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Business

Price, Postel & Parma Anchors a Unique Corner of Santa Barbara’s History

Venerable law firm's brand names have helped shape the community, and remain intertwined in local lore

As Santa Barbara celebrates Old Spanish Days this week, the city can look to one of its most venerable firms to trace Fiesta’s origins.

Price, Postel & Parma LLP is Santa Barbara’s oldest continuous business and California’s oldest law firm. That standing provides insight to today’s law of the land, said partner and attorney Tim Metzinger.

“Knowing about how the town came to be makes us feel more at home,” he said. “It gives us place and purpose that we had a role in shaping the community.

“It’s a source of pride and obligation to continue to help shape the course of our city.”

When Charles Fernald, a New England law student and the firm’s founder, rushed West for gold more than 160 years ago, he got a little more than he bargained for.

The first two Santa Barbara County sheriffs were shot dead and the third was dismissed. After little luck striking gold, Fernald pinned on the sheriff’s badge and opened a law office in 1852.

“Fernald’s splendid personal courage enabled him to cope with the desperados who had no regard for life or property,” states a passage from The History of Santa Barbara County, which was published in 1890. “His life was in constant danger in the then-unsettled condition of the county and he had many stirring experiences ... holding in check the many rough characters who menaced the public peace.”

Today, many pieces of Santa Barbara can be traced through 160-year-old Price, Postel & Parma, which currently has 23 attorneys at 200 E. Carrillo St., Suite 400.

Francis Price established the Old Spanish Days Fiesta, the city renamed the Mission Rose Garden after A.C. Postel, and Harold Parma helped create Lake Cachuma and what’s known today as Parma Park.

The walls of the 119-year-old Santa Barbara Club are covered with portraits of many of the firm’s partners over the decades.

“It gives me a richer context of our community, how it’s put together and how it has evolved over the last 150 years,” said partner and attorney Eric Hvolbøll. “It gives me more appreciation of the city’s richness and all the people who have been here before and created what we enjoy today.”

Hvolbøll said one of his most proud and memorable moments was handling the late opera singer Ganna Walska’s estate in Montecito that he helped convert into Lotusland.

“I had the opportunity to go to the (37-acre) estate, work with her assistant, improve it and go through the permit process so it could become the internationally known garden it is today,” he said.

But with an extensive history comes responsibility, Hvolbøll added.

“It gives me a sense of gratitude that four or five generations have entrusted us for so long,” Hvolbøll said. “I hope it means we’ve done a good job, but it also sets a high standard for me to live up to.”

Click here for more information on Price, Postel & Parma, or call 805.962.0011.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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