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Caring for Historic Resources

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

Historic Preservation is a core component of our work. With many historic properties under our management, preservation is ongoing, and often transformative. We have a long history of successful preservation projects in Santa Barbara County.


Alhecama Theatre (1925)

SBTHP recently completed the restoration of the Alhecama Theatre at El Presidio SHP, returning it to its original configuration when it served as a multi-purpose space for the Santa Barbara School of the Arts. SBTHP completed a seismic retrofit, roof replacement, added accessible features including a new bathroom and exterior ramp, added an HVAC and audio-visual systems and restored the original floors and redwood deck. Recently designated a City Landmark, the theatre is now available for community use.

The Cota-Knox House (1871)

Our next restoration project will be this 19th-century brick building, constructed when María de Jesus Olivera de Cota’s adobe home was torn down to make way for the City’s new street grid. After Maria’s passing, the Knox family purchased the home. One of Santa Barbara’s earliest physicians, Dr. Knox operated his medical practice out of the building. The Cota-Knox House project entails a new roof, seismic retrofit, plumbing and electrical upgrades, and a restored façade. You can read more about the project and support it here.   

Like many local, regional, state and private agencies nation-wide, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation uses the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties to guide our preservation work. The Standards are the Secretary of the Interior’s best advice on how to protect a wide range of historic properties and are intended to promote responsible preservation practices that help protect irreplaceable cultural resources. The Standards are intended to provide guidance to historic building owners and building managers, preservation consultants, architects, contractors, and project reviewers prior to treatment. The four treatment approaches outlined in the standards are Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction, outlined below in hierarchical order:


Focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and retention of a property's form as it has evolved over time. Examples of SBTHP preservation projects include the Cañedo adobe (1786), El Cuartel (1788), Pico Adobe (circa 1840s), Rochin Adobe (1856), and the Santa Inés Mission Mills (1818-1820). A current preservation project is the condition assessment and stabilization of a painted figure at the Santa Inés Mission Mills property.


Acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property's historic character. For the last decade SBTHP has been working on the redesign and rehabilitation of the former Santa Barbara School of the Arts property. Examples of SBTHP rehabilitation projects include the Alhecama Studios (1926) and the Presidio Research Center (1928).


Depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods. Casa de la Guerra (pictured above, during the 1996 restoration of the East Wing) is the best example of an SBTHP restoration project. Following years of detailed archaeological and architectural investigations the house was restored to the period of 1820s-1850s. This was accomplished by carefully removing architectural features and layers of fabric added to the building after the 1850s and faithfully restoring original architectural features based on archaeological evidence. You can view an online exhibit about SBTHP’s restoration of Casa de la Guerra here.


Re-creates vanished or non-surviving portions of a property for interpretive purposes. Examples of reconstruction projects within El Presidio de Santa Barbara SHP include the Padre's Quarters (1979), Chapel (1985), Comandancia (1992), Northeast Corner (1996), Chapel Bell tower (2001), and the Northwest Corner Visitor's Center (2009). Since 2009, SBTHP's reconstruction efforts have been focused on the completion of the massive outer defense wall surrounding the Northwest Corner of the site. 

For more information on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, click here

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