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The 1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake

In a related note to yesterday’s 90th anniversary of the great quake, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum is currently holding an exhibition about the 1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake for only a few more days – through Saturday, July 5th to be exact. Out of the rubble would come a new Santa Barbara with the headline, “Spanish Architecture to Rise from Ruins.” Santa Barbara Historical Museum, 136 East De la Guerra Street.

Boom! At dawn on June 29, 1925, our city shook with a 6.3 earthquake leaving much of downtown destroyed or heavily damaged.

The twin towers of Mission Santa Barbara collapsed, and eighty-five percent of the commercial buildings downtown were destroyed or badly damaged. A failed dam in the foothills released forty-five million gallons of water, and a gas company engineer became a hero when he shut off the city’s gas supply, and prevented fires like those that destroyed San Francisco twenty years earlier.


Walker Tompkins on the 1925 Earthquake

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.

SB EarthquakeDuring 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.”

Date in Santa Barbara History: The Great Quake

On June 29th, 1925, Santa Barbara was rocked by an earthquake…

sbmissMinor temblors were recorded as early as 3:30 am on the 29th, and they continued for three hours. Then, at at 6:44 AM, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city killing 13 people and destroying over 600 buildings.

The Wharf, Granada Theater and most homes survived in decent shape. However, much of the downtown region crumbled. Hotels collapsed, the Sheffield Dam cracked, and the Mission bell towers were wrecked, picture above. All in all, over $8 million of damage was done by the great quake of 1925.

PS: As noted in the History of the City, one of the catalysts for the architectural development of Santa Barbara was this earthquake which destroyed many commercial buildings in the business district, most of which were built of un-reinforced masonry.

EcoFacts: The Sun and Us

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

The sun marks our days, it brings us joy and beauty, gives us vitamin D, and in the last few decades, worry.

sunAlthough it is a primary source of all life, some of its radiation – UV, ultraviolet – can be harmful at high levels to many life forms (PDF). In the 70s it became understood that certain common chemicals (CFCs) were destroying the ozone layer, which absorbed some of this UV radiation. Regulations were enacted to slow and cease production of these, resulting in a gradual regeneration, in the last few decades, of this beneficial layer, although not to its previous levels.

UV radiation that is not absorbed in the atmosphere (including by ozone) is highest when the sun is high in the sky. When lower, the angle is more dramatic, the pathway longer and there is more atmosphere to absorb it. It is also increased by reflection, which occurs with snowy and sandy surfaces.

More vitamin D is produced when the sun is high in the summer months. For those who might enjoy nude sunbathing, it takes 1 minute of 100% body exposure for our bodies to produce sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. For the rest of us,10 minutes of 10% exposure suffices.

Incidence of cataracts have increased along with UV radiation, and, of course, skin cancers, which have increased dramatically in the last few decades because of the ozone layer, but not coincidentally also due to the tremendous rise in tanning salons over the same period. Those who use them have a much greater risk of getting skin cancer.

Next up: sunscreens.

Saturdays with Seibert: Painted Cave Fire

Local views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

I saw an article on Noozhawk about today being the twenty fifth anniversary of the Painted Cave fire.  Like everyone, I remember exactly where I was when it started.  At Brophy’s with my friend Bridgette.  We went there to escape the heat and have a drink, plus the chowder and salad.  While we sat at the bar we started seeing smoke drift by.  Looking up at the mountains we could see the flames racing down.  We finished our meal and walked out on the breakwater to watch the sailboats and the smoke flowing over the mesa.
Fast forward twenty five years and by coincidence my friend Bridgette was in town on Thursday and I joined her and her daughter at Brophy’s, followed by a walk out on the breakwater.  This time it was a thick marine layer rather than thick smoke.

Santa Barbara’s Painted Cave Fire: 25 Years Ago

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Painted Cave Fire in Santa Barbara. On June 27, 1990, at 6:02 p.m. a fire started up in the mountains near a place called Painted Cave. A long drought had made the brush very dry, and a several day heat wave was further drying up the area. Just as the sun was setting, strong winds began blowing the fire down the mountain towards town.

Two hours later the fire had done the impossible. It had traveled five miles downhill cutting a swath between Goleta and Santa Barbara setting afire entire neighborhoods in it’s path. The fire jumped the combination of Santa Barbara’s six-lane freeway and the two side roads, Calle Real and Hollister and continued burning down stores, restaurants, businesses, apartment buildings, and more houses on the other side. All roads between Santa Barbara and Goleta were blocked by the fire, it was impossible to get from one side to the other.

The Painted Cave Fire as seen from the corner of Constance and De La Vina
Entire neighborhoods were burning to the ground, hundreds of houses were lost as residents evacuated with little or no time to save any of their precious belongings. It appeared nothing but the Pacific Ocean itself was going to stop this fire. Finally, later that night, the winds died down and the fire was brought to a halt at the edge of Hope Ranch, about two miles from the ocean. Dawn broke the next morning on a very eerie sight. There was nothing but ashes where entire neighborhoods had stood the day before. 5000 acres, 440 houses, 28 apartment complexes, and 30 other structures were lost. There were still visible flames on the black burnt mountain range. The fire continued to burn in the mountains for several days before finally being extinguished.

Authorities say an incendiary device was found where the fire started — it was arson, and the arsonist has never been found. This continues to be one of the worst disasters ever in the history of Santa Barbara. - Description written by David Deley

20,000 Friends and Followers on Social Media

TW-5000_largeSanta Barbara View
continues to grow on social media, this month hitting big milestones of 15,000 likes on Facebook and another 5,000 friends on Twitter. Thank you Santa Barbara!
Our social platforms offer a different variety of real-time content, so, if you are not one of the 20,000 people who follow Santa Barbara View on social media, now is a good time to become part of our growing social community.

Milpas On the Move: Cops

By Sharon Byrne

sbpdDo you have a business or commercial property? Have you experienced prowlers, illegal camping or other problems? If so, the Santa Barbara Police Department can help. Just download a Police Authority Letter from the city’s website, fill it out, follow the instructions, and turn it in. This allows the police to come onto your property at night, if needed, to enforce law violations and make legal arrests. It can be a great tool if you’re not able to keep watch over your property at night, and are having any issues. Download the authority letter here: