The Santa Barbara County Courthouse has been rightly called the most beautiful public building in
and honestly there is no argument. You don’t have to know anything about
architecture to be in awe of this impressive building so make sure you bring
your camera. This is classic America and you need to see it when you visit.
Covering an entire block the courthouse is a stunning example of Spanish and
Moorish (Persian) design. William Mooser III designed this courthouse to
replace the earlier 1872 version built on the same site, a
Colonial-Jeffersonian looking thing with a massive domed copula and lots of
|The Sunken Gardens from the Clocktower|
But the 1926 earthquake changed the face of
forever. When the new
courthouse was completed in 1929 it was unlike anything in the city. Lush
grounds including the copious lawn and Sunken
Gardens (you’ll find lots of concerts and events happening here) lay the
foundation for the sandstone building with arabesque windows, archways, hand
painted wood ceilings, and walls with intricate designs, and pueblo tile inlays
nearly everywhere flashing brilliant colors and native designs. While you visit
make sure you look up - the hand painted ceilings and beams were done in a
style known as Dutch-Metal whereby paint was mixed with copper and zinc to
achieve what looks like gold inlay. Santa Barbara
Of particular note is the Mural Room, once used for the county board of supervisors for about 30 years. The huge room (40 feet wide by 70 feet long with 25 foot ceilings) is covered in a mural depicting the early Chumash Indians and following the history of the area towards
The Clocktower, known as El Mirador, is one of the tallest structures in the city, a mere 85 feet, but it is here where you will get the best views of downtown, the mountains and ocean from a downtown perspective. Take the elevator to the fourth floor. Once there, a dozen steps lead up and out to the platform. You’ll be thrilled at the red tile roofs splayed out in front of you on the nearby buildings, the Rivera where you can see the twin Mission towers, the Channel Islands, ever the tip of Ventura, and of course everything in between. There are placards describing points of interest at each direction so you can easily get your bearings. This is a must photo-op.
|From the Clocktower you can see the red tile roofs of Santa Barbara|
This is also still a functioning courthouse (I know this all too well as I served on jury duty here for three weeks, but in a crappy unadorned courtroom!). You don’t need the tour to appreciate the sheer beauty and craftsmanship of the building, but they will give you more specific information. Ironically, by Santa Barbara County’s current building codes and standards, the courthouse would never be approved and built today: it’s massing would be considered too great, it would violate the height ordinance of 60 feet, and there is no adequate parking. Fortunately it remains a jewel in
Santa Barbara and frankly, the best expression of what was
envisioned to be like in the late 1920s. Santa Barbara
|There are beautiful details everywhere|
The Courthouse is located at
1100 Anacapa St. (805/962-6464, www.sbcourts.org) and free docent tours are
conducted at 2 p.m. daily, except Sunday. Additional tours are at 10:30 a.m.
on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
WATCH my 2 Minute Travel video shot in the Clocktower here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeGaTqJ9AsI&feature=plcp