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URBAN HIKE

Urban Hike: Holy Adventure
updated: Mar 26, 2011, 9:30 AM

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

What neighborhood can boast heavenly parks, inspirational homes, hellish traffic calming devices, rich California history anecdotes and an abundance of glorious religious institutions? The Upper Eastside of Santa Barbara of course.

On a continuing quest to walk each and every street within the city limits of Santa Barbara (256 "centerline miles" of them), the Urban Hikers forge ahead. 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 to document a special route that pays homage to a unique feature of the Upper East.

This neighborhood's motto could be "Basilica in Sulum Angulus".

Over the course of several hikes, we covered the streets between Constance to the north, State to the west, Carrillo to south and APS/Mission Canyon to the east. Now, before you get excited and accuse the Urban Hikers of stretching the official boundaries of the Upper East, cool yer jets for just a moment and listen up. We are first and foremost urban hikers, and secondly, we are citizen reporters. That means sometimes we make up our own rules. So for the sake of including all of the wonderful places of worship in this report, we felt obligated to fudge a little on what constitutes the Upper East. So for now, indulge us just a little as we traipse past 15 glorious places of worship and one little mural.

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We start our route at the most southern tip of this hike, which happens to be near the corner of Garden and E. Carrillo. Here we find the Spiritualist Church of the Comforter.

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This little church was established in 1890, and as far as we know, it's been in the same location ever since. According to their website, the role of the church is to "present and teach The Science, Philosophy and Religion of Spiritualism". The people who attend this church are referred to as "students" and they are taught "natural law", "the attributes of unconditional love" and "what the Golden Rule is really about: that true love and kindness are what bring love and kindness to you".

The Spiritualists believe they should be of service to others, that one gets back what one gives out, that "you will attract those persons and conditions to you who fit into the personality you show forth". In a nutshell, the Spiritualists at this church strive above all to practice "living in love and light" and they "try to share this aura with all around us".

Heading up Garden and east on Figueroa to Olive, we come to the beautifully manicured Greater Hope Missionary Baptist Church, which the cornerstone tells us was founded in 1963. (Prior to being a Baptist Church, it was home to Grace Lutheran, but that's another story).

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Since we didn't learn much about the history of this church either, we'll share what we found on their website about their faith.

"The name Baptist itself derives from the Anabaptists, a sect of Christianity which was most prominent in sixteenth century Europe, immediately after the Protestant Reformation. The Anabaptists believed that children should not be baptized by their parents, as being baptized is a personal profession of faith. Since children are too young to understand the implications of baptism, it should be a choice they make later in life. Modern Baptists also espouse this belief".

"Another interesting aspect of the Baptist faith is the belief each Baptist church should have autonomy both from government and from other religious organizations - even other Baptist churches. As a result, this common ground actually fosters small differences in Baptist communities, as all contact between the congregations is voluntary. Although there are national organizations to connect Baptists, they don't control individual Baptist communities - they exist merely to help the public understand what the Baptist church is all about and to facilitate communication".

We love this sweet little neighborhood church and admire the always perfectly maintained grounds.

Further up Garden Street, at the corner of Anapamu, is the very regal First United Methodist Church. The cornerstone tells us that the church held it's first service in 1854, that it was officially organized in 1867, and that the present building of the church was dedicated in 1924 (one year prior to the big earthquake here).

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With a little bit of sleuthing, we were able to determine that the Methodists were the first Protestants to conduct a sermon in Santa Barbara, and that the date was 1854. Prior to that occurrence, Santa Barbara was strictly Catholic, so it created quite a stir when a circuit minister, Reverend Adam Bland, gathered his congregation at the Aguirre Adobe (now the downtown location of RoboBank and the Little Town Club), and started to preach. Rumor has it that the Spanish were so annoyed by this turn of events that they herded their pigs to the windows of the adobe with hopes that the pigs' squeals would drown out the sermon.

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Also interesting, is that seven years after the church was officially organized by one Reverend Peter Cool (Peter is envious of his name...), a tornado blew through town and ripped the steeple and the belfry right off the church. If the squeals of the pigs couldn't deter the Methodists, a tornado certainly wouldn't either.

The next church on our journey eastward is Christ Presbyterian, which sits at the southwest corner of Santa Barbara and Victoria Streets.

