While it isn’t something that you might put on your top ten things to do, it’s kind of cool to walk around Santa Barbara and check out all of the old buildings, courtyards, city parks and historical adobes. Ranging east-west from State Street to Garden and north-south from Ortega to Arrellaga you can walk for hours.
My fascination with Santa Barbara architecture started many years ago when I took an art class from David Gebhardt, then a young professor at UCSB who would one day become one of the nation’s leading architectural historians. My assignment was to write a paper for the class on the Courthouse. Having come from a part of LA that was not known for its style or glamour, I found the Courthouse absolutely captivating and as I wandered about I spotted a number of nearby buildings that seemed to shout out history — the Museum of Art, Granada, Arlington — they gave me a sense there was something grand, something really significant in the stories that these buildings might tell me, if they could only talk.
Today thanks to the Santa Barbara Conservancy and a few techno tools, they almost can. This past week the Conservancy announced the completion of a free downtown historic walking tour, available online to download to computers, smartphones, ipods or tablets.
While you might not consider walking around town as an “outdoor experience” exactly, having the map, audio files — which you can download and import into iTunes as a complete broadcast or 30 separate audio files — and your phone or tablet enables you to learn a huge amount about the spectacular architecture in Santa Barbara’s Historic District.
At the SBC website you’ll find detailed descriptions and audio history of 30 historic buildings – including the Lobero, El Presidio, El Paseo, City Hall, Casa de la Guerra and many others. For many years the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara has provided its Sabado and Domingo guided tours of the Historic District but this is the first time the information has been provided as a self-guided tour that you can enjoy from home or experience firsthand.