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El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park

El PresidioFounded April 21, 1782, the Santa Barbara Royal Presidio was the last in a chain of four military fortresses built by the Spanish along the coast of Alta California, then a wilderness frontier. Others had been established at San Diego, San Francisco and Monterey. Padre Junípero Serra, well known for his leadership in founding the California missions, blessed the site of the Santa Barbara Presidio four years prior to the establishment of the Mission of Santa Barbara in 1786. El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park encompasses much of the original Presidio site and is located in modern downtown Santa Barbara at the intersection of Santa Barbara and East Canon Perdido Streets.

The presidios played a vital role in the occupation of New Spain. They protected the missions and settlers against attack, provided a seat of government, and guarded the country against foreign invasion. The Santa Barbara Presidio was both military headquarters and governmental center of the entire region extending from the southern limits of present day San Luis Obispo County to and including the Pueblo of Los Angeles.

Northeast Corner El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park
Northeast Corner of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park

The whitewashed buildings were constructed of sun-dried adobe bricks laid upon foundations of sandstone boulders. Timbers from Los Padres forest supported roofs of red tile. The buildings of the Presidio formed a quadrangle enclosing a central parade ground, the whole surrounded by an outer defense wall with two cannon bastions. The most prominent structure was the Chapel, Santa Barbara's first church for its townspeople. The Christianized Indian population worshipped at the mission.

The first Comandante of the new Presidio was Lt. José Francisco de Ortega. He was succeeded in 1784 by Lt. Felipe de Goicoechea, who supervised construction of the fortifications and living quarters for the soldiers and their families and remained in command until 1802.

Today, only two sections of the original Presidio quadrangle remain, and both are within the State Park: El Cuartel, the family residence of the soldier assigned to guard the western gate into the Plaza de Armas, and the Canedo Adobe, named after the Presidio soldier to whom it was deeded when the Presidio became inactive.

The Buenaventura Pico adobe with its steeply gabled roof and cedar shingles is an example of the American influence and transition between Mexican and American style adobe construction. Santiago de la Cruz Pico arrived in California with the 1776 Anza Expedition. Santiago's grandson Buenaventura and his wife Anita lived there in 1850.

The most recent addition to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is the Rochín adobe.The Rochín adobe is an example of an American period adobe built in 1856 by José María Rochín. His wife, Lorenza Ordaz de Rochín, was a descendent of Francisco Ortega, the first Comandante of the presidio. The addition of the Rochín adobe (1856) to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is a nice compliment to the Spanish period Presidio adobes (1780s) and Buenaventura Pico adobe.

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El Cuartel Canedo Adobe Buenaventura Pico Adobe Rochín Adobe

Plan Your Visit

Presidio verticalLocation: 123 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, CA
(A block off State Street, corner of East Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara Streets)
compassDriving Directions
: Daily, 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM, closed for major holidays
Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors (62+), Free/SBTHP members and children 16 & under (Includes admission to Casa de la Guerra, Saturday - Sunday)
Tours: To arrange a guided tour or for more information contact SBTHP at (805) 965-0093
Museum Shop:
Featuring a unique selection of books and gift items
Before You Visit:
View El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP Visitors' Guide small pdf(.pdf)

California State Parks

California State ParksThe Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) enjoys a unique partnership with the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation. Preservation activist and leading citizen Pearl Chase, founder of SBTHP, recognized early on that harnessing the power of State Parks would speed the reconstruction of El Presidio, and would provide the kinds of resources the fledgling SBTHP needed in its efforts to restore and rebuild the birthplace of Santa Barbara. In 1966 El Presidio became a State Historic Park and a series of multi-year agreements between the two parties led to the passage in 1988 by the California State Legislature of formal enabling legislation authorizing the Department to enter into an operating agreement with SBTHP. During this time period, in addition to staffing and maintaining the Park, SBTHP has raised funds for and carried out numerous projects—including major archaeological excavations, historical reconstructions, museum installations and ongoing education programs for the benefit of the citizens of California and visitors to the Park from throughout the world. SBTHP and State Parks look forward to many more years of symbiotic association.

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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