Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 8:52 pm | Fair 56º


Architecture Opens Window to History in New ‘Santa Barbara ~ A Guide to El Pueblo Viejo’

Though celebrated as “The American Riviera” by dint of its unique charm and unsurpassed beauty, Santa Barbara would not be the coastal urban gem it is today were it not for the catastrophic earthquake of 1925 and the determined efforts of a few visionary civic leaders in the years immediately thereafter.

Such is the broad thrust of Santa Barbara ~ A Guide to El Pueblo Viejo, a new book published by the Santa Barbara Conservancy that explores the city’s extraordinary modern history by way of surveying its alluring Spanish-inspired architecture.

Filled with maps, color photographs, and a wealth of historical detail and insights, the 294-page publication retails for $19.95 and will be available in local bookstores later this month.

“It’s a remarkable fact that Santa Barbara as we now know it would not exist but for the events of 1925 and the period following,” said Santa Barbara Conservancy President Donald Sharpe.

“We hope this book serves to remind people, residents and visitors alike, of the unique history that gave rise to this stunningly gorgeous city. Those of us fortunate enough to live here tend to lose sight of how truly special Santa Barbara is.

"This book will reacquaint local readers with the many architectural and cultural wonders in their own backyard, and highlight our rich history for visitors.”

A first edition of Santa Barbara: El Pueblo Viejo was published by the city of Santa Barbara in 1986, and was intended as a guide for local walking tours as well as a resource and reference for architects and others interested in local history.

The new edition features color photography, historical images, new maps and expanded text. Contributing new and updated material to the book are local historian and retired city planning staff member Mary Louise Days, and Dr. Richard Oglesby, a retired UCSB professor of history.

Dr. Rebecca Conard and Dr. Christopher H. Nelson authored the original edition, and some of their material has been retained. The first-edition introduction by the late David Gebhard also is included, prefaced by a new introduction from Dr. Oglesby.

Santa Barbara was one of the first communities in the U.S. to establish a municipal board of architectural review by law.

Santa Barbara figures prominently in the history of city planning nationwide, having achieved its signature Hispanic architectural theme — dominated by Spanish Colonial Revival style, but incorporating other elements — through enforcement of detailed design and landscaping codes in the mid-20th century.

Though the effort reached perhaps its fullest expression in the form of Santa Barbara’s magnificent courthouse (second only to the Presidio and the Mission in terms of regional architectural significance) Santa Barbara ~ A Guide to El Pueblo Viejo reveals the history of many city structures.

The Santa Barbara Conservancy was founded in 1998 to advocate for the recognition, preservation, and revitalization of historic, architectural and cultural resources in Santa Barbara County. Additional information is at

— Tim Dougherty for Santa Barbara Conservancy.

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