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“Windows to the Past” – The Santa Barbara Post Office Project, Part I

By Michael Orth

Every once in a while SBTHP encounters a puzzle in the Presidio Neighborhood. Pieces from the past materialize in the present and offer a mystery to archaeologists and historians. In 2009, former postal employee and longtime friend of SBTHP, Harold Kroeger donated a number of service windows he purchased at auction that originally came from the Santa Barbara Post Office on Anacapa Street. I am working in conjunction with Archaeologist Michael Imwalle, to research unexplained facets of the property’s history.

So what is the puzzle you may ask? While many structural details about the Santa Barbara Post Office are known, the original layout of the windows inside of the building remained a mystery. The Santa Barbara Post Office, which is located at the corner of Anacapa and E. Canon Perdido Streets, was designed by architect Reginald Johnson and built in 1937. A larger volume of mail required a series of renovations to the facility in the 1970s. One internal change called for removing the small, bank teller type windows, and replacing them with larger open counters and personal mailboxes.

Attempts were made to locate Reginald Johnson’s original architectural plans of the property, or at best to find plans of the renovation that could shed light on the interior layout. Appointments with the Community Development Department, County Administration, and UCSB Architectural Archives all yielded very little insight. With no leads, research turned to periodicals and vertical subject files in local repositories.  One day while combing through a clipping file at the Santa Barbara Library, a 1937 News Press article on the opening of the post office yielded the only known photograph of the building’s interior prior to the renovations.

While an effort is still underway to locate the original architectural plans, we are now able to “see” the original placement of these donated artifacts.

Stay tuned for the next posting on The Santa Barbara Post Office Project!

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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