Sharpe and Anthony Grumbine for sharing the theatre with the tour participants. Anthony Grumbine, with Harrison Design, was also one of the organizers of the tour, and made a presentation to Alhecama visitors about the significance of plazas as a feature of good design in cities, using the School of the Arts’ campus green in front of the Theatre for inspiration.

Participants in the ArchitecTour at the Alhecama Theatre. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

We are proud of all of the well-deserved attention the Alhecama is receiving, and we hope to see you there for an event soon!  Check our calendar for upcoming opportunities.

SBTHP Restoration Committee Tackles Building Condition Assessments

SBTHP’s Restoration Committee. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

As part of an effort to more efficiently manage and budget for repairs and maintenance the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s Property Management Committee recommended annual inspections of all California State Park and Trust-owned properties. During the month of September STBHP staff worked with Rob Ramirez of Meridian Property Management to develop a template for conducting the Building Condition Assessments. The template provided a system of rating the condition of various aspects of each property including roofs, foundations, floors, doors, windows, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems. Information collected during the survey will be condensed into a database that will allow us to estimate the repair and maintenance needs for each property and prioritize repairs to made each within the repair and maintenance budget each fiscal year.

In addition to providing information about the current condition of the buildings the survey will also provide a construction chronology and maintenance history for each of the properties. The database will also include photographs and plans for each of the buildings. On October 12th the Restoration Committee began the survey with an examination of the Pico Adobe, the Rochin Adobe, Anacapa School, and the Front Gate Parking lot and storage sheds. Committee members Anthony Grumbine, Craig Makela, Robert Hoover, Don Sharpe, Jeff Haight, and Doug Campbell participated in the inaugural survey. Restoration Committee member and Headmaster of the Anacapa School Gordon Sichi joined us for the survey of the School and the Rochin adobe. The committee is looking forward to continuing the survey in the coming months and hopes to have it completed before the end of the year so that we can use it to develop the FY 2018-2019 repairs and maintenance budget.

Cate School Freshman Community Service Day

Cate School volunteers haul palm fronds. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

On October 11th 2017 twelve volunteers from Cate School class of 2021 assisted Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) staff with a variety of tasks to support the maintenance of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park and Casa de la Guerra.  Cate School teachers Gary Pierce and David Wood supervised students Deborah Brittain, Ella Cassulo, Nkemka Chukwumerije, Peter Coors, Alex Elrington, Josephine Erickson, Leilani Mendez, Frankie Nieman, Ajibola Oke, Aida Pouye, Ryan Suh, and Lily Zanze. While one team of students hauled palm fronds to the dumpster another team weeded and cleaned the El Cuartel garden area

Cate School students cut skeletons and masks for the Dia de los Muertos Craft Day event. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

A group of students also cleaned the exterior of the walls at Casa de la Guerra. Using soft brushes and brooms, volunteers gently cleaned the surfaces of the whitewashed adobe walls and columns surrounding the courtyard.

Group photograph of Cate School teachers and freshman volunteers. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

Students also supported SBTHP programs by cutting skeletons and masks from construction paper for the Dia de los Muertos craft day to be held at the Casa de la Guerra October 29th. In addition to preparing supplies for the event, students also distributed more than forty fliers advertising the event at merchants up and down State Street. Thanks again to the teachers and students for all your help. We look forward to working with you again in February!

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