El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park

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El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park
The El Presidio Real de Santa Bárbara, also known as the Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara, was a military installation in Santa Barbara, California. It was built by Spain in 1782, with the mission of defending the Second Military District in California. In modern times, the Presidio serves as a significant tourist attraction, museum and an active archaeological site as part of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. The park contains an original adobe structure called El Cuartel, which is the second oldest surviving building in California; only the chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano, known as "Father Serra's Church", is older. The Presidio of Santa Barbara has the distinction of being the last military outpost built by Spain in the New World. The Presidio was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Contemporary setting
The current El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park site sits between Anacapa and Garden Streets on East Canon Perdido Street in downtown Santa Barbara. The main portion of the site is across the street from the Santa Barbara city Post Office, and is about two blocks from city hall, De la Guerra Plaza and two other museums, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and the Casa de la Guerra. Only two portions of the original presidio quadrangle survive to this day: the Cañedo Adobe, named for José Marí­a Cañedo, the Soldado de Cuera to whom it was deeded in lieu of back pay when the Presidio fell to inactivity, and the remnants of a two-room soldiers quarters, called El Cuartel. The Cañedo Adobe is currently the visitor’s center for the state park, and El Cuartel is largely unmodified. The site’s operator, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP), reconstructed the rest of the site, with the most recent construction"two rooms in the northwest corner of the site"finished in May 2006. The reconstruction is ongoing, with the construction of two more rooms in the northwest corner beginning in December 2007.

The site of the Presidio was chosen by Felipe de Neve, the first governor of the Las Californias. Perceiving that the coast at Santa Barbara was vulnerable to attack, he located a spot near a harbor which was sheltered from severe storms. In addition, there was an ample supply of both building materials and water nearby. Construction began on April 21, 1782, and Padre Juní­pero Serra blessed the site. By the next year, a temporary facility had been completed, and a wheat field planted by the local Chumash Indians of Chief Yanonalit. The early Presidio consisted of mud and brush walls around a quadrangle 330 feet on a side. The post had 61 officers and men in 1783. The first comandante, José Francisco Ortega, planned the fortifications and irrigation works. He obtained livestock for the presidio from Mission San Buenaventura, established orchards, and began large-scale farming. Four years later, construction of the nearby Mission Santa Barbara began in 1786. The pueblo or town of Santa Barbara developed around the Presidio, which offered protection for the residents. The chapel in the Presidio was the primary place of worship for the residents of early Santa Barbara, until its destruction by the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake. This is because the mission, located a mile and a half inland, was mainly intended for use by the native Chumash" Barbareño Native Americans after their relocation for work and conversion to Catholicism. The Presidio was built as a fortress, and therefore included a strong outer wall with an open parade ground on all sides affording clear visibility. While it was never attacked by a strong military force during its sixty years of operation, the Presidio was subject to the assaults of nature. Several devastating earthquakes in the early 19th century destroyed much of the structure.

Mexican-American War
At the time of the Mexican-American War in Alta California, very little of the fortress remained in usable condition, and on December 27, 1846, when John C. Frémont crossed San Marcos Pass during rainy weather and came up on the Presidio and the town from behind. The Presidio surrendered without a fight, as the garrison was far south in the Pueblo de Los Angeles. Frémont had heard that the Mexican army was lying in ambush for him at Gaviota Pass, the only other sensible route over the mountains at that time, and had crossed the difficult muddy track on San Marcos Pass to outflank them, but this move turned out not to have been necessary. Mexican General Andrés Pico later surrendered his force to Frémont, recognizing that the war was lost.

In 1963, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) was founded, with the primary mission of restoring the Presidio. In 1966, the land on which the Presidio is located became a State Historic Park. On December 27, 2006, the SBTHP renewed their ongoing agreement with the California State Parks Department to manage the Presidio. Work on the restoration is currently taking place. On November 26, 1973 the Presidio of Santa Barbara was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail The Presidio of Santa Barbara is one of the designated tour sights of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, a National Park Service unit in the United States National Historic Trail and National Millennium Trail programs. A Brochure Map for driving] and detailed Map: Santa Barbara, with a Historical destinations-events Guide and the official NPS: Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail website are all available for information about the historic 1776 Juan Bautista de Anza trail places.

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