“Because the courthouse was designed as an embracing U-shaped architecture, visitors are drawn to its beautiful Sunken Gardens, the community and at Fiesta Las Noches de Ronda,” said Bill Mahan, AIAE, Courthouse Legacy Foundation president. “And our guests enjoy this treasured event from the Loggia and Tower above. Many people think it is the most beautiful courthouse in America — it is a national, state and city historic landmark.”
Now in its seventh year, the party attracted donors, historians, members, locals and out-of-towners to the newly restored Mural Room on the second-floor Loggia to experience the Las Noches de Ronda performances taking place below.
The event kicked off with a lively cocktail welcome reception where guests mingled in the Mural Room enjoying the grandeur and artistry of the room’s 83-year-old historic paintings depicting a timeline of Santa Barbara’s history on the ornate walls and ceiling of the iconic room.
In July 2013, the foundation embarked on a successful $600,000 capital fundraising campaign to restore the interior of the room, including the furniture, ironworks, drapes, lighting and the 1,000-pound mural canvas, which all underwent major repairs because of smoke intrusion from an electrical fire at the courthouse in 2010.
Auctioneer Drew Wakefield received an impressive bid of $1,200 for a framed Old Spanish Days 2016 poster by artist Jeremy Harper. The commemorative poster, “Santa Barbara — the Coastal Frontier,” was presented and autographed by both Old Spanish Days 2016 El Presidente J.C. Gordon and Grand Marshal Jean-Michel Cousteau.
Gordon explained to the group of onlookers that the poster features the lush Santa Barbara landscape and costal shores after the presidio was built, in 1782, and the Mission on the hill that was built four years later.
“It’s an honor to be here to celebrate Fiesta and recognize all the hard work that the Legacy Foundation does to protect and preserve the history of this magnificent landmark,” Gordon said. “It is visible and accessible to our community, and over 6,000 visitors, who tour this treasured monument annually.”
He then turned to introduce Cousteau, who, after graciously receiving a round of applause from the crowd, explained that he has a degree in architecture and after looking at the history and tradition depicted on the walls of the mural room, he proclaimed the space as “magical.”
“I want to build cities underwater. I’ve had the honor to connect the ocean with everyone of us, and I want to make it very, very clear to 7.4 billion people on the planet that everyone of us depends on the quality of the ocean for the quality of our lives,” Cousteau said. “We need to make that clear not just for old people, but for our kids who are going to be the decision-makers of tomorrow.”
At sunset, guests ventured to the Loggia overlooking the Sunken Gardens to enjoy a buffet and watch the event from the best seats in the house.
A procession of residents adorned in colorful Spanish and Mexican costumes performed a series of Spanish California musical numbers reminiscent of the 19th-century era.
The courthouse and exterior surrounding structures have undergone numerous preservation and restorations projects monitored by the SBCLF, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004.
With the approval of the county Board of Supervisors for a Five-Year Plan that outlines long-term restoration plans for the courthouse from 2013-17, the foundation raised $80,000 to commission the Architectural Resources Group to complete a comprehensive Historic Structures Report.
According to Mahan, additional fundraising is underway to restore the Great Arch, beginning in September. The foundation plans to launch the restoration project full scale in the summer of 2017.
“We are fundraising for our initial study — The Great Arch Analysis Report — to analyze how and what needs to be restored of the Great Arch,” Mahan said. “We are also concerned about the deteriorating windows and doors on the Figueroa Street side of the courthouse.”
The foundation is also raising funds for its new office space, a former storage area on the first floor.
“Our office is currently in a jail room on the fourth floor of the jail wing,” Mahan said. “Because of our great success in fundraising, the city Board of Supervisors felt that we needed a first-floor location for our office, and so they granted us the Janitors Room just off the Figueroa Lobby. We believe that the new office and its prime location will enhance our efforts in fund raising and restoration.”
The generosity of donors and members of the Legacy Society and Member Circle helps ensure the completion of needed restoration projects.
Coming this fall, the CLF will host the third annual Courthouse Legacy Foundation Miniature Golf Tournament on Oct. 14.
Click here to donate to the Courthouse Legacy Foundation, or call 805.770.7222.
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.