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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 8:38 pm | A Few Clouds 51º


The Best Last Place to Come Alive with Walking Tour of History

Historian David Petry to tell many of the stories of the Santa Barbara Cemetery in Sunday morning walkabout

With a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean, it’s a neighborhood home to actors, industrialists, authors, musicians, sports stars and many of Santa Barbara’s founders and leaders. On Sunday morning, you can walk among them on a special tour led by historian and Noozhawk contributor David Petry.

The Sahlberg Mausoleum, built in 1903, is the last resting place of gold magnate Augustus Sahlberg.
The Sahlberg Mausoleum, built in 1903, is the last resting place of gold magnate Augustus Sahlberg. (David Petry photo / Decomposing Santa Barbara)

Petry, author of The Best Last Place, a history of the Santa Barbara Cemetery, will conduct a one-mile walking tour of the cemetery, 901 Channel Drive, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

The cemetery is unique in more ways than one. Owned and operated by a nonprofit board whose bylaws were drafted in 1867, the cemetery is not affiliated with a church, a corporation or a government. The cemetery includes a chapel that is the only sacred structure designed by renowned architect George Washington Smith; inside, are the only completed murals of Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez. Until the completion of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, the cemetery was the chosen site of President Ronald Reagan’s burial plot.

According to Petry, the Santa Barbara Cemetery has transcended five separate incarnations: as a dusty and geometric town cemetery, as a rudely conceived rural cemetery, as a fitful lawn park cemetery, as an over-achieving memorial park, and as a local columbarium.

“The Santa Barbara Cemetery has embraced each of these phases and has built upon them, becoming in the end, a modern cemetery that is better than any of the models it followed,” he said.

The tour provides a brief history of the cemetery and an easy walk to some of the most interesting gravesites, including those of civic leaders Charles Fernald and Thomas More Storke; actors Ronald Colman, Laurence Harvey, and his daughter, Domino; murderer Cyrus Barnard; gold magnate Augustus Sahlberg; and business leaders Sam Battistone, George Oscar Mayer, David Nancarrow and Jheri Redding, among others.

The cost of the tour is $25 per person, or $15 for those who sign up on Facebook. Click here for the discount. Copies of The Best Last Place are available for a discounted $15, with payment in cash or personal check accepted.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk.

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