Back By Popular Demand: A Legacy Set in Stone

The exhibit's guest curator, Richard Oglesby, and Marilyn Benson take a fresh look at "A Legacy Set in Stone."

If you missed our popular exhibit, “A Legacy Set in Stone: Santa Barbara Stone Architecture 1870-1940,” you are in luck. The exhibit has been reinstalled at Casa de la Guerra and will be on display through the end of the year. The Casa is open from 12:00-4:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Do you want to know even more about the subject?  Pick up Santa Barbara Stone Architecture by our exhibit partners and friends at the Santa Barbara Conservancy.  It’s available at La Tiendita, the shop at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park.

Be Aware! Be very, very aware.

By Wayne Sherman

Alamo Pintado Creek. Photo by Wayne Sherman.

Recent work by county Flood Control in Alamo Pintado Creek at the Santa Inés Mission Mills has made the channel look like a forgotten country lane in the Deep South. Removal of all the flotsam and jetsam from the recent rains has made it possible to walk along the creek bed in the cool shade and enjoy the wonders of nature sans sunburn. As inviting and bucolic as it may appear, due to a recent sighting of a California Mountain Lion in the area, it is wise to remember that wild means wild and one should take some precautions while enjoying the outdoors.

According to a pamphlet provided by the California Department of Fish and Game Mountain Lions usually hunt alone at night. They usually ambush their prey from behind and kill with a powerful bite to the base of the skull. They prey mostly upon deer, sheep and elk but can survive on smaller animals as well.

As recently as January of 2010 a man was attacked just outside his house on San Marcos Pass. The 6’4” man was able to run the lion off but not before being knocked to the ground and having his cat killed.

Mountain lions are quiet and elusive and prefer to keep it that way if given the chance. But what if we surprise one on our leisurely walk in the cool shade of the creek bed or upon a hike in the mountains? What can one do to minimize the chance of attack? Here are the suggestions provided by the Department of Fish and Game.

1) Do not hike alone. As this cannot always be done I suggest, at least, carry a walking stick or staff to defend your self with. One hiker at the Mills always carries a golf club.

2) Keep children close to you. Mountain Lions are especially drawn to small children and not in a good way. Keep them within your sight at all times.

3) Do not approach a lion. They usually want to avoid confrontation and will run if you give them room to escape.

4) Do not run from a lion. Running can stimulate the lion’s instinct to chase.  Stand and face the animal and make eye contact. Pick up small children so they don’t run but do this without crouching.

5) Do not crouch or bend over.  It is believed that crouching makes one appear as prey to the animal and increases the likelihood of attack.

6) Do all you can to appear larger. Open your jacket, wave your arms slowly, speak firm and loudly. If you can without crouching or turning your back throw a rock or stick.

If none of the above has worked and you are attacked. Keep standing and facing the animal if possible and Fight back with everything and anything at your disposal.


There, I hope this information will make you more aware next time you venture into the great outdoors. Now that I have scared the daylights out of everyone; who wants to go for a hike?

Wayne Sherman is SBTHP’s Santa Inés Mission Mills Steward.

Hot Off the Press!

SBTHP has been awarded the Trustees Emeritus Award for Excellence for the Stewardship of Historic Sites from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Our team traveled to the National Preservation Conference in Buffalo, NY, to receive the award.

Here they are yesterday after the awards ceremony. Way to go SBTHP!

Board President Bob Hoover, Archaeologist Mike Imwalle, Board Member Mary Louise Days, and Executive Director Jarrell Jackman.

Taiko Drums at the Santa Barbara Presidio

By M. Kay Van Horn

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation began plans in 2009 for an Asian Festival to honor and remember the Japanese and Chinese American families who once lived on the Presidio property located on Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara Streets prior to and after World War II.

Togen Daiko. Photo by Clint Weisman.

I reminded the Asian American History Advisory Committee that in 1991, we celebrated “Nihonmachi Revisited” with a two day exhibition at the Presidio.  We had two Taiko drum troops from Los Angeles County, of which one was an excellent youth group.  We wanted to revive that festival spirit for “Presidio Pastimes, the Santa Barbara Presidio’s Asian American Neighborhood” to be held in 2010, and nothing could be more exciting than to watch and hear Taiko drums. To my surprise there were committee members who had never heard of Taiko drumming.   At that point, I decided to make it my mission to find a Taiko drum group.

The Santa Barbara Buddhist Temple was located on the Presidio site at 131 Canon Perdido Street, the center of Nihonmachi, or Japan Town, where they had the traditional memorial Obon festivals each year.  My sister, Dianne Takeuchi, and I took Japanese dance lessons when we were teenagers at the Buddhist Temple and participated in Obon Festivals there.  I contacted the Priest who presided over the memorial service in 2008 for my mother, Masako Saruwatari, who gave me a few leads, and I was finally able to contact the Oxnard Taiko drum group, Togen Daiko.  SBTHP arranged to have Togen Daiko, with their colorful “hapi coats” or “hanten festival coats,” perform in 2010 and again this year, on October 1, 2011.

Togen Daiko. Photo by Clint Weisman.

The first American Taiko group was formed in 1968, so it is relatively new to the states.  Many years ago in Japan drums were carved from trees that were 1200 years old.  Drums of various sizes would create difference pitches, so many were carved out of the same tree.  Today, drums are made from wine barrels.  While Taiko drums are usually performed at Obon festivals, there are now troops that give concerts or use them in theatrical performances such as Cirque du Soleil.  Last year, the San Jose Taiko drums appeared at the Granada Theater.  Look for our announcements for the third annual Asian American Pastime in 2012.  You won’t want to miss the excitement of Taiko drumming.

M. Kay Van Horn is a member of the Asian American History Advisory Committee. Her family’s relationship to the Presidio neighborhood goes back almost a century to 1912, when her grandfather operated a barbershop in Nihonmachi.

The Big Reveal: Archaeological Mystery Objects

Last week we posted three mystery objects excavated at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, along with polls so you could guess the answers.   Below are the correct identifications of these objects.   How did you do?

Dried ink for calligraphy.  These small containers of dried ink can be wet with a brush, producing a black ink used for writing Japanese or Chinese characters. These objects were excavated from a trash pit associated with the early-twentieth-century occupation of the Presidio site by Japanese Americans.


Bale seal. Bales seals were in use throughout Europe going back to the medieval period to identify the content and quality of parcels, batches of textile, and bales of goods.  This bale seal was excavated from a trash pit associated with the comandante’s residence adjacent to the chapel site.


Dispenser for powdered Tabasco.  Marked with the company brand name on the bottom, this ceramic shaker shaped like a chili pepper was used to dispense a powdered form of the spicy condiment.  Tabasco brand products have been manufactured by the McIlhenny Company in Avery Island, Louisianna since 1868. Still in use in some areas of the Southern  United States, powdered Tabasco is not readily available on the market today, and this ceramic shaker is extremely rare.

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.

What is it?: Day 3

Celebrate Archaeology Month and the 50th Anniversary of archaeological excavations at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park this Thursday October 13 with a lecture by archaeologists Bob Hoover and Mike Imwalle at the Presidio Chapel, 7:00pm.

Here’s your final Mystery Object, excavated at the Santa Barbara Presidio.  Can you guess what it is?  Take our poll and compare your answers with others!

Answers will be revealed during the lecture.  If you can’t make it, check the blog next week.  We’ll post the answers here too!

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