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Trust for Historic Preservation to Give Santa Barbara a 231st Birthday Bash for Founding Day

Singing, story telling, historic re-enactments and hands-on activities provide an insider's look at local history

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

It’s difficult to imagine Santa Barbara as anything other than a lush city filled with statuesque palm trees swaying in seashore breezes.

Yet, 231 years ago when King Carlos of Spain ordered a presidio be built in Santa Barbara, the village was nothing more than barren earth with dust kicking up under its denizens’ feet.

Today, stepping onto the grounds of the downtown El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park (on the corners of East Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara Street) conjures up images of what Santa Barbara once was — a cluster of adobe clay buildings on arid dirt.

On Sunday, April 21, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) will be celebrating Santa Barbara’s Founding Day with a free, hands-on living history event from noon until 3 p.m.

“I like Founding Day because it’s a reminder that this is where the town began, right here at the Presidio, ground zero,” Jarrell Jackman Ph.D., executive director of the SBTHP, told Noozhawk. “The Presidio was the first European settlement of Santa Barbara.

“Santa Barbara’s Founding Day is also fun ... and it’s good for the community to re-enact this important event on an annual basis because it’s the rights and rituals of the founding of our city.”

The Chumash Intertribal Singers will be kicking off the event with their traditional music, including “their clapper sticks,” said Karen Schultz Anderson, the SBTHP’s director of education. The Chumash clapper sticks, or wansak, are made from sticks of elderberry wood split down the middle. When the stick is struck against a hand, it makes a loud clapping noise. When shaken, it makes a rattling noise.

Volunteers dressed as Los Soldados de Cuera, soldiers of the Royal Presidio, will “march in, plant the cross, bless the cross, raise the flag, and do a variety of things including firing of the muskets,” Anderson said.

The day is filled with a variety of activities, such as the archaeology pit where children get to dig for finds; the pottery station where children learn about California pottery; an adobe brick-making station; a Chumash storytelling station; an introduction to sheep; a native plant station; a Soldados table and blacksmith table; an early California foods showcase table; a tortilla-making station; and an introduction to spinning and knitting.

“Our goal is to have people have so much fun that they don’t even know they’re learning,” said Anderson.

Founding Day follows SBTHP’s Early California Days on Friday, April 19, when 240 third-grade children are introduced to all of the above-named stations of living history.

This year’s Founding Day is extra special in that it will include recognition of the California Conservation Corps (CCC), a state agency that provides employment and training for young people aged 18-23.

Russell Ruiz leads his charges in showing the flags. (Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation photo)
Russell Ruiz leads his charges in showing the flags. (Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation photo)

“The California Conservation Corps isn’t here now but they were crucial for the Trust’s development in the early 1980s,” Jackman said. “The CCC did 90 percent of the hard labor on the chapel — making the bricks, laying the bricks, plastering, putting in the tile floors, and lifting the tile on the roof. Plus, they worked on other projects, including the final phase of archaeology on the chapel and the comandante quarters. The CCC was a dynamic contribution to the Trust.”

The original CCC commemorative plaque that was attached to an outside boulder will be removed and transferred inside while a new design for commemorative recognition will be revealed during Founding Day festivities.

Following the day’s events, Father John Yanek will give a traditional Latin Mass in the Presidio Chapel at 3 p.m. Santa Barbara City College’s Quire of Voyces will be featured.

Santa Barbara’s Founding Day is funded in part by the Community Events & Festivals Program, using monies given by the City of Santa Barbara in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission.

The SBTHP will also be recognizing its Golden 50th Anniversary this year with a dinner/auction, Un Paseo en Oro, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. May 18. Board members Keith Mautino and Tearease Chin will be chairing the event. Tables, sponsorships and tickets are available by calling the SBTHP office at 805.965.0093.

As part of the SBTHP’s Golden Anniversary, the organization has created the Memories Project. The local community may join in by sending photos, stories and mental mappings to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for more information.

The nonprofit SBTHP was founded in 1963 by Pearl Chase and other community leaders. Its 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. 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 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 the 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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