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84 Years of the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara

Today, the Arlington Theatre celebrates its 84th birthday! The Arlington Theatre opened in 1931; but before the theatre, Arlington meant the finest in hotel accommodations (photo below) and the name has been embedded in the history of Santa Barbara.
Michael Redmon, Director of Research at the SB Historical Museum, provides history:

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Photo Credit: J W Collinge. The First Arlington Hotel: Solely for use on Santa Barbara View.


6 Years Ago Today, the Jesusita Fire

firehillsBelieve it or not, six years ago today, the Jesusita Fire broke out. First word of a fire in the hills came around 1:45 in the afternoon, a breaking report followed… “there is a very visible fire in the hills above Santa Barbara.” Preliminary reports had the fire near Tunnel Road… the first picture of the blaze was sent in from a Viewer at La Cumbre Mall (left).

For the next two weeks, the Jesusita Fire had Santa Barbara residents on edge. The skies around Santa Barbara filled with smoke and power went out throughout the city. 1,200 homes were immediately put under a mandatory evacuation order and a proclamation of local emergency was declared by Santa Barbara County. Flames, fueled by 84 degree temperatures and sun-downer winds, were no match for brave helicopter pilots. The blaze swelled from 150 acres to 8,700+ acres burned.

By May 9th, nearly 6,000 properties were under mandatory evacuation orders.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters fought the flames from the ground. Six fixed-wing aircraft, 5 helicopters, and a DC-10 jumbo jet tanker battled the blaze from above. 100% containment of the Jesusita Fire was reached on May 18th; unfortunately, 80 homes had been destroyed. The cost to fight the blaze was put at $20 million.

As for the start of the blaze, 50-year-old Craig William Ilenstine and 45-year-old Dana Neil Larsen, were allegedly using gas powered weed cutters on the trail at the origin of the fire. Both men were eventually charged with one misdemeanor count.
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People of Santa Barbara: Robert F. Winchester, Ranchero and Physician

On this date in 1845, Robert F. Winchester was born in Brewer, Maine. Winchester would become the second practicing physician in Santa Barbara.

Winchester served in the Civil War as a surgeon for the Union Army. After the war, he was drawn by the wanderlust of the West coast and moved to San Francisco. He began his practice when the smallpox epidemic drew him to San Juan Bautista and his fateful meeting with Colonel Hollister.  According to Walker A. Tomkins, “when Colonel Hollister was preparing to move his family to Santa Barbara, a devastating epidemic of smallpox broke out in the San Juan Bautista area near his sheep ranch. A young doctor, Robert Fulton Winchester, volunteered to leave his practice near San Francisco to come to the aid of the stricken community… Hollister was so impressed that he hired him to serve as the family’s personal physician and eventually set him up for business in Santa Barbara.”

As an enticement to get Dr. Winchester to come south, in 1870 Colonel Hollister purchased 1,000 acres of prime land the doctor’s name in the lush arroyo west of Ellwood Canyon. Winchester agreed to the move. After a few years, he grew tired of rural life and moved into Jose Lobero’s adobe at 110 West Carillo Street, which the Hollisters had used as temporary living quarters while the Glen Annie ranch house was being built.

In 1872, the year Stearns Wharf opened, Dr. Winchester started his practice in competition with the town’s well-established Dr. Brinkerhoff. When the Fithian Building opened at State and Ortego in 1896, Dr. Winchester leased a suite of offices. By this time, Winchester had served as Santa Barbara County coroner, county doctor and city health officer.

Dr. Wichester retired in 1925, died on March 31, 1932, and his final home was in the Trussell-Winchester Adobe, a historic landmark at 412 West Montecito Street.

October 1960 SOUTH (FRONT) ELEVATION – Trussell-Winchester, 412 West Montecito Street, Santa Barbara, CA


Happy 233rd Birthday Santa Barbara!

Today marks the 233rd anniversary of the Founding of El Real Presidio and the City of Santa Barbara by his Majesty King Carlos III of Spain.

El Presidio de Santa Bárbara was the birthplace of Santa Barbara and home to the original founding ceremony, held on April 21, 1782.

