The 4 places that will make you appreciate Santa Barbara’s history.

Santa Barbara is far and wide one the most gorgeous places in the United States.  Local government has made it a point to preserve the city with different types of Hispanic architecture that reflect its history.  Newer buildings are designed with the old architecture in mind and city guidelines even give recommendations and examples of the flora that should be used in the landscaping.  Visitors must be sure that they add four specific places to their “Sites to visit list” if they really want to delve into the proud architectural history of Santa Barbara.

El Presidio de Santa Barbara

It’s one of the oldest places in all of Santa Barbara.  Four fortresses were established along the New Frontier by the Spaniards.  This one in particular was one of the most essential.  It was in April of 1942 and served as military and government headquarters.  Its jurisdiction went from what is now San Obispo county and Los Angeles.  Fortunately, its military capacity was never put into trial other than a couple minor uprisings.  It could not stand the test of Mother Nature, however.  California’s famed earthquakes were responsible for bringing the Presidio to near ruins.  

Restoration efforts began in 1963 with the founding of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and they are still going on today.  There are only two original surviving structures, El Cuertal and the Canedo Adobe.  The rest of the structures have been built to resemble the originals from the early days of the Presidio.

Finally, it’s an active archaeological dig site.  Different artifacts have been unearthed over the years to give visitors a better idea of how life was like in the fortress.

Santa Barbara Mission

Santa Barbara Mission_kenny slaught
Image courtesy of Damian Gadal at

It’s perhaps the most representative and recognized spot in Santa Barbara.  The mission was erected in December of 1786 by Spanish Franciscans whose contributions can be seen all over California today.  The Franciscans had a mission to convert the Chumas tribe that inhabited the area.  They did so while respecting their traditions in arts and what they believed in.  The Chumas were renowned for their great manufacturing skills.  And this can still be seen today in the mission’s architecture and surroundings.

Santa Barbara Mission is surely one of the greatest examples of California’s diversity.  It’s a testament to the collaboration between the Spanish, Chumas, and Mexican people.  Current residents can still trace their lineage to the early days of the mission.

It hasn’t always been used as a church though.  Its other uses have been mainly academic.  The mission was sold in 1846 and it wasn’t until 1865 the Abraham Lincoln returned ownership to the Catholic Church.

The Queen of the Missions is a great place to go to learn about the history of Santa Barbara.  Its beautiful architecture is a reference of the entire United States.   It has been a historic landmark of the country since October, 1960.

Casa de la Guerra

It could be said that José de la Guerra, the fifth commander of the Presidio de Santa Barbara, was one of the most important figures in Santa Barbara’s rich history.  Besides being the commander, de la Guerra also had a knack for business.  Over the years his property grew to almost 260,000 acres.  Social events at Casa de la Guerra easily surpassed the hundreds.  The house hosted festivals, religious ceremonies and was a stop of political figures and merchants alike.  The de la Guerra family maintained in the house until 1943 when the last private living area became part of the El Paseo complex.  

Visitors to the house will get detailed insight into Santa Barbara’s early social scene and understanding of how the de la Guerra name became a staple of the community.  

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Santa Barbara is known for honoring its past and one of the best places to go is without a doubt the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.  Since its beginnings in 1932, the Santa Barbara Historical Society has always strived to preserve and communicate the city’s proud and diverse history.  The original headquarters for the society were at the Santa Barbara Courthouses tower room.  The project quickly grew and after having resided in several places, including the Old Mission, the society finally opened its permanent house in 1965.

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum is constantly showcasing the different stages of the city’s development as well as its heritage.  It’s probably the best place to go to gain detailed insight into how Santa Barbara has grown over time.

It is consistent with the city’s architecture.  70,000 adobe bricks and Mexican floor and roof tiles fit right in with Santa Barbara’s Hispanic architecture.  

Santa Barbara is an example of what can happen when a city embraces its heritage.  These four places will definitely give locals and visitors alike the opportunity of learning and understanding the history behind this amazing American city.


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