Saturday September 14th SBTHP staff hosted the United Way Day of Caring volunteers at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Vallin, Executive Director Anne Petersen, Librarian Chris Ervin and I supervised approximately 32 volunteers doing numerous projects around the park. This year volunteers included several families, staff from Exxon/Mobil, and the Santa Barbara School of Squash. Eduardo supervised a group that whitewashed the Northwest Corner Defense Wall, tilled the soil beneath the Cañedo Orchard fruit trees, and cleaned and waxed the statue of King Carlos.
Anne directed a group of volunteers that took on the daunting task of cleaning and organizing of the Old Research Center library space. Chris oversaw the cleanup of the Presidio Research Center landscaping. Trees and shrubs were pruned all the way around the building to provide space for the HVAC equipment and to expose existing signage. I worked with a group of volunteers from Exxon/Mobil to complete the annual maintenance of our garden areas. Volunteers weeded, tilled, hauled mulch, pruned, and planted in the Presidio Heritage Gardens at the Northwest and Northeast Corners.
Thanks to the help of the generous United Way Day of Caring volunteers, SBTHP was able to accomplish critical maintenance projects to prepare the site for winter. We look forward to continuing this successful partnership between SBTHP and the United Way Santa Barbara volunteer community again next year.
In Spring of 2019 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation contacted our friend Thomas Van Stein, a talented painter and member of the renowned Oak Group of Santa Barbara landscape artists, with a very special request. We are wrapping up the planning phase for the restoration of the 1871 Cota-Knox House at 914 Anacapa Street, one of Santa Barbara’s earliest brick buildings. As the work progressed, many of us commented that it would really help the community understand the impact of this project if we could show them what the restored building would look like.
Thanks to our generous partners at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum we have access to many wonderful historic images of the building. Our restoration seeks to be accurate to these images, and evoke the original appearance of the building, yet historic photographs are often black and white, sometimes grainy, and convey a time long-lost to memory.
At SBTHP we frequently discuss the idea that although we are champions of preservation, we don’t believe that the goal of our work is to retreat to the past. Rather, we are always thinking about the future, and believe that historic buildings contribute to the character of any thriving city. We work to restore the unique vernacular buildings in the Presidio Neighborhood so we can return them to a useful productive life as community assets. And that is hard to capture in an architectural plan or historic photograph.
At an event in Fall 2018, Thomas approached me and offered to help the community imagine what this diminutive and dramatically altered building could offer Santa Barbara’s downtown through a painting that captured the restored building in its modern setting. In the Spring of 2019 we were thrilled to learn that we received the President’s Award from Colonial Dames of America, which provided the funding for the painting. We had also recently completed a level of planning that allowed us to provide detailed information to Thomas about the restoration. Thomas spent the next three months studying the plans and historic photographs. He presented a preliminary sketch in a meeting with Associate Executive Director Michael Imwalle and myself that knocked our socks off. You can see the results of that careful study in the final painting. He got the detail of the brick work on the façade, and the casement windows and shutters just right! And, the building is full of color and life, with Dr. Knox’s 1890s unicycle replaced with a contemporary cyclist perusing the curbside interpretive sign.
We know the restoration of the Cota-Knox House will have a transformative impact on this block of Anacapa Street. This City Landmark shares the block with the beautiful Julia-Morgan designed Margaret Baylor Inn, and the Carrillo Recreation Center, both also City Landmarks. It sits across Anacapa Street from the Lobero Theatre, and on the next block from the Reginald Johnson-designed U.S. Post Office, both on the National Register of Historic Places. With the restoration complete, the Cota-Knox House will add the final piece to this historic streetscape, and because of Thomas’s amazing artistry, we can help the community imagine its impact. As Thomas said when we visited the site with the painting in hand, “This is project going to make a real difference in the neighborhood!”
This $1,300,000 project will take the help of a diverse range of friends and supporters. Would you like to follow the restoration of the Cota-Knox House and support our efforts? Visit our webpage about the project here. We will keep this page updated as the project progresses.
Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation
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.
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.
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.
Click here to learn more about IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Internships. This article was originally published on the IHC website.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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