There will be a two-day celebration this weekend which will include three events: Candlelight Dinner in the Historic Presidio Chapel, Founding Day Festival, and Rancho Roundup.  The candlelight dinner in the Historic Presidio Chapel has never been done before and will be a once-in-a-lifetime evening… for more information, CLICK HERE.


Fire Razed Potter Hotel on April 13, 1921

On this date in Santa Barbara history the magnificent Potter Hotel was destroyed by a fire. Crowds watched in horror as flames quickly engulfed the Potter Hotel on April 13, 1921. The hotel opened on January 19, 1903 and cost over $1 million to build.

100+ guests were safely evacuated, but with winds gusting from fifty to eighty miles per hour, the fire spread quickly and burnt the hotel to the ground within three hours. Flying debris even set fire to Stearns Wharf and to the tall palms that line the boulevard along West Beach. Only few chimneys were left of what had been one of the finest hotels on the West Coast.

Faulty wiring was found to be the cause, although many historians suspect it was arson. Several attempts were purportedly made to burn down the hotel which had been heavily insured and was steadily losing money, and the fire department believed that all the fires they extinguished has been deliberately set. Although arson was suspected, it was never confirmed.
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California Poppy Day

poppiesDid you know… April 6th has officially been designated California Poppy Day?

On December 12, 1890, the members of the California State Floral Society voted for a flower that they thought would best serve the State of California as an official emblem. The California Poppy won the esteemed title of ‘Official California State Flower’ by an overwhelming landslide. It took almost 13 years for the California Legislature to get around to adopting the winning golden poppy as the State flower. The golden poppy, Eschscholzia, was selected as the official State flower of California by an act of the Legislature on March 2, 1903. In 1973, the law was amended to designate April 6th as California Poppy Day.


Santa Barbara, a Large-Scale Irish Colony?

A St. Patrick’s Day post from the Santa Barbara View Vault

Had it not been for the imminence of the American takeover, it is possible that Santa Barbara might have become part of a plan to establish a large-scale Irish colony, subsidized by the London capitalists with an ultimate view to British annexation of California, Walker A. Tompkins wrote in Yankee Barbarenos.

In 1845, Eugene McNamera had petitioned the president of Mexico for a $71 million grant of land in Alta California on which to establish three, tax-free Irish colonies – one in Santa Barbara. His plan would have transplanted shamrocks amid California poppies and promised to bring 10,000 Irish emigrants to the colonies.

The grant was signed by Pio Pico, the last Mexican Governor of California, but once the Yankees planted their flag in the California soil for good, the grant was declared invalid.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day Santa Barbara.


Date in Santa Barbara History… De la Guerra Born

delaguerraJosé Antonio Julian de la Guerra y Noriega was born on March 6, 1779, at Novales in Santander, Spain. De la Guerra, commandante of the Royal Presidio, was considered the most influential Spanish-born resident of Santa Barbara at the time of the American take-over of California. He retained ownership of five of the choicest ranch grants in Southern California, and his home, Casa de la Guerra, is today the best known Spanish-era residence in Santa Barbara, California.


Take Me out to the Ball Game

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150It’s Spring Training in the MLB, and here in Santa Barbara, our PONY, Little League and high school baseball teams are ready to hear those two simple words that mean so much: “Play Ball!”

On the high school baseball field, as play begins, some prayers are answered, others cruelly ignored. It’s the place where hope stays alive, year after year as the individual players change jerseys and move on, but the team continues to play the game and carry on the rituals of the wonderful sport of baseball.

It’s the continuity, the tradition, the character instilled that really matters for the boys who arrive as untested freshman and who grow into disciplined young men by their senior year under the tutelage of a group of coaches who are solid as they come.

Year after year, our baseball players represent the values of teamwork, hard work, and good work—on the field and in the classroom. As the old saying goes, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” This is their time, their year to put it all together for their moment to shine brightly, to play for pride, for tradition, for the love of the game.

Play Ball!
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Above Photo: The 1915 Santa Barbara Dons baseball team. Their team motto: “Good Sportsmanship and Team Ball.”