The project to lovingly restore the Santa Barbara Presidio Chapel doors is complete. The process entailed the fabrication of new doors, mounted on new pivot hinges on a new threshold, and the restoration of the existing lock hardware. In November 2019, recently-elected SBTHP Board member Joe Handerhan and his team from Channel Coast Corporation began the project by measuring and drawing the existing doors, hardware, and molding profiles to create shop drawings to manufacture the replacement doors.
Once the 1985 doors were documented, carpenter Teo Ellinwood began ripping and planing lumber to assemble the door panels. The door frames were fit together using mortise and tenon joinery. The molding profiles of the old doors were used to cut custom router blades so that the raised detail of the door panels were a perfect match! More than sixty eight-inch-long hand-forged nails made by Santa Barbara Forge were used to fasten the door panels to the frames. With the door panels finished it was time to start the installation. Each nail had to be driven through a pre-drilled pilot hole, heated with a torch, bent over at the tip, heated with a torch again, then bent over the back of the frame.
In order to install the new doors, the existing threshold needed to be replaced so that new pivot hinges could be installed. The original threshold was rotting and could no longer support the weight of the doors, each weighing more than one hundred and fifty pounds. Once the threshold was replaced, the new doors were delivered to the site and sandblasted to raise the grain in the wood to match the weathered wood surrounding the entrance to the chapel. Juan Ramirez arrived onsite to help Teo fit the new doors onto the new pivot hinges and to help remove the original hardware from the old doors.
It was a delicate dance replacing the threshold and the doors, all the while leaving the chapel open to visitors and being able to lock it securely each evening. Once the new doors were hung, painter Luis Castro (the stain master) began applying a custom stain to the new doors. The stain is made by adding ground iron oxide pigment to a mixture of turpentine and linseed oil. Luis has been mixing this special stain for projects at El Presidio SHP for more than ten years.
With the doors mounted and stained, it was then time to install the original lock hardware. On February 10, 2020 the new lock hardware was installed using custom hand-forged nails made by horseshoer Larry Sell of Sierra Forge Farrier Service. That afternoon the new chapel doors were locked with the original hardware for the first time. SBTHP and California State Parks are extremely grateful to the John and Beverly Stauffer Foundation and all the individual contributions that made this project possible. Hopefully these doors will welcome celebrations of life, marriage, and community for many generations to come.
Michael H. Imwalle is the Associate Executive Director for Cultural Resources at SBTHP.
In November 2019, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) invited friends and partners for an insider tour of the 1871 Cota-Knox House. This City Landmark is SBTHP’s next restoration project, and our work will ensure that the building is not only restored to its original appearance, but also receives seismic and accessibility upgrades that will bring it into compliance with current needs.
We made the interior of the building available to the attendees at our event so they could appreciate some of the special details in the sala. Inside, historians Mary Louise Days and Fermina Murray and SBTHP Associate Executive Director Michael Imwalle shared the architectural and social history of the building, as well as a display of medical artifacts from Dr. Knox’s practice, which were excavated on site.
Architect Anthony Grumbine, Structural Engineer Jeff Haight, and Contractor Joe Handerhan led tours of the exterior. The team of building experts helped the guests understand the challenges of restoring historic buildings, including how to treat the delicate aging mortar between bricks, and the scarcity of similar materials to replace the originals.
In addition to the process of the upcoming restoration work and the history of the building, we focused on the significance of this project to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, the downtown and the wider community. Restoration of this small brick home matters, for a surprising number of reasons:
It helps us tell the story of Santa Barbara’s somewhat destructive transition from a pueblo to an American town. María Olivera Cota’s Adobe home was demolished when Salisbury Haley’s new street grid was implemented, and her new house was built by her son-in-law José Lobero, across the street from his theatre.
It helps us interpret the medical history of our community. After María Cota’s death, the house was occupied by of of Santa Barbara’s first surgeons, a Civil War veteran from Philadelphia, who made significant modifications to the building
It is an unusual piece of vernacular architecture, with an early 19th-century symmetrical façade combined with later-period Victorian elements.
This small building is also a City Landmark, and a historic resource in El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. It is surrounded by other City Landmarks and is the last landmark on the block to receive the care and attention it deserves. In a time when our community is focusing on the revitalization of our downtown, the restoration of this landmark, as artist Thomas Van Stein said, “will have a big impact in the Neighborhood.”
This building is also important because of its use today. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has produced research studies that show that smaller, older buildings in cities like ours often serve as incubators for local and innovative small businesses and innovation. And the Cota-Knox House is evidence of that. Tenants Eric Watts and Betsy Cramer (representing the Citizens Planning Association) attended the event and graciously allowed us access to the building.
And it matters because our historic buildings ground us. As Professor of Historic Preservation Tom Mayes has argued, historic buildings help us define who we are through “memory, continuity, and identity,” and remind us about what makes our community special.
We hope you too will get involved in the campaign to restore the Cota-Knox House. For more information about the project and how you can help, click here.
Anne Petersen is the Executive Director at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation
In December 2018 the California Missions Foundation (CMF) generously provided funding to help support SBTHP’s preservation efforts in Santa Barbara County. The project entailed the repair of the clay tile roofs on the grist and fulling mill buildings at the Santa Inés Mission Mills complex. Santa Inés Mission Mills complex consists of a grist mill and two masonry reservoirs that were built by the padres and the Chumash prior to 1818. The batán or fulling mill was designed and built by Joseph Chapman circa 1820. Both reservoirs and the two mill buildings are contributing elements to the Santa Inés Mission National Historic Landmark District (NHLD). The 37-acre mill property was purchased by Harry and Ellen Knill and was meticulously restored under their ownership. SBTHP purchased the property from the Knills in 1996 and completed the restoration with the addition of the hand-made, low-fired clay tile roof. In 2007 SBTHP sold the mill property to California State Parks with the intent of establishing a new State Historic Park featuring the open space of the former Mission agricultural setting and the historic mill complex. Preservation of the Santa Inés Mills is a primary goal of SBTHP and California State Parks.
The roofs of both buildings have been damaged by vandals over the years with a number of the tiles being broken from people climbing on the roofs. The repairs consisted of the replacement of approximately 140 broken roof tiles. The tiles were replaced with hand-made, low-fired clay tiles or ladrillos manufactured by the same company (Materiales de Construccíon) that made the tiles for the original restoration project. Action Roofing carefully removed the broken tiles and loose mortar, repaired the underlayment, and wire-tied the replacement tiles in new mortar.
We are extremely grateful for CMF’s continued support of SBTHP’s preservation efforts at the Santa Inés Mission Mills and are excited to announce that in October 2019 we received another gift from CMF that will provide much needed security gate for the property as well as the ongoing condition assessment of the painted red figure on the fulling mill. Stay tuned for a report on these projects in 2020!
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.