This is the newest church on the Upper East, and also the one most central to the commercial part of town. In fact, we Urban Hikers recall with clarity when this building housed Korb's Trading Post, a clothing store with really groovy fashions.

We tried to gather information about this church, but finding no cornerstone and no official website, we really don't have much to offer in the way of historical or fun facts. Maybe an Edhead knows something interesting about Christ Presbyterian.

Next stop is Our Lady of Sorrows, which occupies the northwest corner at Sola and Anacapa Streets.

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We found tons of interesting information about this church, (thanks largely to local historians Neal Graffy and Walker A. Tompkins) and at the risk of seeming preferential (which we are NOT) we will share with you some of what we discovered.

In 1782, the Royal Presidio was established in Santa Barbara in an effort to protect the interests of the Spanish crown, safeguard the Spanish settlers and promote the conversion of the native peoples. While the Franciscans were busy building the Mission for use by the Chumash, the Spanish built the chapel at the Presidio for their own use. It was in fact, the last church founded by Father Junipero Serra, who decorated the church with artifacts from other Missions and locations, gave the first mass, and who, for all intents and purposes, ran the church. It was the Chapel at the Presidio that was to ultimately become Our Lady of Sorrows.

Fast forward to the year 1850, when California became a State. The Royal Presidio was in ruins, and so was the little chapel. So bad was it that mass was no longer being held there, and there was a campaign to build a new church for the parishioners.

In 1854, a cornerstone was placed, and a year later "Our Lady of Sorrows" was consecrated. Rumor has it that the new church took only about one year to build, using the labor of seminary students from a newly formed seminary college, the Apostolic College of Our Lady of Sorrows. The college was located near the corner of Figueroa and State, in a private home. Having been remodeled to include a chapel, the parishioners from the Presidio used the seminary chapel at Our Lady of Sorrows to hold their masses and other religious events, during the year that it took to construct their new adobe and tile roof church.

Less than a decade later in 1865, a fire destroyed the newly built Our Lady of Sorrows Church, and the parishioners were forced to use the old Aguirre Adobe (on the northwest corner of Carrillo and Anacapa streets) as a temporary church. This same adobe was already being used by the Methodists and the Congregationalists during that time period. By 1866, sufficient funds had been found to build a new church and the work got underway in a big hurry. We can't help but wonder if the speed in which the new church was completed had something to do with the hodgepodge of religious activity that was going on at the time down at the Aguirre Adobe with the Methodists, Congregationalists and Catholics all under one red tile roof.

With the completion of their new building, Our Lady of Sorrows moved out of the Aguirre Adobe and into the first official church of the same name. The parishioners enjoyed their humble little church until around 1885. With grand Protestant churches springing up all over the Upper East, some Catholics felt compelled to spruce up their house of worship. And so, in 1885, and again in 1904, the church was remodeled and upgraded. In June 1925, when the earthquake hit Santa Barbara, the church was completely destroyed, and once again parishioners were without a building for their church.

In 1928, the property at the corner of Sola and Anacapa Streets was purchased and a new church was built. Today, the church sits at this location. Its distinctive beauty is admired by devout parishioners, tourists, historians and urban hikers alike.

As an interesting note: We attempted to confirm an account of reports that when Captain George Vancouver stopped in Santa Barbara in November of 1793, he left 2 mirrors and possibly other decorations at the Royal Presidio in exchange for Chumash artifacts which he took back with him to England. Rumor has it that the items left by Vancouver belong to Our Lady of Sorrows, and are located somewhere within the church. While we couldn't find these artifacts or anyone who could confirm the truth of the story, we do know that Vancouver lifted some pretty nice (and very rare) Chumash artifacts during his stopover here. Several of these artifacts are now housed in the British Museum. When we visited the museum a year or so ago, we visited the room in which the artifacts are displayed, and took photos of the basket bowls, the Padre's hat, and the bow and arrows.

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Michael Hardwick wrote about these Chumash relics, so if you Google the subject you can read more.

Moving on, we come to Trinity Episcopal, which is presently located at the corner of State and Micheltorena Streets.

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This beautiful sandstone church always makes us feel like we are a continent away from home...Like many of the other churches on the Upper East, this location is not the first for the congregation of Trinity Episcopal. In fact, it has been in a total of four locations in Santa Barbara.

