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The Royal Importance of Santa Barbara’s Historic Presidio

Relationship between Spain and Santa Barbara is long and mighty, with the Royal Presidio marking the city's birthplace

Prince Felipe of Spain views the Cross of the Illustrious Order of King Carlos III, Spain’s noblest civil award, during a visit to the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. The Cross was presented on Aug. 8, 1952, to then-Mayor Norris Montgomery by the Council of Spanish Ministers for perpetuating Spanish traditions and culture.
Prince Felipe of Spain views the Cross of the Illustrious Order of King Carlos III, Spain’s noblest civil award, during a visit to the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. The Cross was presented on Aug. 8, 1952, to then-Mayor Norris Montgomery by the Council of Spanish Ministers for perpetuating Spanish traditions and culture.  (Clint Weisman photo / Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation)

[Noozhawk’s note: This article is one in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation.]

When His Royal Excellency Prince Felipe of Spain made his grand entrance into the Loggia Ballroom at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara last Friday evening, his arrival was heralded by Los Sodaldos, men dressed in Spanish period uniforms representative of Santa Barbara’s historic Royal Presidio days.

A visit to Santa Barbara by the Prince Felipe of Asturias, son of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, is of great importance to Santa Barbara and its citizens. After all, the relationship between Spain and Santa Barbara has been a long and mighty one. The Royal Presidio is where it all began. It marks the historic “spot” or birthplace of Santa Barbara.

In fact, according to Marcelo Lopez, assistant administrator for the City of Santa Barbara, Presidio Governor Felipe de Neve of Alta California was conferred The Cross of the Illustrious Order of King Carlos III in 1782 for his important deed of co-founding the Royal Presidio. The Cross is Spain’s noblest civil award and was established by King Carlos III in 1771.

Santa Barbara again received the award on Aug. 8, 1952 — 170 years later — when it was presented to then-Santa Barbara Mayor Norris Montgomery by the Council of Spanish Ministers for perpetuating Spanish traditions and culture.

The El Presidio de Sánta Barbara State Historic Park at 123 E. Canon Perdido St. in downtown Santa Barbara encompasses much of the original Santa Barbara Royal Presidio site. It is also home to the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. The Presidio is renowned for being the last military fortress built in a chain of four of them in Alta California. Father Junipera Serra blessed the Presidio site in 1782, four years prior to the building of the Mission.

In an attempt to further advance The Trust’s mission to “preserve, restore, reconstruct and interpret" historic sites in Santa Barbara County, The Trust is embarking on a fundraising campaign to raise $4 million over four years. Its purpose is to: 1) enhance the educational experience and venue for the thousands of international, national and local visitors who visit each year; 2) create a new pedestrian walkway that connects Canon Perdido with Santa Barbara Street; 3) enclose the Presidio’s northwest corner to provide space for more functions, both public and private; 4) make progress on the City of Santa Barbara, State of California and The Trust’s commitment to the preservation of Santa Barbara’s birthplace; and 5) expand archaeological excavations to generate new collections.

The components of The Trust’s 4x4 Capital Fundraising Campaign include:

» Complete northwest corner defense walls, $750,000. The Trust’s first step will be to reconstruct the defense and garden walls of the northwest corner and the defense wall from the northwest corner to Santa Barbara Street. This will serve to connect the Education Complex with the Presidio Park.

» Visitor Center, exhibits and fabrication, $1 million. Seed funding for the planning of the new Visitors Center was provided by a generous grant of $40,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Features of the Visitor Center include a dynamic presentation of the people on the site over time; an exposed archaeological excavation, historic character projections and a captured “scene in time” when a supply ship arrives at the Presidio and the unloading begins; and hands-on exploration stations.

» Relocation of the historic Bonilla House, $500,000. The Bonilla House is a historic residence (circa 1887) that was constructed for a prominent 18th-century Californian family. Relocation and restoration of the historic Bonilla House and its connection to the existing Pico Adobe will create the new Education Complex.

» Education Complex, including completion of Presidio Paseo from Canon Perdido to Santa Barbara Street, $1.5 million. Aiming to continue to serve third- and fourth-grade student visitors but in a more enhanced way, the Education Complex will provide the necessary classroom space, storage for backpacks and lunches, and a welcoming orientation area. New staff offices and a docent lounge also will be added.

Those wishing to support this campaign to preserve and protect the historic birthplace of Santa Barbara may do so by clicking here or by calling Jarrell Jackman, executive director of The Trust, at 805.965.0093.

The Trust’s mission is to preserve, restore, reconstruct and interpret historic sites in Santa Barbara County. The SBTHP operates a variety of important historic properties, including:

» El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park (operated in collaboration with California State Parks), 123 E. Canon Perdido St. It’s open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except on major holidays.

» The former Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, 126 E. Canon Perdido St., across from the Presidio, which serves to interpret the history of Santa Barbara’s Asian community.

» Casa de la Guerra, the 1820s home of Presidio Comandante José de la Guerra and his family at 15 E. De la Guerra St. It’s open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, except on major holidays.

» Santa Inés Mission Mills in Solvang in agreement with the State Parks to manage and develop it as a future state park. Admission to the Trust for Historic Preservation is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors over age 62 and free to members of the museum and children 16 and under (admission includes both El Presidio and Casa de la Guerra on Saturdays and Sundays).

» Click here for more information about the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, or call 805.965.0093.

» Click here to become a member.

» Connect with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation on Facebook. Follow the Trust for Historic Preservation on Twitter: @SBTHP.

Nancy Shobe is a Noozhawk contributing writer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow her on Twitter: @shobebiz. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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