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URBAN HIKE

From the Bottom of Anacapa to Constance
updated: Mar 19, 2011, 9:45 AM

By the Santa Barbara Urban Hikers, Peter Hartmann and Stacey Wright

We urban hikers continue our quest of walking each and every street within the city limits of Santa Barbara. All 256 "centerline miles" of them to be exact. And so, with the thoroughness of a window washer, the inquisitiveness of a 5-year old, and the dedication of an Edhat staffer, we hit the streets and took a "specialty hike" that involved hiking down the up and up the down.

Specifically, we hiked down Santa Barbara Street from Constance Avenue to the freeway and then back up Anacapa Street to Constance Avenue. Last week, we told you about our outbound adventure, so today we chronicle the second half of our thrilling trek.

For those of you who may not have read last week's post, we'll reiterate a little confession and a promise. The confession is that yes, we urban hikers are a teeny tiny bit partial to the Upper East/Downtown neighborhoods of our town. We've both spent a lot of time living in, working in and exploring these areas, and we especially love the history, memories, and lore of these parts of town. We've taken a bunch of photos and while we've done a little research, but by no means are we serious historians - we leave the heavy lifting to the professionals... We try to give correct information, but admit that on rare occasion we are swept away by the folk lore, faulty memories, and just plain romanticism that accompanies us on all of our urban hikes...Today we bring you "Up the Down", after last weeks, "Down the Up"; and next week, we will dedicate our report to telling you about the 15 religious institutions that are clustered within an area of the Upper East/Downtown. Without further ado, we bring you Anacapa Street North of the 101.

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At the beginning of our urban hike, we took a looked up Anacapa and thought it looked like a pretty long haul back to our starting point. But, as with our downhill trek, the walk up Anacapa, although against the grain, was a piece of cake.

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The first cool landmark we came to was the old Craviotto Brothers shop at the corner of Anacapa and Ortega. This building is lovely, probably because it looks to us very much as it always has, and although we like change and progress, we also are sometimes a little nostalgic. We also like the fact that real productivity - as in people making useful stuff - is occurring right downtown. Today the Craviotto Brothers no longer run the shop, but ironically, three brothers from an entirely differently family replaced the two Craviotto Bros, after the shop closed in 2000 and looked like it was destined to razed. Now it operates as Santa Barbara Forge and Iron Works.

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Just up the street, on the corner of Anacapa and Cota, is the Paradise Cafe. Of course we like the Paradise well enough, and always enjoy a little dinner on the patio on a summer's eve...but what we especially love are the murals, one inside and one outside, that remain from the years that the restaurant was La Paloma Cafe. As much as we wanted to go inside and take a photo of the mural above the bar, we thought that as purists, we'd better stick to the curbside attractions...so your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to go into the bar and have a look at that mural yourselves...and maybe enjoy a refreshment while you're at it... and while there, consider this: When the new owners bought the place back in 1981, there was a old neon sign out front. At that time, the bureaucrats of the city were campaigning to rid the town of neon. We hear, that in an effort to save the neon, and keep the part of the original sign that said "CAFE", the owners selected the name PARADISE because, like LA PALOMA, it had 8 letters and could be substituted into the signage...and if that story ain't true, it oughta be.

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Just up Anacapa from the Paradise, at 710, is the sweetest little old house with the brightest little orange door that we know of. On this day, a gentleman, Roberto Jasso, was sitting outside watching the world go by. We asked him if we could take his photo and he very kindly obliged, telling us that his friend owns the house, and that he, Roberto, has been a resident of Santa Barbara for 20 years. He looked so content, that we doubt he plans on going anyplace very soon. We googled the address and found out that the house is called the Myer's Cottage, and it was added to the list of Potentially Historic Structures in Santa Barbara.

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At 726 Anacapa Street is another unique building that harkens back to a different era in Santa Barbara. Now the home of Architectural Salvage, and a bunch of other really interesting shops/studios down the driveway, this is a really great place to buy building supplies with character. Long before recycling became fashionable, or even a word for that matter, the thrifty folks of Santa Barbara were here searching for just the right thing to complete that home repair project...

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On the other side of the street at 735 Anacapa, is City Hall. We like this view of it better than the view from De la Guerra Plaza...maybe because if we ever decide we want to fight it, it seems a little punier from this perspective...well, actually, we include this angle, because this is what we see when we walk up Anacapa, and of course, that's the route of today's urban hike. City Hall was built in 1924. In 1900, when the SBPD was first established, they must have just worked out of the chief's house - there was one chief and two officers on the force. But then in 1924, the Department moved into the basement of the newly built City Hall, where it remained until it moved to Figueroa Street in 1960.

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Across De La Guerra Street is El Paseo. It was built in 1922-1923, and shortly thereafter hosted its first Old Spanish Days Fiesta. Fiestas had been held in Montecito, but as far as we know, this was the first of the Old Spanish Days celebrations. It also hosted many a sleepover for Stacey back in elementary school, when her best friend lived in the upstairs apartment. Those were some ragin' days for sure...ultimately, the family who owned the El Paseo very generously donated the property.

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Across the street from the El Paseo is the Downtown Post Office. We love this stately old building, and can both recall many times as children walking into what seemed like such a serious place with our mothers, who were undoubtedly conducting very serious business. The Post Office was built here in1936 following the destruction of the old Post Office during the 1925 earthquake, which had been located at what is now the Santa Barbara Art Museum.

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Across Anacapa Street on the northeast corner of Anacapa and Canon Perdido, is the Lobero Theatre. Originally built in 1872 by Jose Lobero as an adobe opera house, the theater was re-opened as a community playhouse in 1924, having been designed by George Washington Smith. We especially love the big blank wall of the theater that can normally be seen as you travel down Anacapa...so we looked over our shoulders to enjoy it as we walked up the street.

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Just up Anacapa, and across the street from the Lobero Theatre, is a very modest little building that is one of the oldest brick buildings in Santa Barbara. The Cota-Knox House, located at 914 Anacapa was built in 1871 by Jose Lobero for his mother-in-law, Sra. Cota, and later acquired by Dr. Knox. In 2006, it was designated as an official City Landmark - we're not sure if it's because it's built of old brick, because Sr. Lobero built it, or because after the 1925 earthquake, Pearl Chase's Plans and Planting Committee, the precursor to the Citizens Planning Association had their offices there.

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Next door, and up Anacapa from the Cota-Knox House is the Lobero Building, these days home to a lot of different offices. This building, built in 1926, and designed by Julia Morgan (the same architect who designed Hearst Castle) was built as a community effort lead by Caroline Hazard and Pearl Chase, as a tribute to Margaret Baylor, the social worker from Cincinnati who had, 14 years earlier, worked to establish what is still the Recreation Center at the corner of Anacapa and Carrillo Streets. The building, originally called The Margaret Baylor Inn, and later the Lobero Hotel, was the brain child of Miss Baylor who, in 1910 was concerned that the young ladies of Santa Barbara, and especially the young women travelers, might not have the most wholesome environment in which to find respite and relaxation. Unfortunately, she died before reaching her goal, but the other women carried on and did just that, opening an inn that offered "respectable" girls and women clean, comfortable lodging at an affordable price.

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Next door to the Lobero Building is the Cabrillo Rec Center. The center, which had a gym, dance hall, auditorium, ballroom, employment agency and upstairs apartments, operated privately from 1914, until the City of Santa Barbara purchased it in 1944, and turned it into a center for youth, seniors and everyone in between. We heard that just after the 1925 earthquake, women prisoners were moved to the Recreation Center where they were housed temporarily until repairs could be made to the jail

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The next location on the way up Anacapa with historical significance is so special that we must include it, despite the fact that it is now a modern-day bank with a really strange name. The spot, at the corner of Anacapa and Carrillo was arguably once the center of the universe for locals, as it was home of the Aguirre Adobe. Next week, when we detail some of the local religious institutions, we will be discussing the Aguirre Adobe again, so for now, we'll just give a few brief facts. The adobe, a huge 19-room place built around a courtyard was built in 1841by Don Jose Antonio Aguirre, as his residence. One of the first non-residential concerns to occupy the adobe was Sr. Aguirre's store, which utilized a small area off the courtyard. Between 1841 and the 1886, when the adobe was torn down, it was used for a number of things: In 1847, it was used as American officer's quarters; in the 1850's, it was used as the first County Courthouse, Elections Office, Post Office, meeting hall, Methodist Church, First Congregational Church, school for orphans and rehearsal spot for Jose Lobero's orchestra. In the 1860's, it's uses were expanded to include those of Catholic Church and temporary home of the local sheriff. In 1872, on two consecutive nights, arsonists tried to burn down the adobe but failed. By 1886, the adobe was in such poor shape that it was leveled. Apparently, way back in 1847 when the soldiers took it over, they planted their flag in the central drain of the courtyard and so damaged the drain that it never worked properly again. As a result, the adobe was prone to constant flooding thereafter, and the damage that resulted was ongoing and irreversible. In 1915, a group of local ladies opened the Little Town Club on part the property that had been the Aguirre Adobe, and it is still in existence today, after a remodel by George Washington Smith in 1923. We didn't take a picture of the club because it's not on Anacapa, but we think it's definitely worth a look. It's located on Carrillo Street, next to the bank..

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Walking up Anacapa we come to the Public Library, which was built in 1917. As children, we spent many hours in the quaint children's area, which was later moved to a more modern and more visible location in the library. We can recall that back then, before computers, and when we were sort of tucked out of the way on the lower level, things were very, very, very quiet in the children's section of the library. That is definitely not the case today…

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Once again, we get to show you a photo of the Courthouse and brag about how wonderful it is. Hands down, this is our favorite architectural destination in all of Santa Barbara County. Most locals already know that it was not the first courthouse in Santa Barbara, and that it was built after the 1925 earthquake destroyed its predecessor. But we're here to tell you even a little bit more history about our courthouse and its humble beginnings; remember the Aguirre Adobe? That was the first location of the SB Courthouse, a few blocks south of its present location on Anacapa Street. It was at the Aguirre between1850 and 1853, until it was moved to the nearby Cota Adobe, and then in 1856, it was moved up Anacapa into the Kays Adobe, located on the property of the present day courthouse. The Kays Adobe served as the courthouse until a newer larger one was built on the property by 1874. Following the earthquake in 1925, the new and improved SB County Courthouse was built in all its glory for a price tag of about $1.5 million.

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On the corner of Anacapa and Victoria Streets, is a little Italian restaurant that does a brisk dinner business every night of the week. We don't eat there that often, mainly because we have a few other favorite spots just around the corners…but we do recall the days when we would jump for joy at the thought of busting through those doors…that was back in the day when the place was a little toy store called Dana's Toy Town…the owner, Dana, of course, smoked a pipe and scowled at all the children who's grubby little fingers sorted through the wall of drawers that held trinkets & treasures, and who spent way too long agonizing over which marbles or trading cards or kite or model or balsa wood airplane or….to buy. We like Italian restaurants, but we sure do miss Dana's Toy Town.

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At 1376 Anacapa Street, which is at the northeast corner of Anacapa and Sola, sits this lovely Victorian. Since it's across the street from Our Lady of Sorrows Church and across the other street from Alameda Park, it's possible it doesn't get the attention it deserves. We love this old house and included it just for its sheer grace and beauty. We tried to find out a little historical information to pass along, but we were completely unsuccessful. Does anyone out there know anything about the history of this place?

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In the next block of Anacapa Street, heading uptown, we came across something of a little mystery. Having been in the process of researching next week's report on local churches in the area, we urban hikers are somewhat familiar with a few the original churches in Santa Barbara. And as we came upon the building at 1435 Anacapa - it sits at the northeast corner of Anacapa and Micheltorena - we puzzled about whether or not it could be the same building that once housed the Christian Scientist Church. If so, it would have had to have been moved. But churches (and other buildings) often were. We are still working to get to the bottom of this one, but for now, we give you these photos and let you be the judge. One is of the Christian Scientist Church from 1902; the other is of 1435 Anacapa, occupied by Sabrient Systems, an "independent equity research firm". Does anybody out there have a clue what "sabrient" means?

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In the 1600 block of Anacapa sits the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission. We wondered if the Film business was an afterthought.

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At Mission Street, Anacapa becomes two-way again for us wrong-way walkers. No longer were we swimming upstream.

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The Upper East has numerous examples of hitching posts remaining from the days when the fine people of our town rode horses and drove buggies and carriages. We found this old Victorian home with two remaining posts out front that look to be in pretty good shape. The house was built in 1888, and is called the Hall Cottage/Park Residence. We think it's a pretty good sized "cottage" and are wondering if it was once the home of Alice Keck Park, considering that it's located so close to the property she donated for the "Park Park". Lastly, we like this house because it reminds us of our very early childhoods running barefoot, unsupervised and unafraid through the neighborhoods of the Upper East without a care in the world…probably daydreaming of a hike to Dana's Toy Town.

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Our final photo of this amazing adventure "down the up and up the down" is of a house so lovely that it reminds us of a very large dollhouse. Officially called the Stewart Residence, it's located at 2024 Anacapa Street and, like the Hall Cottage/Park Residence, was built in 1888, and was also added to the list of Potential Historic Structures in 1986. Today it's home to several tenants, but we hear that in the olden days, it was used as a school for girls. We suspect that this occurred sometime after the Stewarts packed up and moved on. Are there any history buffs out there who know more about this special Upper East home?

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Although we have walked parts of Anacapa Street dozens of times, on this hike these urban hikers, with eyes wide open, saw sights they had never seen before, and relished them with utter enthusiasm. And so, as always, we encourage you to go out into the world, hike the streets of our town and above all, expect the unexpected.

Neal Graffy updated this weekend's Urban Hike piece about Anacapa Street with some additional historic insight and photographs. [pics] (03/21/11)
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