Left to right: Samarkand Executive Director Ruth Grande, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, Samarkand Residents’ Council President Dolf May and Covenant Retirement Communities CEO Terri Cunliffe cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially open The Retrospect History Gallery. ((Samarkand Photo))

The Samarkand — a non-profit, continuing-care retirement community operated by Covenant Retirement Communities — welcomed Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and about 75 fellow dignitaries, guests and residents to debut The Retrospect History Gallery, a 480-square-foot gallery located on campus detailing the property’s 100-year history in the Santa Barbara community.

Schneider joined Covenant Retirement Communities President and CEO Terri Cunliffe, Executive Director Ruth Grande, and Samarkand Residents’ Council President Dolf May for the ceremonial ribbon cutting on June 29, 2015.

A private reception and tour of the gallery followed, along with a presentation about The Samarkand by Santa Barbara historian Erin Graffy de Garcia.

“Our history began 100 years ago when a gentleman by the name of Prynce Hopkins purchased 32 acres of land to build a Montessori boys’ school,” said Grande. “We were a boys’ school, a luxury hotel, military housing, and now we are a vibrant retirement community where people live and work. We are proud to be part of this rich history and we’re excited to share The Samarkand’s story with the community.”

The Retrospect History Gallery features original and reproduced photographs, floor-to-ceiling wall murals, story panels, collages and artifacts in display cases to tell the century-old story.

At the center of the gallery is an oversized guestbook from The Samarkand Persian Hotel. It contains tributes from world-famous guests including art, cartoons, poems, comments and more.

Present-day photographs and videos show The Samarkand as it is today, a thriving community where seniors live with purpose and joy.

“This gallery has been a labor of love and a true collaboration among many,” said Paula Bodnar Schmitt, principal of Bodnar Design Consultancy in Chicago. She began the project in 2011 with former Samarkand Executive Director Paul Peterson. “It didn’t take long to realize the collection of materials was as unique and special as the story itself.”

Schmitt worked with The Samarkand archives committee, which assisted with research, review and fact checking. Gledhill Library at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and author Ronald Koegler provided additional collaboration. Goleta’s Goodland Signs crafted and installed the exhibit.

“The Samarkand’s high standards for beautiful architecture and design were long set before the gallery project got underway,” said Schmitt. “We knew anything we created would have to match that level of sophistication.”

Grande said the gallery reflects the community’s elegant, Persian-style architecture and décor.

“Paula immersed herself in our history and created a beautiful work of art that complements our community while telling a factually accurate, yet entertaining story,” Grande said.

About The Samarkand

The Samarkand, a faith-based, nationally accredited, not-for-profit continuing-care retirement community, is located at 2550 Treasure Drive, Santa Barbara, CA. It is administered by Covenant Retirement Communities, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit senior services providers. Covenant Retirement Communities serves 5,000 residents at 14 retirement communities nationwide and is a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church. For more information on The Samarkand, please call 877.231.6284 or visit www.TheSamarkand.org.

—Ruth Grande and Wendy D’Alessandro represent The Samarkand.