Restoration of San Barbara Junior High’s historic Douglass Parshall mural is being funded by the Pearl Chase Society
Patty West, owner of South Coast Fine Arts Center, and assistants Dinah Parker and Cindy Golson, are doing the restoration. Though work has just begun, brightness is now visible in the sections that have been cleaned. Ms. West indicates that this is the mural’s first restoration since it was created in 1934. Cleaning will continue through this week, followed by repair of loose paint and then application of a protective coat of varnish, making it easier to clean the mural in the future.
This unique restoration project, valued at $5,000, is made possible because of the generosity of the Pearl Chase Society, an all volunteer, not-for-profit conservancy dedicated to preserving Santa Barbara’s historic architecture, landscapes, and cultural heritage. Established in 1995, the Pearl Chase Society seeks to enlarge upon and advance the work of Pearl Chase (1888-1979) who helped shape the architectural development of the city and later fought to preserve that vision. Scaffolding required to access the mural is being funded by the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
The Pearl Chase Society engages in charitable and educational activities to promote and preserve Santa Barbara’s historic resources of rare value and community interest. The Society conducts annual public tours of historic homes and neighborhoods, offers educational trips and lectures, and publishes “Preservation Watch,” an informational column regarding pending development and/or destruction of historically sensitive structures, areas, landscapes, and other resources.
Past projects include funding the restoration of the Courthouse Archway ceiling paintings and the restoration of a 1925 State Street commercial storefront, organizing the relocation of Santa Claus Lane’s rooftop Santa to Oxnard, and advocating, in collaboration with other organizations, for making Mattei’s Tavern a Santa Barbara County Historic Landmark.
Douglass Ewell Parshall
(The Pearl Chase Society provided the following information.)
Douglass Ewell Parshall’s vocation was imprinted on his DNA and nurtured by his many-talented artist father, DeWitt Parshall (1864-1956). By the time Douglass was ten-years-old, he was painting Hudson River Valley landscapes in oil and pastel. At age 15, he had one of his works exhibited at the National Academy of Design, and he later studied at the Arts Students League in New York, the Académie Julian in Paris, and the Boston Museum School.
His family came to Santa Barbara in 1917, and he enrolled in The Thacher School in Ojai. At Thacher, Parshall spent most of his free time with brush and pencil in the small structure he had rented and converted into a studio. When he graduated, he rented one of Alexander Harmer’s studios on De la Guerra Plaza before moving his studio to the new family estate.
In 1920 the Parshall family purchased a piece of La Favorita, the former William P. and Mary E. Faulkner Gould Estate on the corner of Hot Springs and Olive Mill Road in Montecito. The Parshalls converted the Gould’s barn into an art studio. Douglass spent 1922 touring Europe. Later that same year, he began a year and a half tour through Mexico where he painted Mexican villages near Guernavaca and Tasco. Conditions were primitive, and he traveled by mule over the mountains in the days before tourists and resort hotels and “English Spoken.”
In 1930, Douglass traveled to China and Japan. As the Great Depression took hold of the nation, Douglass was appointed local district supervisor of the New Deal’s Federal Art Project. Under his direction, local artists created murals and other artwork for schools and public buildings. At Santa Barbara Junior High School, Parshall created a near-life-sized mural depicting seven track and field athletes in a classical Arcadian setting. Perhaps celebrating the sterling performance of U.S. track and field athletes at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the painting reflects Parshall’s period of fascination with the human form, which is also expressed in The Wrestlers and in various drawings and paintings entitled The Bathers. (Five Parshall paintings can be seen on the 4th floor of the County Administration Building on Anapamu Street.)
In the late 30’s or early 40’s, Parshall married Barbara Cowles and moved his residence to Santa Rosa Lane though he kept his studio at the family estate. During World War II he spent a year in Los Angeles creating handbooks for military planes for Douglas Aircraft Company. Though he had volunteered for the job, he discovered that he had no aptitude for mechanical drawing. In the 1960s, he started teaching small groups of art students. When the family estate was sold, he moved the Douglass Parshall Studio to Santa Rosa Lane.
Parshall had a long and prolific career. His subject matter and style changed based on his current interests, which were varied and eclectic. In 1917, he focused on western-style horse track meets that he saw in Ojai. In the 1920s, he depicted the land and seascapes of Europe, Mexico, and the American West. During the 1930s, he explored the human form. His watercolor period began in 1939, during which he painted a variety of subjects that included landscapes, horses, circus scenes, dancing girls, and rock formations. He was a skilled portraitist. Throughout his long life he continued to play with style.