As the story goes, in 1867 a group of Episcopalian women in the Trinity Ladies League had a series of bazaars with the intention of raising capital to build their own church. They amassed $600, and were soon thereafter the recipients of a piece of property, donated by Dr. Sam Brinkerhoff, on which the church was to be built. By Christmas Day 1869, the church was dedicated in the location of what is now the Staple's parking lot. In 1888, a new church was built in the location that is now the public library, but after a fire in December 1903, the church members were forced to move to a new building, this one at the corner of Sola and State Streets. Nine years later, the church moved one block north to its present location at the corner of State and Micheltorena.

Further east, we find ourselves on the doorstep of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara. The cornerstone there tells us that the church was established in 1872, and erected in this location in 1930. The architect of this grand building was E. Keith Lockard.

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The Unitarian Society website tells us that Unitarians are "a vibrant and welcoming community dedicated to the search for truth and meaning". They draw their daily inspiration from philosophies, religions, arts and sciences, and work to promote justice, tolerance, and love. The Unitarians invite people to join them in the search for truth and meaning.

Just across from Alice Keck Park Park on Arrellaga is the Unity Church.

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Unity's website explains that they are often mistaken for Unitarians, but in fact they worship differently, and hold different beliefs. Like the Unitarians, the worshipers at Unity value humanity, strive to promote love and caring, and generally want to leave the world a better place than they found it.

We tried to find historical information about the Santa Barbara Unity Church, but were unsuccessful. We couldn't locate a cornerstone, so we can't give you any specific dates...but there is one thing we do know - we love the Mid Century marvelous brick architecture of this building!

The First Church of Christ Scientist, commonly known as the Christian Science Church is located on Santa Barbara Street at Valerio.

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The Christian Scientist Church was established in 1882 in Santa Barbara, and held its first services in a private home in 1892. In 1895, its first public services were held in a meeting hall at the corner of Carrillo and Chapala Streets.

In 1900, the church, made up of 16 members, was formally organized. The first church they purchased was located at 1228 State Street, roughly the location of what is now the Saigon Restaurant, but when the noise and haste of the city began to interfere with the tranquility of the church activities, the members decided to move. And so began the search for a new location off State Street. When no acceptable replacement was found, the church members agreed to simply move their church to a new location and enlarge the building to accommodate the congregation. And so, in 1910, the little church was dragged up the street and eastward to the southwest corner of Micheltorena and Anacapa, where the additions were made. Last week, our post included photos of the old church and its present day occupants. Our local historian, Neal Graffy confirmed our suspicions about the church...But alas, in the early 1930's, again the congregation outgrew their building so in 1932 they moved to what is now their exquisite church at the corner of Santa Barbara and Arrellaga Streets.

Straight up Santa Barbara Street at Los Olivos, on the southwest corner, we come to the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church), referred to by many as the Mormon Church.

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The church was originally founded by Joseph Smith in the 1830s and 1840s, and Brigham Young after Mr. Smith's death. LDS Church uses and teaches from the Bible, as well as other religious texts, including the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. The church's use of the Book of Mormon led those outside the faith began to refer to church members as Mormons. Once a pejorative term, it is no longer considered negative or inappropriate, and is often substituted for the church's more formal and longer name. Mormonism is also wholly American, having been born out West during the same time period that the Spanish were building the Missions of California. In fact, there are accounts of young Mormon men who were sent to Santa Barbara in the early days to help protect those who had come to establish the mission and promote Christianity here. Lastly, it's important to point out that while once popular in the mainstream LDS Church, the practice of plural marriage was discontinued around the turn of the 20th century. A few sects still practice this tradition; however it is not a part of the local church's doctrine.

Across Santa Barbara Street, as you look toward the mountains, on the northwest corner of Santa Barbara and Los Olivos, is a little mural that was recently featured in March Edness - the Prayer for Peace. The plaque is located on the perimeter of the Poor Clare's Convent. So sweet is the little tile mural that we are designating it as a "location" unto itself.

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East on Los Olivos, half a block up is the Poor Clares Convent. Founded by Franciscans in 1212, the order was formally established in Santa Barbara at its present location in 1928.

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The nuns who live at the convent follow a "Colettine Observance" which requires them to practice a lifestyle with strict observances of obedience, poverty and chastity. As such, they are required to observe: bare feet, mendicancy (a simple existence depending on alms for a living); perpetual fasting; a strict enclosure; traditional habit; midnight rising for the Liturgy of the Hours. Essentially, the Poor Clares see themselves as "the spouse of the word". If you are interested in knowing more about the Poor Clares of Santa Barbara you are in luck, because they have a video entitled "Hidden Mystery of the Poor Clares of Santa Barbara" on You Tube.

