Jeremy Dennis Hass: 1936-2014

Michael Hardwick Joining Jeremy Hass (seated) on the Presidio dig were Russell Clay Ruiz (left), Alice Ruiz, Russell Antonio Ruiz, Michael Hardwick, and Richard Whitehead, circa 1970.

Jeremy Hass was the proverbial “man of many parts.” The public ones that I knew best were his roles as attorney, engineer (social and mechanical), and historian. He merged them seamlessly, acting on his passion for historic preservation as an instrument to promote cultural understanding. His accomplishments were extraordinary.

During World War II, Jeremy’s father, John Hass, moved from Minnesota to Santa Barbara, where he was an intelligence officer at the Goleta Naval Air Station and later founded the law firm of Weldon and Hass. Jeremy’s mother was a court reporter, and both parents provided Jeremy with informed yet detached perspectives on society and politics in Santa Barbara. He later put them to good use. Jeremy graduated from Pomona College, where he majored in economics and engineering. But other interests also took hold. In 1956, in pursuing a history minor, he went on a field trip that took him back to Santa Barbara, introduced him to the remnants of the Presidio, and kindled a lifelong fascination with the history of California.

After attending Hastings College of the Law and Loyola Law School, Jeremy joined the family law firm. In the mid-1960s, while working in historic title records, he began research on the Santa Barbara Presidio. He plotted its boundaries, joined the Presidio Volunteers, and single-handedly began reconstruction of the Presidio Chapel. Over the Christmas holidays in 1966, he obtained permission from the owner of the Chapel site (Elmer Whitaker) to begin digging for a Presidio wall on a vacant lot. His dedication was evident even then. When night fell and he had not yet found the wall, he borrowed a flashlight from a close friend across the street (Jimmy Chung, the owner of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens restaurant) and continued to dig. Still unsuccessful and with no moonlight, he moved his 1960 Lancia into place and directed its headlights onto the trench, which was growing longer and longer. He eventually tired and went home, leaving his Lancia behind.

Jeremy had accurately located the position of the wall, but where he was digging, the stones had been raided for construction. He had started the Presidio archaeology and also introduced the neighborhood to the project. The next morning when commuters arrived to park their cars in the vacant lot in which they had rented spaces, they found their access to the lot barred by a long, gaping trench and a securely locked Lancia with its parking brake set.

Pearl Chase, the founder of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP), proceeded to harness Jeremy’s diverse talents by encouraging him to become a social engineer on behalf of historic preservation. He artfully negotiated the acquisition and financing of properties in the Presidio neighborhood; he forged an innovative concession agreement with California State Parks in 1972; and he served as executive director of the SBTHP during a period of transition in 1984-1985. His leadership in the acquisition of El Paseo and Casa de la Guerra significantly advanced the cause of historic preservation in Santa Barbara.

Over the last 30 years, as a lifetime honorary trustee of the SBTHP, Jeremy’s creative strategizing and diplomacy paved the way for the acquisition and preservation of the Rochin Adobe, Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, and the Santa Inés Mission Mills. The latter is destined to become a State Historic Park, and its development will be based on Jeremy’s research and numerous scholarly papers on the history of waterworks technology, fulling and grist mills, and the pioneer millwright Joseph Chapman. In 2000 the SBTHP presented him with Pearl Chase Historic Preservation and Conservation Award. In 2013, the California Mission Studies Association recognized his career of creative historical research and thinking by giving him its President’s Award.

Jeremy’s wide-ranging historical interests were reflected in his contributions to a large array of community organizations in addition to the SBTHP. He served on the boards of the California Chapter of the American Irish Historical Society, the Sons of the American Revolution, California Mission Studies Association, and the Scholarship Foundation of the Filipino Community Association. Jeremy joined the Santa Barbara Corral of the Westerners International in 1976 and served as sheriff (president) 1986-87. Jeremy served on the Santa Barbara Sister Cities Board and was active in the San Juan Metro Manila/Santa Barbara Sister City Association. Three years ago, he organized and formed the nonprofit Early California Agriculture and Technology Society (ECATS). He collected and restored antique cars; he was a member of the Horseless Carriage Club and served as a president of the Antique Automobile Club of America. Over the last several years, Jeremy made a weekly appearance on “History Friday” for Baron Ron Herron’s radio show. In all of his activities, Jeremy received loving support from his wife, Ada, and their daughter, Melinda.

Jeremy Hass’s enthusiasm and generous spirit attracted broad networks of friends, and he loved to mesh these networks at lunch. All of us were drawn to Jeremy by his curiosity, independence, honesty, passion, and intellect. We miss him


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