Category Archives: Research Center

Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta, Yesterday and Today

Fiesta dancers at El Paseo. Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.

While the confetti from cascarones is still being swept away from State Street, I want to take a moment to reflect on the success of this year’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta celebration and SBTHP’s Casa Cantina. This year, I got to work with Anne Petersen to develop a display of Fiesta photographs from the late 1920s for SBTHP’s Casa Cantina.

Donated to SBTHP by Pearl Chase herself, these photos offer a peek into the past and a newfound appreciation of Fiesta’s development over the past nearly nine decades (this year was the 88th anniversary). Plus, many of the photos are the work of Karl Obert, whose California-based architectural photography is iconic.

Fiesta performers assemble at Casa de la Guerra. Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.

While the photographs themselves are precious and full of lush information about the participants’ style and passion during the festival, I had a lot of fun learning about how complex Fiesta actually is. Nowadays, it’s really easy to think of Fiesta as a big party with lots of tourists, parking problems, food, beer, and parades; but, knowing how much the festival meant to its founders and all the events that have endured since the first Fiesta in 1924 really put into perspective how important Fiesta is to our city and to our history.

The research consisted of some true gems from the Presidio Research Center: Stella Haverland Rouse’s Santa Barbara’s Spanish Renaissance & Old Spanish Days (1974), Karl Obert’s This is California (1957), Kevin Starr’s Material Dreams: Southern California Through the 1920s (1990), and original Old Spanish Days programs from as far back as 1926. Each piece offered a new interpretation and perspective, but all were united in the idea that Fiesta is a crucial component of Santa Barbara.

Fiesta-goers checking out the photo display. Photo by Stephanie Byrd.

The final product, a modest display of eight captioned photographs of various sizes, served to welcome visitors to SBTHP’s Casa Cantina, drawing guests from the busy Mercado in Plaza de la Guerra to learn and appreciate Fiesta’s founding. The entire collection from Miss Chase will soon be available for viewing on SBTHP’s new online collections website launching this October, so keep your eye out!

For any further questions or inquiries about the photos or the research materials used in this project, please contact Anne Petersen at the Presidio Research Center at (805) 966-5073.

Stephanie Byrd is a graduate student at USC pursuing a Master’s in Planning, with an emphasis in Historic Preservation. She is the 2012 Jim and Sue Higman Intern at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, and on the weekends she’s a vivacious Presidio neighborhood tour guide in need of tour takers!

Rehousing De la Guerra

by Anne Petersen

Monica Orozco, Anne Petersen and Stephanie Byrd with the new compact shelving until at the Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library.

Our neighbors at the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library recently received a grant for new compact shelving for their collections.  Library Director Monica Orozco, Ph.D. spent weeks prepping the main storage room, overseeing the packing of books, photographs and archival materials into clean banker’s boxes, and removing the existing shelving.  The new shelving unit is built on a platform and covered with new flooring that subtly ramps up to the unit. Aisles open at the push of a button, and when fully compacted, the contents are earthquake-safe.

Anne Petersen and Stephanie Byrd rehousing SBMAL’s De la Guerra Collection.

Last Friday, I brought along SBTHP’s new intern Stephanie Byrd to help out with Monica’s month-long project to reshelve all those banker’s boxes and fill the new unit. Knowing that SBTHP is the steward of Casa de la Guerra, Monica saved the De la Guerra collection especially for us to file away in its new home. The collection includes an amazing array of family papers from Don José de la Guerra’s invoices and receipts, to his son Pablo’s correspondence. It’s a treat to be able to peek behind the scenes during an installation like this.  Thanks Monica, for sending out the call for help, we will gladly answer any time.

If you are interested in the contents of the Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library’s De la Guerra Collection, you can see the finding aid here. If you are interested in making an appointment to visit the Library, you can find more information here.

Anne Petersen is SBTHP’s Associate Director for Historical Resources

Yes, Miss Chase, I’ll Be Right There!: An Interview with Kathi Brewster

by Anne Petersen

Kathi Brewster (left) with Barbara Lindemann on the day of the interview at the Presidio Research Center. Photo by Anne Petersen.

On May 17 we interviewed Kathleen Brewster as part of our oral history program at the Presidio Research Center. Kathi has been involved with SBTHP since 1967, and began giving tours of the Presidio site as a docent at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum (then “Society”) in 1972.  During her decades of volunteering with SBTHP she served on the board, and as a member of the Education, Casa de la Guerra, Artifacts and Exhibits, and Executive committees, among others. Kathi holds a masters degree from UCSB in Latin American history, and has been able to put it to good use at SBTHP, giving tours of early California sites and participating in special research projects, including the development of a furnishing plan for José de la Guerra’s store.

