Historical Buildings Walking Tour, Santa Barbara

Historical Buildings Walking Tour (Self Guided), Santa Barbara

Ranking as one of the most attractive places on earth, if only in terms of climate and geography alone, Santa Barbara boasts a wealth of historic architecture tastefully and seamlessly accommodated into the city's modern-day incarnation. To a first-time visitor to Santa Barbara, even the most cursory observation reveals the predominant role that these historic locations play in the identity and character of the city.

Paseo Nuevo, located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, is a charming shopping and dining destination that seamlessly blends modern amenities with Spanish-style architecture.

Casa de La Guerra, a historic adobe mansion, serves as a window to Santa Barbara's early Spanish colonial era. It was once the residence of José de la Guerra, a prominent figure in the region's history, and is now a museum open to the public.

Oreña Adobes features a collection of adobe structures that harken back to the 19th century. These adobes provide insight into the daily life of early Californians and showcase the region's architectural history.

The Hill-Carrillo Adobe, another historic adobe building, stands as a testament to Santa Barbara's Hispanic heritage and is also a listed property.

La Arcada Historic Courtyard, with its Spanish-style architecture, offers a picturesque setting for shopping and dining. It's a prime example of how the city preserves its historical charm.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art houses a remarkable collection of art from various periods and cultures, offering an artistic journey through time.

The Santa Barbara Public Library is a more modern facility that pays homage to the city's architectural traditions, blending contemporary design with elements of the past.

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is an iconic landmark, known for its stunning Spanish-Moorish architecture and beautifully landscaped sunken gardens.

Our Lady of Sorrows Church and Trinity Episcopal Church are two historic places of worship, representing Santa Barbara's diverse religious scene.

Together, all these sites tell the story of Santa Barbara's evolution over the years. If you wish to learn more about it and explore some of the key historic buildings that have made Santa Barbara a household name, synonymous with an idyllic appeal, take this self-guided walk!
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Historical Buildings Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Buildings Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Santa Barbara (See other walking tours in Santa Barbara)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: sabrina
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Paseo Nuevo
  • Casa de La Guerra
  • Oreña Adobes
  • Hill–Carrillo Adobe
  • La Arcada Historic Courtyard
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Santa Barbara Public Library
  • Santa Barbara County Courthouse
  • Our Lady of Sorrows Church
  • Trinity Episcopal Church
Paseo Nuevo

1) Paseo Nuevo (must see)

Paseo Nuevo is a shopping center that boasts Spanish-style architecture for an exciting shopping experience. Beautiful courtyard areas are a perfect place to gather with shopping buddies and enjoy the sunshine.

Regular events, such as outdoor markets and activities for children, as well as a movie theater, provide fun for everyone. Regardless of whether you're seeking fun in addition to your shopping or are looking for activities for a family day out, Paseo Nuevo won't disappoint you.

Local stores are well-represented here, including Angie's Boutique, Maker's Market, Te Amo, and Zitzilan Imports. The Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara also has a store here. Shopping at these merchants helps to support the local community.

Popular stores represented at this shopping center include Claire's, Gap Kids, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, Game Stop, and Victoria's Secret.

Paseo Nuevo also offers several restaurant options. Some of the restaurants include 805 Boba, California Pasta, California Pizza Kitchen, Eureka Burger, Panda Express, Pickles & Swiss, and Sushytime.

If you're looking for a quick snack or drink, try some French pastries from Le Macaron. You might also consider an acai bowl from Oak Berry or fresh-squeezed juice from Pressed Juicery. See's Candies, Sweet Creams, and Tendi Gelato are also available for a quick break.

Regardless of why you decide to visit this shopping center, you'll come away pleased with what they have to offer. The atmosphere is on that encourages you to get out and enjoy everything.

Paseo Nuevo Mall is part of The Paseo de la Guerra complex of historic buildings. Since 1977 it is listed (as El Paseo and Casa de la Guerra) in National Register of Historic Places.
Casa de La Guerra

2) Casa de La Guerra

Casa de La Guerra dates back to a time between 1818 and 1828 when José de la Guerra was the Presidio commander. The de la Guerra family lived in this home until 1943. The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation did renovations during the 1990s that restored this home to its original state as an adobe house.

