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URBAN HIKE

The Fabulous Funk Zone - Part II
updated: Jun 18, 2011, 9:45 AM

By Stacey Wright & Peter Hartmann

This week we continued our quest to walk all 256 miles of public streets within the city limits of Santa Barbara. Today we continue our report on our adventures in Santa Barbara's incredible Funk Zone. Like Part I of our story, all of the work, play, shenanigans and genius we tell you about in Part II take place in the few blocks between Cabrillo Boulevard & the freeway and State Street and Garden Street .

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As mentioned last week, this "hike" was actually comprised of several hikes - not because it was strenuous or covered a vast area, but because it is so rich, wild and wonderful that we kept returning for more.

At one time, this part of town was simply known as being a part of "Santa Barbara Old Town". We wanted to answer the question of how, why and by whom the Funk Zone became known as such, and in our quest, asked several people and consulted several historical authorities. Sadly, we cannot answer that question with any degree of certainty - but we can tell you what we learned.

There seems to be a consensus that the name of this neighborhood was changed in the mid-1980‘s or early 1990‘s. Having become a bohemian haven for artists and artisans, musicians, craftspeople, and a variety of commercial businesses, the area attracted those in search of an "alternative" lifestyle to the ones offered in other parts of town. Looser, hipper, and more iconoclastic, the people who gravitated to this area of town seemed to value the "joie de vivre", and tried to incorporate it into what they were doing to earn a living. In other words, many lived a holistic life that balanced work, play, creativity, community and the desire to keep things as they are. We've heard that a woman first uttered the words "The Funk Zone " during a town hall meeting in 1990, to discuss impending changes to the ‘hood and that this is when the name officially stuck, but we're not so sure this is accurate. Many in the neighborhood believe the self proclaimed name of their zone has been around significantly longer than a measly 21 years.

Today the Funk Zone is alive and well, and populated with sights, sounds and characters so unique and alive that all we can do is share with you our photos and tell you a little about them. The first batch of pics is little more than "sights about town", and includes some of the quintessential funk you will see when you visit the Zone.

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The next batch of photos shows a few of the homes in the Zone.

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And then we got invited in...We've found that half the fun of urban hiking lies in the friends we meet along the way, and the happenstance of getting invited into a stranger's space. Wine with a view can only be beat by target practice on the roof. These two shots show some of the shenanigans and revelry that take place in the Funk Zone when the work is done. One of the Urban Hikers wants to live in the Zone...

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Right in the heart of the neighborhood, we happened upon a muralist completing work on his most recent piece. His name is Dani Swann, and he previously turned a glass block window into an aviary of sorts...with one of the birds looking in.

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And then we passed by a sculptor's yard with beautiful works in progress...

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And just as we thought we were done with our hike, we got invited in AGAIN! We met the artist, Skye, who's work and studio we showed last week (we can't help it - there's so much to see), and got a tour of Soboda, home of the most amazing hardwood mill and gallery - owned and operated by Thomas Long. Thomas' hobby is creating the most pristine and unique deities you could ever imagine. We forgot to ask him what "Soboda" means... we guess it will mean another trip into the Zone.

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History buffs that we are, we knew we had to take tours of both the Santa Barbara Surfing Museum and the Museum featuring Santa Barbara history and memorabilia. It was there that we ran into a guy we first met during a hike near Hendry's Beach. The guy, Jim O' Mahoney is the curator, operator and maintenance man at the museum. In fact, it seems he might even be the unofficial Mayor of the Funk Zone. His knowledge of history, his telling of lore and his enthusiastic imagination captured our interest and gave us the opportunity to gather history relevant to the Funk Zone and beyond. In a bit, we will share with you a few captivating historical facts about this area of Santa Barbara from days gone by. For now, here are a few more photos -

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And before we look back, we thought you should know two last interesting tidbits about the Funk Zone. There appears to be a new trend occurring in the Funk Zone; one little pocket of the Zone is becoming something of a "Little Amsterdam". The area that has been the long-time home of the Adult Book Store and Spearmint Rhino will once again boast The Pub, a gay bar which is slated to re-open this year after a several-years' absence. And in the midst of this debauchery, there are legitimate craftsmen and businesses, like master frame maker Chris Kirkegaard , Ortiz Auto Body and a youth hostel. And while there are no local medical marijuana dispensaries in this area of "Little Amsterdam", there do appear to be a couple of informal mobile dispensaries that, shall we say, are "roach coaches"?

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Now for the identity of the "mystery celebrity we encountered in the Funk Zone: Drum roll...he is none other that Mr. Margaritaville himself. Reportedly Jimmy Buffett came to make a purchase at Surf N Wear. He's the guy in the white sweatshirt and black ball cap.

