To experience Santa Barbara architecture in all its glory, there’s nothing like strolling through town with an expert by your side to point out the rich history and international artistic influences that aren’t readily visible to the untrained eye.
Every weekend, trained docents from Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (www.afsb.org/tours_m.html, 805/965-6307) take both locals and tourists on walking journeys through the hidden courtyards, secret fountains and original adobes of downtown, focusing on architectural styles, significant and historic buildings, aesthetics and landscape history, as well as details like handmade tiles, wrought iron, stonework, balconies, doorways, archways and plantings.
The Sabado (Saturday) Tour starts in front of city hall and takes guests on a tour of De la Guerra Plaza, historic De la Guerra Adobe, El Paseo, Hill-Carrillo Adobe, Meridian Studios, Lobero Theatre and more. The Domingo (Sunday) Tour, which starts at the Central Library, focuses on historic art and architecture of downtown Santa Barbara as it was reborn after the 1925 earthquake, including the library and its famous murals, La Arcada Court, the historic Arlington, The Granada and other architectural delights. You’ll also learn about Santa Barbara’s architectural history and how the Women’s League and Pearl Chase forced us to maintain architectural integrity, beautiful public park spaces and rich landscapes. Both tours start at 10 a.m. and last about 1-1 /2 hours. The foundation asks for a $10 donation per person, and proceeds go toward scholarships and other community programs.
Walking Wednesdays with Santa Barbara Walks is a clever new way to get some after-work exercise and experience the beauty of our local environment. The group, which is a project of COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation, 805/875-3562), meets at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of every month and features a different theme and location each time. One walk included a tour through the upper eastside with architect Anthony Grumbine of Harrison Design Associates, beginning with a walkthrough of the historic Winsor Soule Hodges Residence (currently The Fielding Institute), a 1920s Spanish colonial revival estate, which was once the most expensive home built in Santa Barbara. The expedition also journeyed through a wonderful variety of architecture styles, including a Francis Underhill stripped classicism design, a Richard Neutra mid-century modern, French Norman and Dutch colonial, as well as the many architectural hybrids. Previous walks included an art walk with Ellen Durham, an architectural tour of El Andaluz with Jeff Shelton, trees of Santa Barbara with Bob Muller and a historical tour with Brian Hofer. Walking Wednesdays are free; visit www.coastsantabarbara.org/category/santa-barbarawalks/ for information on monthly locations and themes.