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Casa de la Guerra

Casa de la Guerra over time - circa 1828, 1880, 1911, and today.

A Californio Family's
Home Becomes a
Community Legacy
Casa de la Guerra is one of the most important remnants of Santa Barbara's Spanish-Mexican heritage, along with El Presidio de Santa Bárbara (1782) and Mission Santa Barbara (1786). It has been at the heart of Santa Barbara's history since its construction (1819-1827) by the fifth Presidio comandante, José de la Guerra. Among Santa Barbara's wealthiest and most influential citizens, the Spanish-born Don José stood out as the patriarchal figure to whom the entire community looked for protection and assistance. The Casa de la Guerra, or casa grande, was the social, political, and cultural center of the pueblo of Santa Barbara. That legacy survived with the political activity of de la Guerra's son Pablo during the early years of California's statehood. Don Pablo served as a state senator and as lieutenant governor of the state. Prior to statehood he was a local judge. Descendants of the family remain prominent in Santa Barbara County and in other areas of California.

"The bride's father's house was the principal one in the place, with a large court in front, upon which a tent was built, capable of containing several hundred people. ...for on these occasions no invitations are given, but every one is expected to come..."

~ Richard Henry Dana describes the wedding reception held at Casa de la Guerra in 1836 for Alfred Robinson and Ana María Antonia de la Guerra in his best-selling book Two Years Before the Mast.

Built during a time when the average residence was a one or two-room adobe with perhaps a small attached wooden lean-to, the Casa de la Guerra was an example of an unusual, affluent home type. It was remodeled from time to time to fit changing family needs and the prevailing style of the period. The house played an important role in the civic and social life of Santa Barbara well into the twentieth century. Gala celebrations were held for family weddings and government emissaries visits. In 1874 the first City Hall was constructed opposite the Casa in Plaza de la Guerra. In 1922-23 the El Paseo complex was designed and built around the Casa after its purchase by Bernhard Hoffmann. When the first modern Old Spanish Days Fiesta was held in 1924, parties and teas in honor of members of the early families were held at Casa de la Guerra. Following the devastating June 29, 1925, earthquake in Santa Barbara, the Casa and El Paseo served as models for rebuilding parts of the downtown. Both sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

de la Guerra family
The de la Guerra family on the Casa porch during Santa Barbara's first Old Spanish Days Fiesta celebration. Image courtesy of Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

Since 1990, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) has been conducting exhaustive research to determine the structural history of the Casa, with particular emphasis on its original configuration. As information is compiled and verified, the Casa is being returned to its appearance during the time José de la Guerra resided there, between 1828 and 1858. Whenever possible, historic fabric is protected in the restoration process, and materials and building methods similar to those originally used are employed. Some original furnishings have been returned to the rooms. Casa de la Guerra is a City Landmark, a California Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, SBTHP operates the adobe home as a museum featuring original furnishings, a history of the de la Guerra family, and rotating exhibits. An iconic monument to Santa Barbara's Hispanic heritage, the Casa is still the site for numerous civic celebrations and special events throughout the year.

Plan Your Visit

Location: 15 East De la Guerra Street, Santa Barbara, CA (Half a block off State Street)
compassDriving Directions
Hours: Friday - Sunday, Noon to 4:00 PM (Closed for major holidays)
Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors (62+), Free/SBTHP members and children 16 & under
(Includes admission to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park)
Tours: Guided tours call SBTHP at (805) 965-0093
Museum Shop: Featuring a unique selection of books and gift items
Before You Visit: View the Casa de la Guerra Visitors' Guide (English) or (Spanish) small pdf(pdf)

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El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park • Casa de la Guerra • Santa Inés Mission Mills • Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens
123 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 • (805) 965-0093 • FAX (805) 568-1999 •
© 2010 Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. A 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. JAB Design