Santa Barbara Presidio Research Center
Image of the PRC in the 1940s, courtesy of the Gledhill Library, Santa Barbara Historical Museum.
History of the Presidio Research Center
The Presidio Research Center was created in 1986 to support the Presidio project. Formerly located behind the Cañedo Adobe at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, the Center moved to a classic Spanish-Colonial Revival building on the site of the former Santa Barbara School of the Arts in 2007.
Following the devastating earthquake of 1925, the School of the Arts decided to construct a new campus that would reflect the design standards set forth by the newly established Architectural Review Board. They hired the architectural firm of Soule, Murphy and Hastings, which designed the building with its north-facing art studio specifically to acknowledge the neighborhood’s Spanish and Mexican heritage. Although the School of the Arts closed in 1938, the building continued to serve the local arts and education community and was the studio for local photographer Karl Obert for a short time. Max and Alice Schott purchased the property in 1939, saving the building from an uncertain future. In 1945, Schott deeded the property to the Adult Education Program of the Santa Barbara School District. In 1981, it was incorporated into El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, which is operated under a long-term agreement between the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and California State Parks.
Using original blueprints, SBTHP has restored the building to its earliest appearance. The project included restoring the original exterior of the 1928 Spanish colonial revival building; remodeling the interior; restoring original interior woodwork and finish; and a seismic retrofit of the building. These renovations have provided larger, climate-controlled areas for study and for storage of archival materials. Funds for the Presidio Research Center restoration were provided by a grant from the California Culture and Historical Endowment (CCHE) together with matching funds provided by SBTHP. Thanks to the donations of hundreds of individuals, private foundations, City of Santa Barbara Redevelopment Agency, and California State Parks, this valuable community resource is open to the public.