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For those of you who have taken up the game of geocaching (a high-tech version of a treasure hunt) we want to let you know we came across one of your caches during this hike. And so, we offer you this handy tip...the "Funk Zone Geocache" is shown in this photo...sorry, we won't give you the exact location, because that would spoil all the fun.

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And now for Funk Zone History 101: There stands a building near the end of Santa Barbara Street that is truly enigmatic of the buildings in the Funk Zone. In the 1920‘s, it began as a humble feed store and grain mill. The feed was imported by railroad and delivered to the store via a boxcar which was parked at the back loading dock for offloading. Like many of the early buildings of the Funk Zone, this building had its own railway siding. But as time marched on and feed became less of a commodity and entertainment more of one, the feed store moved to a new location, and in the 1970‘s, the building became known as "The Feed Store", a very happening restaurant and nightclub. Years later, after the Feed Store closed, the building was occupied by the design firm that designed the more modern VW Beetle, as well as the Oscar Meyer Wiener-mobile. Perhaps as a sign of the times, this once historic and utilitarian building now houses a gym and fitness center.

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Many people know that Santa Barbara was a hot bed for aviation pioneers, but perhaps what you don't know is that much of it occurred right in the heart of what is now the Funk Zone. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Loughead brothers, Victor, Allen, and Malcolm, lived here with their mother (a Santa Barbara newspaper columnist), and spent endless hours flying kites on East Beach and (what is now called) Shoreline Park, on the Mesa. These boys were no ordinary children, however. Rather than idle play, the boys used their hours of kite-flying to study aerodynamics. Victor published a book "Aeroplane Design for Amateurs", while Allen and Malcolm built a seaplane in San Francisco. Using the plane, they opened a business giving rides to the public. Business was brisk, and within a short time, the young men had amassed $6,000, which they used as the seed money to open their airplane factory in Santa Barbara. That factory, located at 101 State Street was the humble beginning of Lockheed. In addition to the factory, the Loughead brothers built a seaplane ramp on West Beach, which was primarily used for testing the planes they built. We also discovered during one of our hikes that the brothers built a second aircraft factory in the Funk Zone, located on Anacapa Street just below Mason Street. Sadly, that building was recently demolished, but part of the bank vault that was used by the Loughead Brothers at that factory was recovered. It's now in the SB Museum, along with the street signs that were nearby.

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The Loughead's influenced many people and contributed greatly to the rise of aviation in the U.S. One of their early hires was John (Jack) Northrop, fresh out of Santa Barbara High. After working for the Lougheads, Northrop left to go to work for Douglas Aircraft, and ultimately, like the Lougheads, he started his own aircraft company in Los Angeles which he called, Northrop Aviation.

After WW I, the spelling of Loughead was changed to Lockheed, and in 1921, Allen moved the Lockheed Aircraft Company to Burbank, California. Malcolm stayed in Santa Barbara, where he developed the first four wheel hydraulic braking system. We can all thank Malcolm for his ingenuity because prior to the invention of hydraulic brakes, all brakes where activated by steel rods, and were about as effective and reliable as dragging your feet on the ground. The brakes produced in Malcom's shop where reportedly tested on cars which would cruise down Anacapa Street, right in the heart of what is today's fabulous Funk Zone.

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We have just four more photos we want to share for their historical significance. The fist shows a turn-of-the century building that was home the Castagnola's very first fishing enterprise. Legend has it that the Castagnolas lived in part and worked in of part of the building…sounds like it was 1900's "mixed use" planning at its best.

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This 1919 photo shows how today's Funk Zone could have included its very own wharf, had it not been for a "freak high tide" on June 28, 1928 which destroyed the wharf, located at the end of Helena Ave. Maybe someone knows if it truly was a high tide, or perhaps it was a tsunami?

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This photo shows the path of an early railroad right of way. It was a siding used by nearby businesses and warehouses for loading and unloading freight into and out of the trains.

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At the back of the empty lot that used to be home to Loughead (later Lockheed), Hallmark Shutters and Pete's Formica, you can see a building that in the 1880's was a stable. The stable kept the work horses which where used to move the freight off the wharf and into the Funk Zone and other parts of town, prior to the use of trucks and other automobiles.

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There is so much more about the Fabulous Funk Zone that deserves mention, but these urban hikers have to make tracks and explore other parts of town. So we encourage you to take a hike of your own into the Funk Zone and discover what we didn't. We would have loved to have spent time in Red's a quintessential Funk Zone café, and learn more about Fishnet, the project that promotes public art in the Funk Zone and beyond. We can tell you that today the Funk Zone is alive and well, and we believe it will only improve in the years to come. We understand that an investor from Boston has recently purchased several prime Funk Zone properties, and that he is committed to preserving the arts and urban funkiness that now exists there. And lastly, we heard that two local artists were so inspired by last week's photos of fish weathervanes, that they will each be creating a fish weathervane to add to the mix. Life is certainly good in the Funk Zone.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 ROGER DODGER agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-18 11:09 AM

Very good really enjoy your articles and the history of the Funk Zone. There is so much I don't know about Santa Barbara and I've lived here 31 years..

