by Anne Petersen
Kathi Brewster (left) with Barbara Lindemann on the day of the interview at the Presidio Research Center. Photo by Anne Petersen.
On May 17 we interviewed Kathleen Brewster as part of our oral history program at the Presidio Research Center. Kathi has been involved with SBTHP since 1967, and began giving tours of the Presidio site as a docent at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum (then “Society”) in 1972. During her decades of volunteering with SBTHP she served on the board, and as a member of the Education, Casa de la Guerra, Artifacts and Exhibits, and Executive committees, among others. Kathi holds a masters degree from UCSB in Latin American history, and has been able to put it to good use at SBTHP, giving tours of early California sites and participating in special research projects, including the development of a furnishing plan for José de la Guerra’s store.
During the interview, conducted by Past-President of the Board and Life Honorary Director, Barbara Lindemann, Kathi shared dozens of detailed stories about her work with SBTHP and her experiences in the Presidio neighborhood. We are astounded at Kathi’s memory and recall for names dates and places going back through her fifty years in Santa Barbara.
Tiles at the basement, street front entrance to 215 East Canon Perdido Street. many of the tiles were made by Mr. Neeley’s Adult Education Program pottery students when the studio was in the basement of the building. Others were added by SBTHP and its contractors during the rehabilitation of the building in 2007. Mr. Neeley made the white majolica tile with the cobalt blue deer. Kathi’s tile, an impressed leaf design, is on the bottom row, second from the right. Photo by Anne Petersen.
She shared wonderful stories about her pottery classes through the Adult Education Program with instructor Bill Neeley in the 1960s. At that time, the pottery studio was located in the basement of 215 East Canon Perdido Street, now the Presidio Research Center and part of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. Kathi described the placement of the pottery wheels, the types of clay the students used, and even the location of the hooks where they would hang their mugs when they arrived at class – Mr. Neeley would always have a large pot of coffee ready for the students.
Kathi with Pearl Chase, October 1975.
Kathi also described a meeting with Pearl Chase, who, among her many other accomplishments, helped found the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. Kathi had just returned home to Santa Barbara in October 1975 after a long flight from Rome and a drive from LAX, when she received a call from a colleague. She invited Kathi to Miss Chase’s home to review appropriate attire for Old Spanish Days’ Fiesta with members of the Santa Barbara Historical Society Docent Council. Exhausted and without a car, Kathi declined, only to receive a call from Miss Chase herself a few minutes later, requesting her presence. As everyone who knew her can tell you, no one said “no” to Miss Chase. When Kathi arrived at Pearl’s home a few minutes later, after grabbing a ride with a friend (her bicycle tires were flat), not only was Miss Chase’s home full of women, but also a reporter from the Sand and Sea Magazine, who snapped her photo!
Our interview with Kathi is full of other memories that help us continue to piece to together a complex portrait of the Presidio Neighborhood. Luckily, we won’t have to wait too long to see Kathi again. She continues to give tours of both the Presidio and Casa de la Guerra, and is a treasured docent and excellent mentor to new docents and volunteers. This year, SBTHP gave Kathi the Pearl Chase Historic Preservation Award for her countless hours of service in support of historic preservation in Santa Barbara.
If you are interested in listening to the entire interview with Kathi, or more information on the other interviews in our collection, please contact the Presidio Research Center at (805) 966-5073.
Anne Petersen is Associate Director for Historical Resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.