Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Santa Barbara, where even the no smoking signs are Mission-era

A couple of weekends ago TLOML, Lady P and I drove up to Santa Barbara for a weekend at a friend's place. Besides the obvious pleasures of a mini break, eating and drinking and catching up with friends, and exploring new playgrounds, I especially loved Santa Barbara itself.

After life in Hermosa (founded 1907), it was really lovely to be somewhere with more than a hundred years of history. Santa Barbara was established as a Spanish mission in the 1780s, and much of it was built in a grand colonial style after an earthquake in the 1820s destroyed the adobe huts they'd been living in before then. Which is to say, it is an old city, by Californian standards at least. And it's architecturally coherent, in a way that Hermosa, with its Portuguese castles next to modernist white boxes, is just not. Much of the city's roofs are red tiled in the Spanish style, and there are some really well preserved buildings.

Take the courthouse, and this fire station, for a couple of examples. Both still functioning with their original purpose, and in their original form.
The courthouse

An actual working fire station
Then there's this charming multistory carpark, beautifully preserved from the colonial era with the original signs and all.
Wait... what? The dudes who ran the Mission had the foresight to build parking structures? No, you're right, it's just a modern car park that has been designed to meet Santa Barbara's code for downtown construction, and blend in.

Much like these signs, which I'm guessing weren't there when the courthouse was built in 1850.

Hey, I'm not hating this faux-old stuff. Santa Barbara is such a beautiful city, and much of its appeal lies in the visual unity of its architecture. It's entirely fitting that the powers that be would want to preserve that appeal. I felt rather shame-faced about how little regard I paid to the 16th century buildings of my college.

Still, it was refreshing to get back to messy, chaotic, apparently unplanned Hermosa with all its quirks.

No comments:

Post a Comment