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.
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.
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.
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!
Michael Imwalle is the Associate Executive Director for Cultural Resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation
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 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!
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!
This atmospheric evening is a community favorite as visitors gather to experience an early California cooking demonstration, learn traditional California dances and discuss the latest news in Spanish Colonial California with the Comandante and his soldados.
For more photos from this beautiful night, visit our Flickr Album here.
The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation‘s exhibit, Building Community: Reginald D. Johnson, Architect was recently installed in the MacBean Library at Cate School in Carpinteria. SBTHP was pleased to partner with Cate School during the preliminary preparation for the exhibit and also grateful to them for the opportunity to have the show displayed at this beautiful campus which was designed by Reginald Johnson in 1927. Curator Rose Thomas gave a brief presentation to board members and staff during a reception hosted by the school.
“Hey what up” from the Fall 2016-17 Presidio Heritage Garden interns from the Anacapa School. The Anacapa interns work with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation staff to develop and maintain the interpretive gardens, living history programs, and exhibits at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. In order to establish a more awesome garden, we care for the plants throughout the Presidio, including lemon, orange, mandarin, pomegranate, fig, and loquat trees, wheat, bananas, peas, lettuce, carrots, fava beans, strawberries, and onions, as well as native shrubs. The gardens must be watered nearly every day during the summer, and occasionally we must remove the persistent encroaching weeds when it rains.
Another important part of maintaining the gardens is planting new plants. Some of these crops will be eaten, used for seeds or will simply be admired by the public. Beets, carrots, green beans, peas and wheat were started from seed in nursery flats. Once the seedlings have grown bigger and stronger they are moved to the various garden planters throughout the park where they will permanently reside until they are mature enough to harvest. The fava beans, however, were planted directly into the ground. We think this might be because they are more durable.
We also made trellises out of the invasive plant Arundo donax or giant cane. The cane, which closely resembles its relative bamboo, was introduced to North America by the Spanish during the 18th century as a building material. During the Presidio era these canes were used extensively to sheath the roofs of the adobes. The trellises are placed next to pea plants and beans so they have a structure to crawl up.
We have even worked on separating wheat from the chaff. One must grind the wheat in a rather forceful manner. This process removes any unwanted roughage, leaving behind small delicate wheat berries (seeds). We also helped SBTHP curator Rose Thomas clean the Casa de la Guerra Store exhibit and hang the Casa wallpaper exhibit.
The noble fowl of the Presidio, the Black Minorcan hens, majestically frolic and peck about their palace. We give the chickens food and water and have collected their eggs twice. In the future when it is less cold we hope there will be more eggs to collect. We also cleaned the chicken coop and installed new laying pads. A surprisingly arduous task, however a very necessary and rewarding one at that.
Along with our normal Presidio endeavors we helped set up the Asian American Neighborhood Festival in October. Paper lanterns of various colors and size were hung by rope along a bamboo enclosure that encircled the front of the Presidio. This event was held on a Sunday but even so we showed up to support the event. We moved ice buckets, set up posters, decorated booths and even drew dragons with all of the little kids who came to the event. After we helped set up the event we sat down and enjoyed the festivities. We watched several different dances some included forms of martial arts and sword dancing. There was even a dance where large lion costumes were worn by the dancers which undeniably was a favorite among the crowd.
Anne, Josh and Ashley are a welcome sight in the gardens and at our public programs. We are grateful for their hard work and positive spirit, and our ongoing partnership with the Anacapa School.
The Santa Barbara Community Flute Ensemble accompanied the Soldados and provided American Revolution-period music. Director of Programs Kevin McGarry gave a short introduction to the ceremony, introducing the audience to the rich military history of Santa Barbara which includes the Presidio as a historic military fort. WWll veteran and SBTHP Life Honorary Director James G. Mills gave remarks on his service during WWll which provided the over fifty audience members with a personal connection to service.
To conclude the event, audience members were invited to share their thoughts concerning the holiday. Many veterans spoke of the impact their service had on their lives and family, which provided a touching end to the ceremony. After the event visitors were welcome to look at a collection of military vehicles on display which were lent by Rob Gordon, as well as tour the Presidio.
For more photos from the ceremony by Michael Imwalle, visit our Flickr album here.
Heidi Ortloff is a California State Parks interpreter stationed at El Presidio SHP.
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