Dan Sayre Groesbeck’s “Landing of Cabrillo” Painting Returns Home

New 18.2 foot high by 6.2 foot wide customized windows have been meticulously installed in its Cabrillo Street façade. Inside the branch on the mezzanine level is a smaller medallion window which has also needed renovation, requiring the removal of a Montecito Bank & Trust branded tapestry which has hung below the medallion window for decades.

During this process of interior branch renovation, Bank Chairman and Owner Michael Towbes began thinking about the history of this 1000 State Street building. In 1924, County National Bank, the building’s owner at that time, commissioned Dan Sayre Groesbeck to create an historical event to be displayed below this mezzanine medallion window. Mr. Groesbeck created his conceptual idea and upon approval began work on the “Landing of Cabrillo”, a 10.5 foot x 13.5 foot grand scale creative effort of oil on canvas. Mr. Groesbeck was adept at painting on large scale, as he had created backdrop scenery for the silent films produced in Santa Barbara before Hollywood’s claim to fame.

Janet Garufis, President and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust, Rodney Baker, President & Director of Projects for the Santa Barbara Courthouse Docent Council.
Tyson Blades

This painting dominated the bank lobby for years, but the “Landing of Cabrillo” left its home around 1961, making its way across the street inside the current Saks Fifth Avenue building under the ownership of Crocker Bank. Crocker Bank was sold to Wells Fargo Bank, and the 1001 State Street building was subsequently sold to J.C. Penny. The “Landing of Cabrillo” went into storage for many years under the J.C. Penny ownership.

Sometime before 1994, David Bisol, Courthouse Docent and Historical Society Museum Curator, heard talk of the painting’s potential sale by J.C. Penny, so he and Peggy Hayes moved into action to lobby J.C. Penny to donate the painting to the Museum. There was never intent to display the painting in the Museum due to lack of space, so the Courthouse was always its envisioned new home. A successful transfer of ownership was completed, thanks to the hard work of many. The painting moved to the Courthouse in February 1994 with some drama. Moving it out of storage required breaking a window, since no door would accommodate its exit! On hand to greet the painting in the Courthouse were Peggy Hayes, Jane Mueller, Betty Hendrickson, Monte Hendrickson and David Bisol. The Docent Council became its new owners, and it has since been on display for all Courthouse visitors to view.

Dismantling from the Courthouse
Tyson Blades

The painting’s story now picks up once again during the renovation work going on at Montecito Bank & Trust, as Michael Towbes had an idea. The Towbes Foundation approached the Santa Barbara Courthouse Docent Council to loan the “Landing of Cabrillo” painting with the intent to return it to its original home inside the 1000 State Street flagship branch of Montecito Bank & Trust. The Docent Council expeditiously reviewed and accepted the terms for the painting’s return home after its more than 50 year absence. Rodney Baker, President & Director of Projects for the Santa Barbara Courthouse Docent Council, stated, “The Courthouse Docent Council is proud to have been entrusted with the stewardship of this magnificent painting for the past twenty years. We are deeply honored to see it returned to the bank, and in the process honor Mr. Towbes for everything he has done for our community. Fulfilling his request to return the painting to the bank is a small token of our appreciation for his generous efforts over the years.”

Montecito Bank & Trust Chairman Michael Towbes stated, “It is so rewarding to have the “Landing of Cabrillo” returning to its original location and to have it once again become the centerpiece of our historic flagship main office. We appreciate the stewardship the Courthouse Docent Council has provided in preserving this masterful piece of art, and we thank them for granting this request.”

Returning home to 1000 State Street, Montecito Bank & Trust
Tyson Blades

Robert Ooley, AIA, County Architect, coordinated all the logistics for the move, carefully considering each travel step to ensure the painting’s safety. Frame restoration at the Courthouse was the first task at hand, with work done by South Coast Fine Art Conservation

Studio and The Phoenix Touch. Mr. Ooley stated, “Historic preservation is a core value of both our community and the County of Santa Barbara. Stewardship of our historic resources often means returning elements to their original location or condition. We’ll miss not seeing the grand painting up on the wall outside the Mural Room in the Santa Barbara Courthouse; but knowing that is has returned to where it began is a worthy goal.” J&L Glass owner, James Leslie, kindly donated the use of one of his trucks to transport the painting to Montecito Bank & Trust. The painting was then carried into the branch and placed on specially created scaffolding, where painting restoration work will commence again under the skillful eyes of Heather Boyd of The Phoenix Touch.

A special unveiling ceremony will be planned once all branch interior work and painting restoration is complete. It has been a labor of love by many to make this storybook ending for the “Landing of Cabrillo” to once again enhance the interior of Montecito Bank & Trust’s main office.

Santa Barbara Courthouse Docent Council began in 1974 under the leaderships of a few key women. Three charter sponsors were instrumental in helping the Council; the Santa Barbara Bar Association, the Law Wives of Santa Barbara and the Junior League. With this support, the Courthouse Docent Council was formed. The originating purpose is still true today,

to be the interpreters of the history, art and architecture of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. In addition to this, provide the children in Santa Barbara County an opportunity to

experience how the legal system works, complete with mock court trials. The participants also visit the courtroom during “real” live trials. The Council acts as advisor to the County Board of Supervisors and the Office of the County Architect regarding projects proposed in the Courthouse which could impact the historic nature of the property.

Montecito Bank & Trust is a locally owned community bank founded in 1975 and proudly celebrating its 38th anniversary. It is known for its ongoing support of the community through unique giving programs such as Community Dividends® and Anniversary GrantsSM. The bank has branch offices in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Solvang, Montecito, Carpinteria, Ventura and Westlake Village. It offers a variety of competitive deposit and lending solutions for businesses and consumers, including consumer loans, business loans and lines of credit, SBA loans, credit cards, merchant services, online and mobile banking, and cash management. Its Wealth Management Division, located in Montecito, Solvang and Ventura, provides full investment management as well as trust and estate services for all of the bank’s branch office markets.

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