Training for persons interested in becoming docents at the National Historic Landmark Santa Barbara County Courthouse will begin in early January, 2016 and go through mid-March. This is an opportunity to learn about the history and architecture of this special building and share the information with its many visitors. For an information sheet and schedule, please call Jan Hawkins at 967-5046. A coffee for prospective docents will be held on November 19, 2015.
The group was started in 1974, the first president being Marilyn McMahon.
More than tour guides - and numbering close to sixty - the docents come from all walks of life and all are volunteers. As guardians of the architectural integrity of this National Historic Landmark and its grounds, the Board of Supervisors has designated the Council as official hosts for the building.
Docents staff the Courthouse Information Booth, open seven days a week. Members share facts about the building, direct people to various departments and also give general tourist information about the city of Santa Barbara. The Booth contains extensive Courthouse archives and information sheets in twenty-eight languages, plus Braille. As many weddings take place inside the Courthouse and on the grounds, various information and a list of persons to contact to perform the ceremonies is available. The staffers often serve as witnesses – a very pleasant part of the job!
In 1980, the group became aware that there were no County plans to repair the badly- deteriorating fountain at the Anacapa Street entrance and undertook restoration of the “Spirit of the Ocean” fountain. Treatment was continually needed and the Council funded the periodic maintenance – until a more permanent solution could be achieved. This occurred in 2011, when it was replaced with an exact replica – completed, overseen and funded by the Courthouse Legacy Foundation. This project made the Council aware that County funding for Courthouse upkeep cannot be counted on and since that time, the group has been committed to funding and overseeing needed projects. The sale of postcards, brochures, etc. in the Booth finances the projects, as well as donations from tourists.
Upwards of 125,000 visitors from at least seventy countries and every state in the United States tour the Courthouse each year. Scheduled tours are given every day at 2:00PM and Monday through Friday at 10:30AM. Youth tours are given for school children and special tours can be scheduled. The Booth phone number is 805-962-6464, for information and tour reservations.
The Santa Barbara County Courthouse docents are motivated by love and respect for this special landmark and a feeling of obligation to preserve it for future generations to use and enjoy.