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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 9:12 am | Fair 41º

 
 
 
 

Arlington Village Construction Digs Into Historic Santa Barbara Hotel Foundation

A piece of forgotten history — an underground fuel tank — was unearthed during initial grading

An underground tank used for the former Arlington Hotel’s fuel was discovered during construction for the Arlington Village project.
An underground tank used for the former Arlington Hotel’s fuel was discovered during construction for the Arlington Village project. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

A forgotten piece of Santa Barbara history was uncovered last week when construction workers found a huge underground fuel tank on the site of the former Arlington Hotel.

Construction started for the Arlington Village project at Chapala and Sola streets, and the first step was removing the parking lot pavement on the site.

“What we hit were the foundations, and part of the foundations were a 35,000-gallon fuel tank,” project manager Trent Lyon told Noozhawk. “The building was the former steam-generating plant because back then they used steam heat.”

Later, bunker fuel — a step above crude oil, Lyon says — was used to generate natural gas for the second Arlington Hotel, Lyon said.

Workers found 16,000 gallons of thick, black bunker fuel in the concrete structure underground and are working to remove it safely.

The original Arlington Hotel was built in 1875 and was destroyed in a fire. Click to view larger
The original Arlington Hotel was built in 1875 and was destroyed in a fire. (New York Public Library photo)

“It’s going to slow us down about two weeks by the time it’s all said and done,” Lyon said.

Before the block hosted the Arlington Theatre, the Alma Del Pueblo condominiums, the Santa Barbara Public Market, restaurants, shops and the Noozhawk office, it was home to two Arlington Hotels.

It’s because of the first Arlington Hotel (built in 1875) that State Street got paved for the first time, a move by owner Walter Hawley to make it easier for hotel guests to reach the beach.

The hotel was also the reason for Santa Barbara’s first public transportation, a mule-car line that took people directly to Stearns Wharf from the hotel at State and Sola streets, according to city history documents.

The second Arlington Hotel was built in 1911 and spanned an entire city block in Santa Barbara until it was destroyed in the 1925 earthquake that devastated the community. Click to view larger
The second Arlington Hotel was built in 1911 and spanned an entire city block in Santa Barbara until it was destroyed in the 1925 earthquake that devastated the community. (New York Public Library photo)

The hotel burned down and was later rebuilt in the Mission Revival style in 1911, covering the entire city block between Chapala and State streets, and Sola and Victoria streets.

The second grand hotel was demolished in 1926 after major damage from the 6.8-magnitude 1925 earthquake.

Underground features including foundations and the fuel storage structure were left behind, and eventually the land was paved over for a parking lot.

That fuel was underground for almost 100 years before being discovered last week.

About 16,000 gallons of bunker fuel was found on the former site of the Arlington Hotel, where construction is under way for a housing project. Click to view larger
About 16,000 gallons of bunker fuel was found on the former site of the Arlington Hotel, where construction is under way for a housing project. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Arlington Village project leaders had the fuel tested and applied for permits to remove it, Lyon said.

He added that the thick, black fuel had a very low flammability level when tested.

“There’s been 16,000 gallons of fuel in a tank that everyone’s been driving over the top of for years,” Lyon said.

The Arlington Village project with commercial space and rental apartments is spearheaded by the Bruce Corwin family, which owns the Arlington Theatre and Metropolitan Theatres.

Construction will take about 14 months, Lyon said.

Noozhawk managing editor 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.

The parking lot at Chapala and Sola streets was torn up for the Arlington Village project and workers found foundations and an underground fuel storage area from the second Arlington Hotel. Click to view larger
The parking lot at Chapala and Sola streets was torn up for the Arlington Village project and workers found foundations and an underground fuel storage area from the second Arlington Hotel. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

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