Santa Barbara Conservancy Honors Preservationists 

Nicole Hernandez and William Mahan Receive the John Pitman Memorial Awards

Santa Barbara Conservancy Board President Steve Hausz, presents the John Pitman Memorial Award to Nicole Hernandez and William Mahan. | Credit: Courtesy
Nicole Hernandez, MFA, Architectural Historian | Credit: Courtesy

Historic preservationists Nicole Hernandez and William Mahan were recently honored by the Santa Barbara Conservancy for their dedication to the preservation of historic architecture and environment in and around Santa Barbara. Both received the John Pitman Memorial Award, named in honor of the late John Pitman, FAIA, who founded the Conservancy in 1998 to bring together the wide array of individuals, public agencies, and other groups concerned with issues that fell under the broad rubric of historic preservation.

Hernandez has served as the City of Santa Barbara’s Architectural Historian for a decade, during which she has overseen the official designation process for over 400 City Landmarks and Structures of Merit. In addition, she coordinated the huge task of revising the Historic Resources Ordinance, part of the City’s Municipal Code, and has changed the public face of her department to be more accessible to citizens.She also recently played a crucial role in the preparation of the Santa Barbara African American and Black Historic Context Statement. Before coming to Santa Barbara in 2012, Hernandez worked as an Architectural Historian at Historic Denver, Inc. and prior to that, as Architectural Historian for the City of New Orleans. She has an MFA in Historic Preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

William Mahan, FAIA | Credit: Courtesy

A tireless voice for preservation and a strong advocate for the highest quality architecture in the city, Mahan has been an architect, nonprofit leader, and public servant to Santa Barbara for decades. He is past president of the Courthouse Legacy Foundation, and has served on the city’s Planning Commission, Architectural Board of Review, Historic Landmarks Commission, and Single Family Design Board. He is also co-founder of the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara, past President of the local American Institute of Architects chapter, and a prestigious Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.In addition to his community service, Mahan, now retired, was a principal in several important architectural firms in Santa Barbara including Mahan Architects, Sharpe Mahan, and Sharpe Mahan Lenny. 

”It was a lovely event,” said Santa Barbara Conservancy board member Dennis Doordan of the intimate ceremony held in August at the Pico Adobe (c. 1820). A recent transplant to Santa Barbara from the University of Notre Dame as Emeritus Professor & architectural and design historian, Doordan said, “As a newcomer to Santa Barbara, one thing that struck me in the comments people offered is what a close-knit community Santa Barbara is. People have known and worked together for a long time. And there is a talented cohort here dedicated to preserving and enhancing and enjoying what is distinctive about this place. For those of you for whom Santa Barbara is your long-time home, you may not realize how special and rare that is. It is one reason why the Conservancy is an important organization. Standing in the courtyard of the Pico Adobe with all it embodies about the history of this place and looking up and seeing the mountains in the distance — that visual connection between human history and natural environment – it seemed like a special moment, one of the moments when place, history, and community are aligned and a sense of shared purpose is palpable.”

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