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Santa Barbara Council Designates St. Anthony’s Seminary a Historic Landmark

The Veterans Memorial Building on West Cabrillo Boulevard is also up for consideration, by the county

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday officially designated the St. Anthony’s Seminary complex as a city landmark, which recognizes both the building and landscaping for their historical significance to the area.

The St. Anthony’s Seminary complex at 2300 Garden St. was originally on Mission Santa Barbara land. It was the home to St. Anthony’s Seminary from 1899 to 1987, then served as a Franciscan boys seminary school for most of the 1900s.

Now, it’s the Garden Street Academy, an independent K-12 school, and the building complex is owned by the San Roque School Charitable Trust.

The complex has important archaeological structures from the early Mission days, including a portion of the aqueduct system, according to a city staff report. The main building was designed by Brother Adrian Wewer, and architect Ross Montgomery designed the additions and handled restorations after the 1925 earthquake.

The council members unanimously approved the landmark designation Tuesday.

Mary Rose, a representative for the San Roque School Charitable Trust, talked about the $40 million already spent in renovations, including a lot of stabilization work to make the buildings more earthquake-safe.

The construction — done with help from the city and patience from neighbors — has been working around the needs of the modern K-12 school, Rose said. They have tried to maintain the integrity of the historic building while adding modern electrical and heating systems, girls’ bathrooms and a modern kitchen.

She thanked the city and neighbors for a great working relationship to get through the many renovations.

Representatives from the Upper East Association and the Historic Landmarks Commission both spoke in support of the building becoming a landmark.

Frederick Lang, a member of the Seminary School’s Alumni Association, also supported it. He said his organization is putting together an online archive of the school’s history and supporting the building means a lot to the school’s alumni, despite part of its dark history.

In May, thousands of confidential documents were released with a court settlement, after a case in which former students of the seminary school accused Franciscans of childhood sexual abuse. The plaintiffs were awarded $28 million in 2006, the Associated Press reported.

A letter written by Michael Higgins, one of the child-abuse victims at St. Anthony’s, was read by his father to the City Council on Tuesday.

Higgins wants the building to become a landmark to be a reminder that even good organizations “can go amuck.”

“I witnessed and experienced a tremendous amount of trauma,” he wrote. “I want the tower to stand in memory of those whose lives were ruined.”

Another Santa Barbara building is on its way to becoming a landmark.

For the Veterans Memorial Building on Santa Barbara’s waterfront, Bob Handy, chairman of the Santa Barbara County Veterans’ Services Advisory Committee, wrote a letter to the county Board of Supervisors asking that the building be designated as historical. He noted that the buildings in Lompoc, Santa Maria and Solvang are so designated, but not the one at 112 W. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara.

“It is enjoyed by not only veterans groups, but also produces income through social events, wedding receptions and community involvement,” Handy wrote. “We believe this would be enhanced by a historical designation.”

His group asked the county to file a landmark nomination request and application with the California Office of Historic Preservation.

The building has already gone through a lot of documentation, so filing should be easy, and a formal designation could come as soon as the end of the year, according to the county.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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