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El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park
Surrounded by the bustle of the modern-day city of Santa Barbara, El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park preserves the site of the last of four military outposts built by the Spanish along the coast of Alta California. Two buildings of the original presidio have been restored, others have been reconstructed and archaeological excavations and additional reconstructions are continuing.
The Santa Barbara Presidio was founded on April 21, 1782, while the American Revolutionary War raged across the continent. Spain had earlier built three other presidios at San Diego, San Francisco and Monterey.
The presidios played a vital role in Spain’s occupation of Alta California. They protected the missions and settlers against attack, provided a seat of government, and guarded the country against foreign invasion. The Santa Barbara Presidio was both military headquarters and governmental center of the entire region extending from the southern limits of present day San Luis Obispo County to and including the Pueblo of Los Angeles.
Local Chumash Indians working under the supervision of Spanish soldiers erected the presidio’s buildings and walls using sun-dried adobe bricks laid upon foundations of sandstone boulders. Timbers from the nearby forests supported roofs of red clay tile and the finished walls were covered with whitewash.
The buildings of the Presidio were arranged in a quadrangle that enclosed a central parade ground, the Plaza de Armas. An outer defense wall with two cannon bastions surrounded the buildings. The most prominent structure was the Chapel with its imposing bell tower. This was the first church for the new town of Santa Barbara.
The first Comandante of the new Presidio was Lt. José Francisco de Ortega. He was succeeded in 1784 by Lt. Felipe de Goicoechea, who supervised construction of the fortifications and living quarters for the soldiers and their families and remained in command until 1802.
One of the two remaining original sections of the Presidio is El Cuartel, the family residence of the soldier assigned to guard the western gate into the Plaza de Armas. This building is the oldest remaining in Santa Barbara and the second oldest in California. The second remaining original building is the Canedo Adobe, named after the Presidio soldier to whom it was deeded when the Presidio became inactive.
Also located within the boundaries of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is the Buenaventura Pico Adobe, an example of a Mexican-period adobe built circa 1830. Santiago de la Cruz Pico had arrived in California with the 1776 Anza Expedition and Santiago's grandson Buenaventura and his wife Anita moved into the adobe after their marriage in 1850.
The most recent addition to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is the Rochín Adobe, an example of an American-period adobe built in 1856 by José María Rochín. His wife, Lorenza Ordaz de Rochín, was a descendent of Francisco Ortega, the first Comandante of the presidio. The addition of the Rochín adobe to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park compliments the Spanish-period Presidio adobes (1780s) and the Mexican-period Buenaventura Pico adobe (circa 1830).
El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is operated by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation under an operating agreement with California State Parks. The Santa Barbara Trust’s mission is to preserve, restore, reconstruct and interpret historic sites in Santa Barbara County. It engages in archaeological and historical research and publication to expand knowledge about Santa Barbara's history. The Santa Barbara Trust works closely with California State Parks, the City of Santa Barbara, the County of Santa Barbara and various cultural and educational constituencies to attract and inform a broad audience through its restoration projects, exhibits, living history demonstrations, public events and lectures, and public school programs. For more information about the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, visit its website at http://www.sbthp.org.