Written by local historian Walker A. Tompkins
“Day broke around four o’clock. Although unsubstantiated, it was said that early-rising farmers noted a strange agitation on the part of animals, both wild and domestic. Birds twittered anxiously in their nests for no apparent reason; dogs whimpered and cats prowled nervously; by sunrise at 4:40, even horses and cows seems apprehensive, for reasons they sensed instinctively but that were beyond human capacity to detect.
At the intersection of State and Anapamu, a street sweeper was busy with hand broom and dustpan, collecting litter that the motorized street cleaner had missed. In the choir loft at the Old Mission, the Reverend Augustine Hobrect, O.F.M., Father Superior of the resident friars in the monastery, had just rung the Angelus bell… then, at 6:42, it came. A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city.
The main shock at 6:42 a.m., estimated to have lasted only ten or twelve seconds, was followed by four large aftershocks, of six to eight seconds duration over the next twenty minutes. Continuing temblors, measuring into the hundreds but diminishing in force, unsettled the citizenry for months to come.
During those first terrifying seconds many landmarks vanished forever. Thirteen souls went to meet their Maker. For Santa Barbara an era that had started with the arrival of Fremont in 1846 had come to a cataclysmic close.
Considering that the city had a population of over 25,000 on that catastrophic June morning, the death total, thirteen, was miraculously small. Reconstruction began at once… Santa Barbara would emerge from ruin as a city reborn.
Pearl Chase of Plans and Planting, passionately dedicated to beautifying Santa Barbara and protecting its heritage, led the vigorous post-earthquake crusade to remake the city. Billboards would be prohibited. The architectural style was to be Hispanic-Mediterranean, recalling the colorful days of the little pueblo and its first Barbarenos.
Within three years, the premier example would be a new county courthouse, replacing the old, Corinthian-style building and its adjacent county jail and hall of records, which had been raised. The new structures would have turrets and towers, winding outdoor stairways, mezzanines, elegant corridors, a sunken garden, and the ‘fanciest county jail in the country.’
Out of the tragedy of the 1925 earthquake cam the now familiar look of a rebuilt Santa Barbara, hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”