In celebration of Fiesta and Old Spanish Days, it is important to remember the rich history of Santa Barbara and the beautiful architecture we see in our city. If you look in our city's General Plan, it points out that Santa Barbara's heritage combines centuries of Indian culture with Spanish, Mexican, and American influence, and this combining of cultures shows itself in the style, character, and appearance which have made our special city one of the most widely acclaimed centers of archaeological, historical, and cultural significance in California. Those structures and remnants of settlement which remain are cherished not only as links to our colorful and varied past but also as irreplaceable components of Santa Barbara's ambiance. These "pieces of the past" add texture to the fabric of our community, giving it that special charm which draws people from around the world.
In 1782, the city began as a Spanish presidio (Spanish for fortress) which was made up adobe buildings with tile roofs. A cluster of adobe residences around the presidio formed the heart of what is now the downtown area. As Santa Barbara grew from a presidio to a city, little thought was given to architectural continuity. Santa Barbara grew quickly in the 1880's, and most of the new buildings were brick or wood "main street" type structures. In 1922, the Community Arts Association formed a group called the Plans and Planting Committee, which increased public awareness of and appreciation for architectural quality and integrity. In 1925 a major earthquake damaged a majority of Santa Barbara's original brick and wooden commercial buildings. This catastrophe provided the Plans and Planting Committee with an opportunity to guide the rebuilding according to its own uniform architectural and stylistic program. The original Architectural Board of Review (ABR) formed in 1925 and operated for only nine months. Discontinued for over two decades, the ABR was re-established in 1947 by ordinance.
In 1959 the California State Legislature passed a bill enabling local communities to provide for historic districts and landmarks, and regulate their protection and enhancement. The bill inspired the passage of a resolution in September 1959 which created El Pueblo Viejo (The Old Town) historic district in the downtown and waterfront areas.
In recent years, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation has been involved in the reconstruction of El Presidio de Santa Barbara. The Presidio, which is located on Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara streets, contains the oldest building in Santa Barbara, El Cuartel--a fragment of the Spanish Royal Presido founded in 1782. To date, the Trust has reconstructed the Padre's Quarters, the Chapel, the Comandancia, officers quarters, and a two-story observation tower.
So during this fun time of the year, stop by to see and appreciate some of the beautiful architecture our town has to offer...the El Presidio, the Santa Barbara Mission, our beautiful courthouse on Anapamu, and end it with a margarita in the El Paseo!