Santa Barbara is one of the most popular vacation destinations on the west coast. Every year millions of people make their way either directly to or through Santa Barbara. Almost any international tourists trip to California will surely include a stop in Santa Barbara, located right between San Diego and San Francisco. Travel guides are filled with information about the small Spanish town and its many little treasures and hidden buildings that have interesting stories and historical significance. Having worked as a tour guide here in Santa Barbara I know this town and its history very well and wanted to share some of these stories with you. As part of my blog i will include an SB Segment every once in a while, keeping you up to date on current events, beautiful photographs and interesting stories.
Today i wanted to feature the Courthouse, located on Anacapa Street right across from the library, it’s one the the tallest buildings in town, providing a lookout that allows you to see the entire city from above, and making the clock tower able to be spotted from spots around the city . The courthouse finished construction 1929 replacing the old courthouse that collapsed after the earthquake of 1925. During the earthquake a majority of the city collapsed except for a few buildings, one of which was the “El Paseo”, the oldest marketplace and hotel in town. The building was constructed in the mission revival style and used as the model for the entire downtown area. Nowadays, all of the buildings in the downtown area are built in the same style, creating the uniform look that has made Santa Barbara stand out among Cali beach towns. I can only imagine that if the earthquake didn’t happen, the town would look much more commercialized by generic department store designs. Today, even the McDonald’s can only be identified by the small logo rather than the ugly bright yellow and red buildings that normally advertise it’s presence.
The courthouse is still active today, and therefor most likely the most beautiful jury duty destinations in California. The Jail however, which you can see on the far side of the Sunken Gardens in the picture below, is no longer active. The jail has been moved to about half way to Goleta leaving the building empty. After the jail was first decommissioned the city tried to remove the cells and convert the building into offices only to find out that they were mounted so well into the foundation that removing them would risk the structural integrity of the building, therefore making it uninhabitable. Now there’s just some lonely soul inside waiting for some one to visit. For his sake, i encourage it ; )
The fountain in the front is of a brother and sister that posed for its design in the 1920’s. The material used. sandstone from California is extremely brittle and over the years had repeatedly cracked along the joints where the seperate pieces of the statue connected and thinner areas of the sculpture. After the damages became too difficult to fix, and belly tucks just weren’t doing the trick anymore the city raised $750,000 to build a new one. Well they ended up not having to raise quite as much because someone was nice enough to donate a bolder from their property, as long as they pick it up :P The statue was constructed in 4 pieces by 4 different artists and then fitted together with a crane. The entire project was done right on the grass area in front of the building allowing me to take photos of the process from square to 3 dimensional piece of art. It looks like a perfect replica of the old one. Minus the cracks.
Inside of the courthouse you will find hand painted tile staircases that lead up to the second floor. After making your way up, on the right hand side you will find the most beautiful of the courtrooms, containing a mural that tells the entire history of Santa Barbara dating back to 1542, when Juan Cabrillo first discovered the area. There was an electrical fire in early 2010 that caused large amounts of smoke to blow into the room covering the walls with a layer of soot. It took hundreds of hours of cleaning the paintings inch by inch, using q-tips and tiny tools. Today the painting is almost back to its original color, but more fragile than ever. The curtains in the courtroom are made of gold thread and if touched, can easily fall apart. So if you take a look inside … watch your step.
A popular destination for weddings. 7-7-07 brought 53 couples to Santa Barbara to get married, many of them taking turns in these gardens. I spoke with one of the curators of the building who said that it was like a production line of weddings, one after the other trying to simultaneously squeeze in multiple weddings in different sections of the garden.
MOVIES IN THE SUNKEN GARDEN
In the summer time, the city installs a large portable movie screen that is positioned in the corner of the Sunken Gardens allowing residents and visitors to save their spots on the lawn for the evening showing. The last few years themes for the summer included: Old Scary Movies and last year Musicals. I preferred Frankenstein to Grease but we can always get what we want. Its more about the atmosphere than the movie anyway. Search on google to find next summers schedule, likely to start sometime around June.