During the interview, conducted by Past-President of the Board and Life Honorary Director, Barbara Lindemann, Kathi shared dozens of detailed stories about her work with SBTHP and her experiences in the Presidio neighborhood.  We are astounded at Kathi’s memory and recall for names dates and places going back through her fifty years in Santa Barbara.

Tiles at the basement, street front entrance to 215 East Canon Perdido Street. many of the tiles were made by Mr. Neeley’s Adult Education Program pottery students when the studio was in the basement of the building. Others were added by SBTHP and its contractors during the rehabilitation of the building in 2007.  Mr. Neeley made the white majolica tile with the cobalt blue deer. Kathi’s tile, an impressed leaf design, is on the bottom row, second from the right. Photo by Anne Petersen.

She shared wonderful stories about her pottery classes through the Adult Education Program with instructor Bill Neeley in the 1960s.  At that time, the pottery studio was located in the basement of 215 East Canon Perdido Street, now the Presidio Research Center and part of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. Kathi described the placement of the pottery wheels, the types of clay the students used, and even the location of the hooks where they would hang their mugs when they arrived at class – Mr. Neeley would always have a large pot of coffee ready for the students.

Kathi with Pearl Chase, October 1975.

Kathi also described a meeting with Pearl Chase, who, among her many other accomplishments, helped found the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.  Kathi had just returned home to Santa Barbara in October 1975 after a long flight from Rome and a drive from LAX, when she received a call from a colleague. She invited Kathi to Miss Chase’s home to review appropriate attire for Old Spanish Days’ Fiesta with members of the Santa Barbara Historical Society Docent Council.  Exhausted and without a car, Kathi declined, only to receive a call from Miss Chase herself a few minutes later, requesting her presence.  As everyone who knew her can tell you, no one said “no” to Miss Chase.  When Kathi arrived at Pearl’s home a few minutes later, after grabbing a ride with a friend (her bicycle tires were flat), not only was Miss Chase’s home full of women, but also a reporter from the Sand and Sea Magazine, who snapped her photo!

Our interview with Kathi is full of other memories that help us continue to piece to together a complex portrait of the Presidio Neighborhood.  Luckily, we won’t have to wait too long to see Kathi again.  She continues to give tours of both the Presidio and Casa de la Guerra, and is a treasured docent and excellent mentor to new docents and volunteers.  This year, SBTHP gave Kathi the Pearl Chase Historic Preservation Award for her countless hours of service in support of historic preservation in Santa Barbara.

If you are interested in listening to the entire interview with Kathi, or more information on the other interviews in our collection, please contact the Presidio Research Center at (805) 966-5073.

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

Digitizing the Past: the Delfina de la Guerra Collection

by Katherine Lowe

Librarian Torie Quiñonez holds an object for photographer Lael Wageneck. Photo by Anne Petersen.

In the course of scanning items for the Delfina de la Guerra collection, we discovered that certain formats would not fit or were too delicate to be placed on the scanner bed. What’s a Research Center to do? Call in a photographer, of course!

Photo by Lael Wageneck.

A local photographer, Lael Wageneck, volunteered his time and brought his camera and lighting gear to the Presidio Research Center one afternoon to photograph some of the items in the Delfina collection. Lael says, “I’m a Santa Barbara native who likes photography and history, so helping the Trust was right up my alley and I enjoyed doing it.”

Photo by Lael Wagonek.

Thanks to Lael, we were able to take high-quality photographs of the plant clippings, scrapbooks, and oversized photographs. These photos will become part of the digital collection that we are creating for the Delfina de la Guerra collection.

Thanks, Lael!

Katherine Lowe is a volunteer at the Presidio Research Center. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the hidden treasures lurking in archives.

Sharing Memories is a Gift to the Future

by Anne Petersen

Suzi Calderon Bellman and her father, Jack Calderon, review family photographs. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

This week we recorded an oral history with Presidio descendant Juan “Jack” Santiago Calderon. His daughter, Suzi Calderon Bellman, whose friendly face we have gotten used to seeing at the Presidio Research Center, also attended.  Mary Louise Days, board member and co-chair of the Research Center Committee, conducted the interview in the Pico Adobe at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, where Jack’s grandmother, Lucretia de Jesus Pico lived in the early twentieth century. Jack is descended from some of the earliest families to settle the Presidio of Santa Barbara, including the Corderos, Romeros, Cotas and Valenzuelas.  He is also a registered member of the Coastal Band of Chumash Indians.

