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The Spanish Influence in Santa Barbara’s Architecture Rose up in the 1920s

Written by Cindy Marie Jenkins on Friday, September 22nd, 2017 at 12:07pm.

Santa Barbara was first founded on a storm. Explorer Sebastián Vizcaín encountered the beautiful channel on the eve of Saint Barbara’s Feast (this was way before her authenticity was questioned and removed from the Great Roman Calendar - a saint scandal!). In 1782, the Presidio and Mission was founded, and Santa Barbara named after the folkloric woman trapped in a tower by her pagan patriarch.  

Since its explorers and founders were from Mexico when it was ruled by Spain, it should be no surprise that Spanish architecture flourished on these stunning landscapes. The history and evolution of how that influence came to dominate Santa Barbara is pretty fun, so we want to share these fast facts with you today!

  • Downtown’s Streets are named after their first residents. De la Guerra, Cota, Gutierrez, Ortega, and Carrillo were all the names of soldiers who came to Santa Barbara to claim it for Spain in 1782. So give a nice salute as you wander the lovely streets.

  • The Spanish Colonial architecture that defines downtown Santa Barbara so well was a specific choice after the 1925 earthquake leveled much of the city. Because of Pearl Chase’s love for adobe walls and red tile roofs, we now enjoy The Santa Barbara City Courthouse, El Paseo’s fountains and more.

  • That great El Paseo mixed-use space was once the grand home to Commandant José de la Guerra and renovated with the designs of James Osborne Craig and Mary Maclaughlin. In their granddaughter’s book Spanish Colonial Style: Santa Barbara and the Architecture of James Osborne Craig and Mary McLaughlin, she says that El Paseo “set the standard for Santa Barbara’s architectural rebirth in the 1920s and continues to be a reference today as the city cultivates HIspanic imagery.” It also houses lovely boutiques and restaurants.

  • Mary McLaughlin designed two Emmor J. Miley Houses in the Andalusian style, with black ironwork on stone windowsills, white plaster walls and entries with sandstone frames. Miley, an oil pioneer, bought the property in 1924 and renamed it Rancho El Bosque. You can read a great account of the entire history of designing the Miley Houses from the point-of-view of McLaughlin’s children, who remember visiting the houses for meetings after church.

  • McLaughlin and Craig ushered the golden age of Spanish architecture into Santa Barbara in the 1920s, and after his death at the early age of 33, she continued their vision of Andalusian inspirations. By the 1930s, however, it was Mediterranean and American styles which pervade both the Spanish Colonial and Colonial American designs in areas like Carpinteria.

  • The Dr. Seuss-inspired Ablitt House turned 400 square feet of width into an elaborate five floor high rise made to be admired. Architect Jeff Shelton collaborated with contractor Dan Upton to create this artful and tall piece of art with both an indoor and outdoor kitchen. The Ablitt House has a 360 degree panoramic view of downtown, with all its nightlife and ocean adventures. If you’re planning an adventure with friends and want your living quarters to be as fun as the trip, rent this award-winning masterpiece.

See what nooks are available in Santa Barbara on our website or updated app.



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