Exhibits that visitors can see include exciting information about the house's architectural history, as well as the de la Guerra family. There are two rooms that host regular changing exhibits. Most of these exhibits are about California's Hispanic heritage and other fascinating aspects of local history.

This house also has a gift shop that visitors will enjoy stopping by in their travels. Some of the goodies that await include books about the local history, puzzles and games, and local food items such as chocolate, honey, and olive oil.
Oreña Adobes

3) Oreña Adobes

The Orena Adobes dates back to 1848 and were constructed by José de la Guerra, also the original occupant of Casa de La Guerra. Initially, the structure was used for housing supplies that arrived by ship. Gaspar Oreña bought the property in 1858 and added the 1 1/2 story after marrying de la Guerra's daughter.

The Orena family eventually used the property as a winter residence, and it remains in the family today. A more recent renovation in the 1920s involved the addition of a patio, as well as an expansion to the building's rear.

When visitors first come upon this property, they will notice the historical marker. One of the things that stands out about the historical marker is its unique scroll-like design. This scroll gives the history of the building to visitors.

Even though the property is not open for public touring, the property is noteworthy for its architecture. The building stands out as a beautiful example of the architecture of its time.
Hill–Carrillo Adobe

4) Hill–Carrillo Adobe

The Hill–Carrillo Adobe was initially the home of a merchant named Daniel Hill and his wife, Rafaela Luisa Ortega. The couple occupied the house from 1826 to the early 1830s. The Hills sold the home to John Wilson and his wife, Ramona Carillo Pacheco. As the couple's home, the house became a major social center for many years.

In the 20th century, the house had diverse uses that included a Chinese laundry and school, as well as a dentist's office. Esher Fiske Hammond bought the property in 1916 after the building had started to fall into a state of disrepair. Two wings added to the building provided a book illumination studio for Robert Wilson Hyde.

The Hutton Parker Foundation has owned the property since 2010. One of the functions the adobe has served is being a free meeting space for local non-profits. In 2019, the Foundation started a renovation. This adobe is a California Historic Landmark, City of Santa Barbara Landmark, and is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
La Arcada Historic Courtyard

5) La Arcada Historic Courtyard

La Arcada Historic Courtyard is considered a hidden jewel that goes back to 1926. One of the architectural highlights is a clock tower modeled after a famous clock in Chicago that dates to 1880. This plaza is a perfect spot for selfies.

There are lifelike statues greeting visitors, designed by J. Seward Johnson and George Lundeen, that offer an interactive feel, as well as selfies and other photo ops. Another highlight includes the pair of bronze dolphins, with a playful look. A turtle fountain is possibly one of the most famous sculptures on display.

Food experiences here are unforgettable. Andersen's Bakery and Restaurant features Danish pastries and other cuisines. Petit Valentien offers a fusion of French and Ethiopian cuisine. Additional food and drink options include California cuisine, wines, French chocolate, and Italian cuisine.

The stores include the historic barbershop, which has displays of all the equipment used throughout the years. There are also three art galleries with works by local artists, as well as a variety of retailers.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art

6) Santa Barbara Museum of Art (must see)

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is in a building that served as the Santa Barbara Post Office between 1914 and 1932. David Adler, a Chicago architect, simplified the facade that helped make the building more suitable as a museum. Adler was also responsible for the creation of the gallery areas, which guests have enjoyed since 1941.

Gallery additions in 1942, 1963, 985, and 1988 increased the numbers of works for the public to savor. The museum offers 60,000 square feet of exhibition and activity space in a well-lit setting. A children's gallery includes exhibits with interactive programming.

Visitors can visit the Museum Shop for gifts and the cafe for quick snacks. The auditorium has 154 seats and is perfect for special events. There is also a library with 50,000 books in its collection, as well as 55,000 slides.

The permanent collections span all forms of art, from prints and paintings to textiles, ceramics, and furniture. Some of the most famous artists featured include Ansel Adams, Henri Rosseau, Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, and artists from the Santa Barbara Collections.

Collections on display at this museum include antiquities from the Greek and Roman Empires and the Mediterranean, as well as the ancient people of North and South America. Asian art on display in this museum includes sculptures and tapestries from China, Japan, Korea, and the Himalayan region.

