The Santa Barbara Presidio Historic State Park in Santa Barbara, California is a 5.5 acre park established to preserve the last Spanish Presidio with two of the historic buildings and other rooms open to the public as well as exhibits at the Visitor’s Center.
The Presidio, or Spanish fortress, was founded in Alta in 1782 and is the last fortress that was ever used by the Spaniards. This site is considered the birthplace of Santa Barbara. In 1966 The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) developed a strategy for a private-public effort to develop the presidio into a state historic park. Although each building is deeded to the State of California, SBTHP has been granted the ability to reconstruct and managed the property.
Reconstruction began in phases throughout the 1980’s. Reconstruction involved archaeological research and extensive documentation. This research led to the founding of the Presidio Archaeological Lab and Presidio Research Center. Thousands of artifacts were excavated from the site and many are curated into exhibits in the visitor’s center and other properties in the park.
The Santa Barbara Presidio HSP is comprised of El Cuartel and Canedo Adobe, the only original fortress buildings still on standing. The chapel, Comandancia and Padre’s Quarters which were built after the presidio established are also available for touring. Orchards, gardens, and reconstructions are also at the park to be explored and are outfitted with period furnishings. Many other buildings are a part of the campus but not related to the Presidio including the former Santa Barbara School of the Arts campus, several other adobes and homes, and several restaurants.
The Canedo Adobe is where visitors to Santa Barbara Presidio HSP will find the Visitor’s Center and Gift Stop, La Tiendita. Exhibits at the Visitor’s Center explore the history of the park and presidio from it’s establishment in 1782 through present day.
Nihonmachi Revisited: Santa Barbara’s Japanese American Community in Transition 1900-1940- This exhibit highlights the Japanese American community in the Santa Barbara area and Japan Town which was located on the historic state park site during the early 20th century. This exhibit is comprised of locally donated photographs and histories, and ceramics that were reconstructed from excavated artifacts found at the site.
Memorias y Facturas- Visitors to this exhibit will learn what life was life for the residents of the Santa Barbara Presidio from 1781-1810 while the site was being used as a Spanish Fortress. Visitors will see 52 requisitions and invoices for goods at the presidio and Spanish artifacts that were excavated on site.
Aside from the Caneda Adobe there are many other sites and ways to enjoy the Historic State Park Campus.
The Presidio Research Center- Developed in 1986 to curate the research materials and artifacts excavated at the Presidio site. The center’s research program focuses on the history and preservation of the Presidio during Spanish and Mexican colonial era in California, the neighborhood surrounding the Presidio, and other historic preservation projects in Santa Barbara. The Collection at the Presidio Research Center is comprised of more than 3,000 paper artifacts, microfilm, maps, photographs and video tapes. There are also more than 1000 artifacts that have been excavated on site and are exhibited through curated historical and artistic exhibitions.
Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens- Purchased by the SBTHP in 2007, this restaurant site was the last Chinese operated business in Santa Barbara. The restaurant was opened in 1946 and is now used for programs related to Asian American history in the region.
Casa de la Guerra- This historic adobe home has its own hours and admission separate from Presidio. The adobe was built by Jose de la Guerra between 1818 and 1828. Jose was a comandate at the Presidio fortress and his home served as the political and cultural cener of Santa Barbara. The Guerra family occupies the home until the mid 20th century and was restored by the Santa Barba Trust for Historic Preservation in the 1990’s.
Programs and Educations
Most visitors at Presidio Historic State Park do self-guided tours of the campus however, school and community groups are welcome to register for docent lead tours. In addition to the Presidio being a vast educational resource, the Education Department also hosts 9 annual programs to immerse visitors and the community in the history of Santa Barbara.
· Early California Days
· Founders Day
· Presidio Pastimes
· Asian American Neighborhood Festival
· Asian American Film Series
· CASA Day Camp
· Dia de los Muertos
· Una Noche de Las Posadas
Lectures are also offered that are open to the public and lead by artists, historians, archaeologists and other community members with the history of Santa Barbara and the Presidio.
123 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, California, Phone: 800-965-0093
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