Alhecama Center: 914 Santa Barbara Street

Excerpt from Santa Barbara: A Guide to El Pueblo Viejo

914 Santa Barbara Street Architects: 1925, Soule, Murphy and Hastings

This complex of buildings was established in 1925 by the Santa Barbara School of the Arts, a part of the Community Arts Association (CAA). The school had been founded in 1920 to “give instructions in the arts that beautify and enrich life” and “develop especially the different forms of community festivals, which feature dancing, singing and drama in its many branches.”

The CAA, led by such prominent Santa Barbarans as Pearl Chase and Bernhard Hoffmann, played an important role in the Spanish revival of the 1920s, not only in the arts but also in architecture, city planning and landscaping. Though its expansive building plan was never achieved (with the notable exception of entry #136), the school persisted until 1938, when it closed.

Alice Schott bought the property and began to make improvements. She eventually deeded the complex, including the Alhecama Theater (see entry #173), to the Adult Education Program of Santa Barbara City College in the mid-1940s. The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, aware of the fact that a portion of the original Presidio was located on the front corner of the property, purchased it from Santa Barbara City College in 1980, and the State of California then purchased it from the Trust, adding it to El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.

Click to enlarge photo

The Trust immediately began the process of rebuilding the northeast corner of the old Presidio on its original foundation at the junction of Santa Barbara and Canon Perdido streets, with architect Milford Wayne Donaldson providing the plans. In 2008, the Trust, in partnership with the Santa Barbara Contractors Association, undertook the rehabilitation of the old wooden Alhecama Studio building on the property, making it one of the first “green” buildings in the state parks system.

Excerpted from Santa Barbara: A Guide to El Pueblo Viejo. Published by the Santa Barbara Conservancy, which advocates for historic, architectural, and cultural resources, and available for sale in stores around town and on

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