Paul Wellman

Bringing Courthouse Murals to Life

Few locations in California deliver so much simultaneously artistic and historic impact as the Mural Room of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. David Bolton, who heads the California Missions Foundation, realized as much a few weeks ago during a luncheon in that room, and started plotting with various other organizations in town to bring those murals to life for this year’s Fiesta Parade.

“The murals on all four walls depict what are often considered the biggest historical ‘moments’ in Santa Barbara’s rich history, so I thought it would be a fun, educational, and new way to tell the history of Santa Barbara,” said Bolton, who’s studied that history for a quarter-century. “Once I began talking up the float idea to others, we quickly received favorable feedback, and now it has become a truly collaborative effort with the Chumash, S.B. Courthouse Legacy Foundation, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the Presidio and the Trust for Historic Preservation, Old Mission Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara Historical Society.”

By Paul Wellman (file)

The project quickly grew into two floats, one depicting the 1542 meeting between the Chumash and Juan Cabrillo and the other combining the 1822 mural of the Mexican flag rising above Santa Barbara and the 1846 mural of General Fremont coming down San Marcos Pass to take over Santa Barbara for the United States.

“The murals, painted in the 1920s, will come to life with real people wearing identical outfits with a few modifications correcting any historical inaccuracies,” said Bolton.

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