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New SBTHP Tour Charts the History of The Presidio Neighborhood

by Michael Orth

910 Santa Barbara Street, early 1920s. This adobe portion of the Presidio was used variously as the lieutenant’s quarters, the commandant’s quarters, and the High Lung laundry (seen here) run by brothers Gin Ho and Gin Fong, until it was badly damaged during the 1925 earthquake. SBTHP reconstructed the northeast corner of the Presidio in the late 1990s. Courtesy Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara Community development and Conservation Collection, SBHC Mss. 1.

Walking down Canon Perdido Street, one can’t help but admire the buildings that make up El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. However, many locals and visitors may never suspect that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Presidio Neighborhood also represented a diverse mixture of ethnic groups and now historically significant sites. With this perspective in mind, SBTHP is creating a guided walking tour that showcases the Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood and its changes through time. Showcasing the shifting history of the Presidio Neighborhood offers a unique vantage in which to explore one of California’s earliest settlements and educate the public on little-known parts of Santa Barbara’s past.

Currently, the project is in the initial planning stages but significant progress has already been made. I am working with Director of Education Karen Shultz Anderson and Associate Director for Historic Resources Anne Petersen, Ph.D. to formulate tour content and layout.

The Japanese Congregational Church at 117 East Canon Perdido Street was constructed in 1914, adjacent to the site of the Presidio’s Northwest corner. Although the building no longer stands, the congregation still thrives today under the name Bethany Congregational Church on Hope Avenue in Santa Barbara. Courtesy of Barbara Fukuzawa and the Presidio Research Center.

This particular tour will differ from the current Presidio Tour in that it focuses on a larger portion of local geography to convey a greater sense of historical continuity between areas of the neighborhood. Initially, the tour will begin with the Spanish period and continue through the American period when Santa Barbara saw an increase in settlers. The tour will cover the famed Spanish Colonial Revival period of the early twentieth century and Santa Barbara’s lesser-known Chinese and Japanese communities. The tour will conclude with the modern preservation movement that led to the founding of the SBTHP in 1963 and protection of the Presidio by the California State Parks in 1966.

Michael Orth is a recent graduate of Cal Poly, SLO with an M.A. in History and research intern at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.



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