 

 COMMENT 184322P agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-18 11:50 AM

I'm out of town right now. Can't wait to get back and take your Funk Zone tour.

 

 COMMENT 184325 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-18 11:59 AM

Great info thanks!

 

 COMMENT 184345 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-18 12:50 PM

I think your part of the story about how the "funk zone" got it's name is accurate. The zoning in that part of town is limited by the Coastal Act that requires a large swath of the area to be visitor serving and also to supply parking to support those sorts of uses. Economically, that doesn't work out so well and shows a big flaw in the Coastal Act. The upside is that developers who might have built condos throughout the entire neighborhood have largely passed it by and many of the older buildings remain. Nice to see organic, non-cookie cutter life in a neighborhood.

The rolling roach coaches used to be called dealers where I come from, and I wonder if they have more for sale than that which is legally available to card holders. In any case, it's not legal or a good thing to be going on.

 

 POWDRELL agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-18 01:04 PM

Great article on the Funk Zone. Thanks.

 

 COMMENT 184389 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-18 06:13 PM

I always roll through the Funk Zone without taking a second look but will check it out next time. I always look forward to your posts and what you experience when you walk rather than drive. Well done!

 

 COMMENT 184404 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-18 07:12 PM

I was so excited to see a picture of the old 'Feed Store' restaurant. It was a big treat to go there as a kid. But I have a memory of it being a wood building. I had trouble trying to assimulate my memory into the photo of a one story stucco building. Weird.

Thank you for sharing such an authentic part of our community. Glad to see there's a little bit of it left!

 

 COMMENT 184413 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-18 08:31 PM

I used to go dancing at the Feed Store.

 

 COMMENT 184441 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-19 08:50 AM

Wonderful! Well covered and told.

Mahoney's place is a treasure. The city really needs to preserve that area. Bit by bit they have been cutting away at the low rent "rustic" parts of our town where people starting a business could afford to get their start. The old Ott's property along Garden, Yanonali and Santa Barbara was such a place and they kicked out the tradesmen and crammed it full of condos.

A historical note - the aerial photo is from 1927, not 1919. There was never a wharf spur to Helena Street. That is the framing for a building or decking above the sand.

 

 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-19 09:14 AM

Great tour! My mom was born in the Zone (1912) at her grandmother's house (she was a mid-wife). Loved the match collection, so many of those places are gone now. Hope the developers don't win their long-running battle to take over that prime beach area. Hikers, you are wonderful to document our town; make a book!

 

 COMMENT 184467 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-19 09:54 AM

If not the first person, certainly one of the prominent promoters of the term "Funk Zone" was former Executive Director of the SB County Arts Commission, Patrick Davis. He recognized the increasing need to preserve the 'funky' spaces for artists, craftspeople, and the makers of things.

Sadly many of the spaces that were in the Funk Zone were razed and many of these people were displaced. (not just for the La Entrada project, but other parcels which are now just empty lots.) The good news is there are new surf shops along side the old ones, a thriving Urban Wine Trail, and new local shops -- a refreshing alternative to the mall-ification of State St.

 

 STACE agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-19 11:09 AM

Thank you Neil for your input. As always we rely on the real historians amongst us to fact check and make corrections. So glad you are of of our dedicated readers!

 

 STACE agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-19 11:22 AM

OH SHOOT! Sorry Neal...that was really stupid. Mea culpa, mea culpa!

 

 COMMENT 184506 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-19 01:06 PM

Oh yes, the Feed Store was a fun restaurant. The highway was religned and broadened. Where was the 101 Club? In the 70s it was the real Fiesta place where locals danced and drank beer together - all races.
We needd the Funk Zone and warehouse type places for our artists and for those who dance to the beat of a different drum. These characters bring vitality and creativity to our city and i hate to havae them lost to SLO.

 

 COMMENT 184540 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-19 05:05 PM

Stacey - you can spell my name anyway you want as long as you and Peter keep turning out these wonderful columns. I love the interviews with the neighbors and characters you come across, your attention to detail and finding the delightful Santa Barbara oddities that most people would miss. Just think what an amazing window your work will present to historians of the future. Too often we only know the stories of the rich, the powerful and their grand buildings. You capture the true heart of what makes this town a great place to live. Thank you!

 

 COMMENT 186848 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-25 08:44 AM

very cool! viva la Funk

 

 COMMENT 190980 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-07-09 08:06 AM

Wonderful series. After moving to Santa Barbara, we found the only way to truly see SB is to walk the neighborhoods. Your descriptions and insights are so enjoyable. Hopefully this will be a book?

 

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