Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum

"So where are you from?"


"And how did you find out about us?"

"Um . . . .  well . . . I lived here for twenty-seven years, but never got over here."

The young woman smiled.  "Welcome home," she said.

Typical, huh?

  I always wanted to check this little museum out.  After all, I love history, but "living" in a place and "visiting" it, are two very different things.  I was often a tour guide when out-of-town family and friends came to visit, but I was never a tourist myself.  I had a standard route:  Courthouse, Mission, Stearns Wharf and the Beach.  The Botanic Garden if they stayed longer.  Maybe the Art Museum.  But never this tiny little adobe on East De La Guerra Street.


Because Santa Barbara, California is steeped in history.

This quote from President Kennedy is so true.  I didn't move to California until I was in my twenties.  I grew up in Kansas and sure enough, I was taught that our nation's roots began with the Pilgrims.

  The Spanish explorers?  The Native Indians?  What about their stories?  Nope.  Nada.  It's as if they never existed.

If you go to Santa Barbara, this little museum is a great place to start your tour.  For one thing, it's free.  It's also very small so it won't take very long to walk through.  How I wish I had taken my out-of-town friends here.  Their understanding of this beautiful historical town would have been much more meaningful.

The exhibits begin with the Chumash Indians who lived here long before the Europeans arrived.  Then, of course, it moves to the Mission Era and the Spanish influence of the padres and the settlers.

During my travels up and down California to see the missions, I have often wondered why Spain didn't try to colonize the pueblos with immigrants from Europe.  Well, the above painting provided the answer to that one.  Because it was extremely perilous, that's why.  They had to either cross the thick jungle of Panama or sail around Cape Horn.

The museum covers not only the Spanish families who eventually settled here, but other immigrants, especially those from China and Japan.  There are wonderful photographs and fascinating exhibits of these eras, now long gone (and largely forgotten).

The earthquake of 1925 changed the look of Santa Barbara forever.  Those big Victorian buildings were replaced with Spanish Colonial ones.   This became the city's standard and a strict architectural review board was put into place.  If you wanted to build here, you better submit plans for a white building with a red tile roof, accented with wrought iron, bougainvillea and colorful tile.

Of course, this is what makes Santa Barbara so special.  The museum itself is the epitome of this style.  After touring inside, be sure to go out back to the patio area.  Then continue your exploration into the city.

I loved living in Santa Barbara, but you know what?  Being a tourist here is pretty darn fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment