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
The History and Relevancy Project is a collaborative effort by California State Parks, UC Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) to bring specialized educational programming exploring the universal themes of migration and immigration to CA State Historic Parks. As a part of this pilot project, we plan to offer a customized field trip to all of Santa Barbara Junior High School’s 400 seventh graders on September 26 and 27, 2019 at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. In preparation, we invited two of SBJHS’s seventh grade teachers for a tour of the Presidio in early August. Here is seventh grade history teacher Kristin Martinez-Pettit’s reflection on the process thus far:
All students should know that their story is relevant and part of Santa Barbara’s history. Through a series of meetings with representatives of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, UC Santa Barbara and CA State Parks, seventh grade English and Social Studies teachers at SBJHS, with the help of our teacher librarian and community liaison, are planning and facilitating a project to help students connect their stories to the city of Santa Barbara. The project will include class visits from CA State Parks and UCSB staff and a field trip for all of our seventh graders to visit the El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park in late September, organized by the SBTHP Programs Department. Our goal through this project is to build a sense of community amongst our students as well as stoke their interest in the human story while cultivating their own.
“Our goal through this project is to build a sense of community amongst our students as well as stoke their interest in the human story while cultivating their own.“
In preparation for our trip, we met with SBTHP representatives, educators, and teachers to create the best learning experience for our students. After a series of meetings and our preview of the Presidio grounds and planned activities, teachers began planning the logistics of the trip. Every preparation meeting for our planned field trip has been insightful, informative, and helpful as we attempt to merge the history of Santa Barbara with learning in the classroom.
Written by Kevin McGarry
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