The museum also has a collection of Latin American art, spanning 1930 to 1990. These collections offer a diverse look into how different cultures have shaped the artistic world.

Why You Should Visit:
Check out a diverse collection of art from all eras, including ancient and modern times.
Enjoy the evolution of this building from a post office to its current museum status.

Look for the free hands-on workshops regularly offered.
Santa Barbara Public Library

7) Santa Barbara Public Library

The Santa Barbara Public Library is in a building constructed in 1930 that saw a remodeling and expansion from 1979 to 1980. As a part of the Black Gold Library Consortium, the library has an extensive collection that saw over 1,000,000 items circulated in 2017.

Elaborate carvings in a Spanish style grace the front door. A courtyard area between the gallery wings offers a peaceful place to enjoy some sunshine. The Gallery areas are bright and open, allowing in plenty of light to draw attention to the art.

This library is host to the Faulkner East and West Galleries and Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery. All of these galleries host art selected through a juried process on an annual basis. Many of the works on display feature local artists who are relatively unknown.

The library has a variety of activities for all ages going on at any given time. Storytime activities for kids, book clubs, and Spanish conversation groups are popular activities available.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse

8) Santa Barbara County Courthouse (must see)

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse features Spanish-Moorish Architecture, dating back to 1929. This lovely courthouse building enjoys a reputation as being America's most beautiful government building. As a working courthouse, the court's schedule may influence how often public touring is available, but it is worth your time.

There are lawn and garden areas that surround this building, with the Sunken Garden being a popular venue space. This garden area stands on the former site of the 1872 courthouse, destroyed in the 1925 earthquake. Outdoor performances are popular evening and weekend events.

The courthouse has an 85-foot clock tower known as El Mirador. Visitors who ride the elevator to the top of this tower can enjoy city views. Coastal and mountain views are also visible from the tower.

In addition to being an architectural marvel, this courthouse also boasts impressive tile work. The Mural Room is one of the most popular places for visitors to see. These canvas murals span over 4,000 square feet and depict the founding of the original Spanish mission.

The Spirit of the Ocean fountain, dating back to 1927, still stands on the courthouse grounds. This fountain features the images of a man and woman on either side of a dolphin.

The main lobby has an information booth where visitors can inquire about docent-led tours. Mondays through Fridays, tours are usually available at 10:30 am and 2:00 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, tours are at 2:00 pm.

Why You Should Visit:
Unique architecture and art beautifully tell the story of the area's history.
Gardens feature beautiful landscaping that offers perfect photo opportunities.
Our Lady of Sorrows Church

9) Our Lady of Sorrows Church

Our Lady of Sorrows Church was built in 1929. As a designated landmark, the church received its status in 2016. The building that houses the congregation today sits on beautiful grounds. Visitors often enjoy taking pictures of the church from outside.

The church's grounds are beautifully landscaped. Roses and other flowering plants help to provide an inviting atmosphere. Regardless of whether you plan to go inside or not, you'll enjoy at least seeing the grounds.

The church building beautifully reflects the area's Spanish heritage. One thing that stands out for many visitors is the height of the ceilings, which are similar to those of many cathedrals. The church has stained glass windows with beautiful designs. This building is perfect for touring in between masses.

In addition to stained glass windows and high ceilings, visitors will also enjoy the carvings. One of the highlights is a rose window above the main altar area, casting natural light on the nave area.
Trinity Episcopal Church

10) Trinity Episcopal Church

Trinity Episcopal Church started as a parish in 1867, with the building constructed between 1912 and 1919 by Philip H. Frohman, who designed the Washington National Cathedral. The church was the second of the two first Protestant congregations in the city.

The church underwent some reconstruction after the 1925 earthquake. One of the additions that took place as a result of his reconstruction was a parish hall. As in most Episcopal churches, this area is one of the most popular sites for social gatherings and other activities.

This church features sandstone construction, with a traditional nave and beautiful stained glass. One of the things that visitors will notice is how light-filled the inside of the church is. The atmosphere is very tranquil and also welcoming.

The parish offers musical programs regularly. Some of the instruments used include the pipe organ and piano, as well as chamber ensemble instruments.

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