Santa Barbara’s magnificence and national renown was reaffirmed on Tuesday, January 13, when the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) publicly announced the city as one of its 2009 Dozen Distinctive Destinations. The press conference, during which Mayor Marty Blum accepted a plaque commemorating the honor, was held in front of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.
“It was significant to have the awards ceremony at El Presidio, because this is where the town began in 1782,” explained Jerry Jackman, the director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and the person who submitted Santa Barbara as a potential Distinctive Destination, thus making it eligible for consideration this year. “[The Presidio] represents the Spanish Mission style that the city was built upon.” This classic architectural style-which blends Spanish, Moorish, Portuguese, and American Indian influences-was one of the many factors considered by NTHP staff in selecting Santa Barbara, but also factored into the equation were the many outdoor activities available to visitors and the community’s long-standing commitment to preserving its heritage.
The 11 other cities also chosen based upon similar criteria were Athens, Georgia; Bristol, Rhode Island; Buffalo, New York; Fort Worth, Texas; Franklin, Tennessee; Hot Springs, South Dakota; Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; Litiz, Philadelphia; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Saugatuck-Douglas, Michigan; and Virginia City, Nevada.
Anthony Veerkamp, one of the West Coast representatives for the NTHP, explained that the organization’s motivation in creating and extending this award to cities every year. “We want to spotlight places where preservation has been part of development – places that are off the beaten track that give visitors a distinctive experience. All the cities chosen are very different places – this is not about going to Disneyland, it’s about going to a smaller town and seeing something unique,” he said before also noting that another reason for the award is to acknowledge all those in the communities who have worked diligently over the decades to preserve their city.
Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission, expressed her gratitude for the award during the press conference. She remarked that many travelers are now seeking destinations with “the richness of character and authentic sense of place that we have here,” and expressed that she is hopeful this award will continue to grow sustainable tourism in Santa Barbara. Veerkamp added that the award could earn the city some extra income in the form of tourist dollars. “Travelers who are interested in heritage and culture tend to stay longer and spend more money than traditional travelers, and this will benefit Santa Barbara’s economy,” he said.