Neal Graffy

Neal Graffy

Virtually locked by mountains at either end, Santa Barbara has long looked to the sea for food, trade and supplies. Chumash tomols, Spanish supply ships, and Boston hide and tallow vessels provided for the community in their respective eras.

In the 1870s, John Peck Stearns and his new wharf literally opened Santa Barbara’s front door and the world rushed in. West Beach with its bathhouses and waterfront plaza became Santa Barbara’s social playground and the Potter Hotel brought the elite, who came, saw and stayed, and contributed heavily to their adopted community.

The story of all this will be revealed in The History of the Santa Barbara Waterfront, a free Zoom webinar by Neal Graffy, 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15. Registration is required by visiting

Graffy is the author of “Santa Barbara Then and Now” and “Street Names of Santa Barbara.”

Graffy’s love for Santa Barbara’s history began at age 13 when he started doing odd jobs for Leontine Phelan, a descendant of the founder of the Santa Barbara Presidio, Since giving his first slideshow talk on local history in 1989, Graffy has more than 300 presentations on 20 different topics.

He has written for the Santa Barbara News-Press, Santa Barbara Independent, Santa Barbara Magazine, as well as for local museums and historical societies. His expertise has been sought by local, state and national radio and TV.

Graffy has been featured in several documentaries including the Emmy Award-winning Impressions in Time. He has appeared on Huell Howser’s “California Gold,” KCET TV’s “Life and Times,” and on “This Old House.”

Graffy has served as a board member of both the Historical Museum and the Mission Canyon Association, as well as a member and chairman of the Santa Barbara County Landmarks Commission.

In 2004, he founded the Santa Barbara History Consortium, a not-for-profit corporation, established for the purpose of providing local history to a wide audience through film and video production, publishing, and oral presentations.

Graffy has authored numerous monographs for historical organizations, as well as articles in regional and national publications Among other things, his hobbies include collecting Santa Barbara memorabilia, postcards and photographs.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is at the Santa Barbara Harbor, 113 Harbor Way, Ste. 190, Santa Barbara. Visit or call 805-962-8404 for details.