Welcome to the

Santa Barbara Presidio Research Center

Since its beginnings in 1986, the mission of the Presidio Research Center has been to develop and curate a collection of research materials and cultural objects to support the archaeological, research, educational, and curatorial programs of SBTHP and El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. The Center also supports and conducts research to assure the historical integrity of the restoration and reconstruction of the State Park and SBTHP’s historic properties.


The Center's program of research focuses on the history of:

  • the Presidio during the Spanish and Mexican eras of California's history, including the Presidio's political, social, economic, cultural, intellectual, and ecological setting.

  • the Presidio Neighborhood and the peoples who have lived there through time.

  • the historic preservation movement in Santa Barbara County, including the role of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation in that movement.



The collections include over 4,300 books and journals, manuscript collections dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries, microfilm, subject files, maps, audio and video tapes, and photographs. Together, these materials document many aspects of the growth and development of Santa Barbara, and of the lives of people who have lived in this area, as well as other presidio sites, ethnic and community histories, and the broader Spanish borderlands. The collection also consists of over 1,000 objects, which are used to interpret the Presidio and the Casa de la Guerra historic house museum through permanent and rotating historical and art exhibitions.

Photograph and Photocopy Services

Materials in the Research Center may be photocopied for a fee and are subject to copyright restrictions. The Presidio Research Center staff can fill your photocopy orders as time is available. We can also provide photo reproductions for many of the images in our Photograph Collection. Please read our image reproduction policy for more information about our services.

Presidio Research Center reading room.  Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

Presidio Research Center reading room. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle. 

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.

Plan Your Visit

The Research Center is open by appointment only. Individual research requests are limited to 30 minutes. Due to COVID-19, The Presidio Research Center is currently closed.


215 East Canon Perdido Street

Santa Barbara, California



(805) 961-5369