Tag Archives: historic preservation

Imagining a new life for the Cota-Knox House

by Anne Petersen

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.

Cota-Knox House today. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

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.

Cota-Knox House before 1896. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

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. 

Thomas Van Stein with Anne Petersen at the Cota-Knox House. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

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. 

The restored Cota-Knox House, by Thomas Van Stein.

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

Maintenance Spotlight: Casa de la Guerra Courtyard

Before and after photographs of trees in the Casa courtyard. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
Before and after photographs of trees in the Casa courtyard. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Earlier this summer the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s Executive Committee approved a proposal to make improvements to the Casa de la Guerra courtyard including pruning the Coast Live Oak and Mission Olive trees, and stabilizing the courtyard surface to reduce dust and increase durability to make the venue more event-friendly. At the end of August Eduardo contracted with Quality Tree Care to prune the oak and olive trees. The canopy of the oak tree had become thick and shaggy with low-hanging branches that obscured the view of the central wing porch roof from the street. The crew from Quality thinned the top of the tree and pruned the bottom of the tree above the roof line restoring the view of the Casa roofline. The olive tree was also pruned. Both trees look much happier and healthier already.

Kenney Construction "shooting" 45 tons of decomposed granite into the Casa courtyard. In the foreground, Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Garcia spreads the decomposed granite to a three-inch thickness across the courtyard. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
Kenney Construction “shooting” 45 tons of decomposed granite into the Casa courtyard. In the foreground, Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Garcia spreads the decomposed granite to a three-inch thickness across the courtyard. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

The first week in September I ordered 45 tons of decomposed granite from Santa Barbara Sand and Topsoil 45 gallons of PolyPavement soil stabilizer for the new courtyard surface. After some minimal hand-grading to shave high spots and fill low spots in the courtyard, Kenney Construction Incorporated (KCI) arrived at the site to load the decomposed granite over the wall and into the courtyard. Using a swinger truck with a large hopper and high-speed conveyor belt, KCI shot the granite into the courtyard eliminating hundreds of wheelbarrow trips from the street.

Compacting the decomposed granite with a vibrating roller/compactor. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
Compacting the decomposed granite with a vibrating roller/compactor. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

As soon as the granite was all delivered, Eduardo, Isidro Ruiz, and I began spreading a three-inch thick layer of the material across the site with rakes and wheelbarrows. Once all the decomposed granite was distributed evenly across the site a vibrating compactor/roller and a vibra-plate were used to compact the material before applying three coats of the PolyPavement soil stabilizer. Now that the project is complete, the Casa courtyard is dust-free. The hardened surface is permeable to water and should last for years with periodic maintenance.

Michael Imwalle is the archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.