Hoffy Tours had the pleasure to lead a walking tour of California's most beautiful Spanish Colonial city: Santa Barbara. My client was Yorke Engineering, a dynamic air quality and environmental compliance company that believes in enriching staff development activities. The downtown tour included the gorgeous County Courthouse (built in 1929), stately State Street, the Presidio (fort) - Ca.'s second oldest structure, and the romantic El Paseo - built as a romantic "Street in Spain" in the late 1920s. Covering only ten blocks, there's a surprising concentration of history, art and architecture in a small area. And, of course, the tour ended with wine tasting on El Paseo!
|The view from the County Courthouse's clock tower is stunning and shows the influence of Spanish Colonial architecture|
with its red tiles and smooth white walls.
The highlight of the tour is the stunning SB County Courthouse - a structure so unique, beautiful and grand that is was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012. The building itself is a blend of Spanish Colonial with Andalucian and Moorish (northern African) influences - the latter developed in Spain after the Reconquest from 1492. The surrounding gardens -including the sunken grass courtyard - resemble moats, surrounded by an exotic array of palm trees and adding to the castle-like quality of the building. Inside, even more delights await. The clock tower has a wonderful observation deck and a newly-opened Bisno Schall Clock Gallery - showing guests the inner workings of the 1929 Seth Thomas clock and a wonderful mural on the history of time. The second floor Board of Supervisor's Room is famous for its dramatic murals depicting the founding of Santa Barbara. All throughout the inside, you'll be captivated by the intricate tiles - many produced locally but others in Tunisia and Spain. No wonder the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a favorite venue for weddings.
|The tile work inside the Courthouse and along the corridors is the most extensive I have seen in California.|
|My tour group - Yorke Engineering - posing in front of the reconstructed Mission-Revival |
(notice the rounded bell tower) chapel.
|A rendering of the Presidio in its early days. Notice the double wall of protection and the Chumash Indian homes|
just outside the walls.
Our tour ended, appropriately, at El Paseo - the historic passageway designed in the late 1920s that winds between State and Anacapa Streets. Meant to evoke the intimate spaces of southern Spanish courtyards, walking this winding courtyard gives you a sense of surprise as you encounter stores, restaurants, offices, and, yes, wine tasting! Architects Craig and Winslow artfully weaved the Paseo between the historic Casa de la Guerra abobe and a larger commercial building to create a truly intimate and beautiful public space. By the way, our tour group had a wonderful wine tasting experience at Jami Slone's winery. They even reserved their private tasting room for us! First rate!
So, if you want to see California's Spanish Colonial Dream City, consider this wonderful walking tour. It has history, architecture, design and food and drink. Congratulations to Santa Barbara for preserving so much of its history and creating such a beautiful theme. Here's a link to Santa Barbara's Downtown Walking Tour -Santa Barbara Red Tile Walk if you want to explore on your own. Better yet, give Hoffy Tours a call and I'll organize a great day of exploring California's most beautiful Spanish Colonial city.