Although Jack spent his early childhood in Los Angeles, he moved to Santa Barbara when he was still young, and spent a lot of time at his grandmother’s house at 1010 Garden Street.  Jack shared memories of running through the Presidio neighborhood with his boyhood friends, visiting the Chinese-run Kim’s market at the corner of Santa Barbara and Canon Perdido Streets, scampering through the lobby of the downtown Post Office at Canon Perdido and Anacapa streets, and lifting the occasional steaming pie from a local windowsill.   Jack also shared darker memories of discrimination in mid-twentieth century Santa Barbara.  One particularly disturbing incident occurred when Jack returned from a heroic service to his country during the Korean War, and was asked to leave the Arlington Theater during a film because of the color of his skin.  He refused.

Interviewer Mary Louise Days stands to the left, and Suzi's family history research is assembled on the table of the Pico Adobe. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

Jack shared the story of his life while surrounded by family photographs, records, and genealogy charts compiled by Suzi, who has been building on the genealogical research begun by her mother, Delphine Quevedo Calderon. It is an honor to be present when someone chooses to share their life story, and a privilege to be given permission to archive that story so that others can learn from and be inspired by it.  We extend our most heartfelt thanks to the Calderon family for this experience.

If you are interested in learning more about the Presidio Research Center Oral History Project, please contact Anne Petersen at (805) 966-5073.

Anne Petersen with Jack and Suzi. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

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

Digitizing the Past: the Delfina de la Guerra Collection

By Katherine Lowe

When processing a new collection, one of the fun things is thinking about ways to share the collection.  Thanks to constantly evolving technology, there are so many new and interesting ways to share historical collections with a much wider audience. Researchers can now search and browse millions of photos and letters from the comfort of home. Here at the Presidio Research Center, we are working on digitizing a portion of items from Delfina de la Guerra’s personal papers. This important collection detailing a portion of Santa Barbara’s history will be available for viewing on the website. This blog series will give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse at this process.

There is no substitute for seeing a letter or photograph in person to get a true sense of the scope of its historical value, but digitization offers us a close approximation. One of the most rewarding aspects of processing and researching historical material is viewing it up close and noticing the details that make it truly unique, such as the way the ink on a letter has faded or how the nature of handwritten letters has evolved over time. Our goal with this digitization project is to translate that feeling into a digital setting.

After selecting a portion of the materials for the digitization project, the scanning stage is next. The most important thing is for us to get a clear image that is as close to the original as possible.

Wearing gloves while scanning helps us to not introduce any damage or fingerprints. Photo by Anne Petersen

One of the advantages of digitization is the ability to zoom in for a closer view, so resolution of the scanned image is very important. For example, consider this photograph of an unidentified woman.

The following set shows what happens when you zoom in on a portion of this photograph that has a lower resolution (left) versus something that has been scanned with a higher resolution (right). The image on the left is more blurry, while the image on the right has more detail.

In the next blog post, we will discuss historical research as it relates to digitizing this collection.

Katherine Lowe is a volunteer at the Presidio Research Center. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the hidden treasures lurking in archives.

Rare Books Owned by the de la Guerra Family Now at the Presidio Research Center

By Torie Quiñonez

The Presidio Research Center recently received a donation of the personal papers of Delfina de la Guerra, the last member of that illustrious family to reside in the Casa de la Guerra. Delfina was born in 1861, and was the daughter of Pablo de la Guerra and Josefa Moreno y Castro. Aside from her travels as a young woman, she spent her whole life at the Casa, until just ten years before her death, when she went to live with a friend who cared for her until she died.

Torie Quiñonez looks for identifying marks to help date and catalog the de la Guerra books. Photo by Anne Petersen

The woman with whom Delfina spent the last years of her life was a relative of the Campbell family, currently of Virginia. They inherited a trunk that had been left with various family members and ended up having belonged to Delfina de la Guerra. A trove of personal effects from the trunk was brought to us by the Campbells, including two eighteenth century books that probably belonged to her.

One of the books is a guide to the holy city of Rome for the Catholic tourist. Printed in 1769, the year of the first Spanish occupation of Alta California, this book was almost 100 years old by the time Delfina could read it.

The other book, printed in 1788, is a work in Latin by a Father Franciscus (or Franz) Henno. It appears to have been intended for use in the religious and moral instruction of young people. If anyone reading this blog knows more about Father Henno, please comment!

These books will be cataloged and added to the Research Center’s small collection of rare books, while remaining intellectually linked to the Delfina de la Guerra Collection from which they originate.

Torie Quiñonez is the librarian at the Presidio Research Center, a library and archive available to the public by appointment at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park