Farther east on Los Olivos, at Laguna Street is the Queen of the Missions, also known as The Old Santa Barbara Mission.

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We hear that when completed in 1820, the mission was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. At that time it had only one tower, but later the second one was added during 1831-1833. There is so much history and wonderment surrounding our mission that we don't dare start to discuss its history in detail... Instead we endeavor to tell you something you may not have known heretofore. And that is, sometime in the late 1930's (we think it was 1937) the padres got themselves a swimming pool, and the Queen of the Missions had the distinction of being the only California Mission with a pool. We are guessing that somewhere along the line, the powers that be decided that the other missions would be well advised to forgo such a similar luxury... because the pool could, in all probability become "habit forming". Sorry.

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Eastward on Los Olivos, just about where APS, Los Olivos and Mission Canyon converge, sits the St. Mary's Retreat House.

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Because it is adjacent to the Mission, many people mistakenly believe St. Mary's to be Catholic; in fact, it's operated by the Episcopal Order of the Sisters of the Holy Nativity, and "is open to all Christian men and women every day for quiet retreat and spiritual reflection".

St. Anthony's Seminary is up a drive just next to the one leading to St. Mary's, and it also has two entrances on Garden Street.

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Once a Catholic seminary for boys, this beautiful property has more recently served as a campus for several local private schools. Sadly, it is probably best known for it's infamous past with wayward priests...but we prefer to think of it as the perfect place for neighborhood children and their parents to test their new toys, gadgets and sports equipment on Christmas morning.

Heading west out one of the Garden Street driveways of St. Anthony's, if you turn right, you will come to Constance Ave. Our next church, First Presbyterian, is now at the corner of State and Constance where it occupies a large scenic location.

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The history of the Presbyterians in Santa Barbara dates back to the 1860‘s, and includes a number of moves. The first Presbyterians who lived in Santa Barbara worshiped with the Congregationalists at the Aguirre Adobe, mainly because they more closely shared their religious views than they did those of the other local Protestants, the Methodists and the Episcopalians. But after three years at the Aguirre, in 1869, nineteen members of the church formed their own church, calling it the First Presbyterian Church. They held their own services at the Ruiz Adobe, a home located on Chapala and Ortega across from what is now Nordstrom's. In a series of several accommodations and moves, the Presbyterians held services in a schoolhouse on Cota and Anacapa, in an open air meeting place in the "Chinese quarter", aboard large ships as they arrived into harbor, and at a little chapel at De La Vina and Ortega Streets. By 1875, the congregation had raised the capital and built a magnificent church with a 130-foot spire at 1100 State, home of La Arcada today. That church served until 1918, when a newer, larger one was built in the 1st block of East Anapamu Street, across from what is modernly the public library. Ultimately, the congregation became quite large, and on top of that, the City was eyeing their land for a giant parking lot (which was ultimately built). So once again, in the late 1960's, the church was in need of new home. As a result, in 1973, the present day location at Constance and Santa Barbara was dedicated as the new First Presbyterian Church.

Our last stop on this holy adventure brings us to First Congregational Church. The present day home of this very historic local church is the northwest corner of State and Padre Streets.

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Like most of the other Protestant churches in Santa Barbara, the First Congregationalists' early beginnings were in the Aguirre Adobe, where in 1866, sixteen members formed the congregation. The first church the Congregationalists built was located at the northwest corner of Santa Barbara and Ortega Streets, home of the present-day Unemployment Office. The church was completed in 1870, and was owned free and clear by the parishioners, which by then had grown to a total of 20. In the late 1880's, the congregation was too large for its new church and an even larger one was built on Anacapa Street between Figueroa and Anapamu, near our public library. The congregation continued to grow at such an incredible pace that by the late 1890's, the Congregationalists were once again looking to expand their church. By 1907, they had erected a new, and larger building at the very tony corner of State and Sola, across from the Arlington Hotel. That church served the Congregationalists until they moved into an even larger and more permanent location in 1928.

The urban hikers wish you all a very happy spring and joy in all the celebrations that accompany the season. As always, we encourage you to hike the streets of our town, explore its hidden treasures and above all, expect the unexpected.

 

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