March 17, 2005 - Urn Go Braugh
“What’s a Grecian Urn?” one of our subscribers wrote. “About three drachma an hour.” Ha-ha, but you were supposed to send in your joke last week!
The truth is, decorative urns can be found all over Santa Barbara. They seem to be very “in” – you see them on a lot of the really new buildings. They’re on the new Gelson’s on State Street, a new office building by Garden Street and 101, lots of new houses, among others. But they’re also on a lot of the really old buildings including La Cumbre Junior High, where our WWII picture was taken, and Santa Barbara Jr. High. There must be something to this, we thought.
Like shoe styles, architectural styles come and go and sometimes come back. We got to wondering - is this a throw back to our local roots? Are they Grecian urns? Are they Native American in design? Did the Chumash even use urns?
Well, the answer seems to lie somewhere in between. Yesterday, the dedicated staff of edhat.com went on line to research urns. We found funeral urns and Grecian urns. We found Chinese urns and Muslim urns. We found stacked urns and urns for pets (don’t ask). And through our research, we found that the Chumash did not make urns. They made baskets, for which they are renowned. They made state of the art canoes, and their shell money was unique.
But, no urns.
Ah, but there are a lot of urns in Mexico, we thought. Many examples of architectural urns can be seen in Mexico and Central America. And, as we all know from our history books, there is definitely a connection to Mexican architecture here in Santa Barbara. Ah-ha, we said. Then, we came across a reference to a style of architecture called California Mediterranean. Voila! We cried. That’s it! What’s it? It was then we knew that a can of worms had been opened. Finally we found a story that tied things together.
The story goes that in 1915 when the Panama Canal first opened, the City of San Diego (which was the first port of call on the Pacific Coast) planned a huge exposition. Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, an architect, was in charge of designing the event, which was to be held in San Diego’s Balboa Park.
He was a big fan of Hispanic, Mediterranean and Gothic styles, and designed the buildings of the exposition based on 17th and 18th century Spanish Designs. He also filled the park with a mixture of arches, colonnades, domes, fountains, pergolas, reflecting pools and man-sized Muslim urns. They called it Spanish Revival.
The Country was so taken by the designs, that many of the trendiest architects adapted the style to upscale houses and public buildings. The article goes on to say:
“Possibly the most famous examples of Spanish Revival architecture can be found in Santa Barbara, California. Santa Barbara had a rich tradition of Hispanic architecture long before Goodhue unveiled his vision of a Mediterranean skyline. But after a massive earthquake in 1925, the town was rebuilt.
With its clean white walls and inviting courtyards, Santa Barbara became a showplace for the new Spanish style.”
And so, it looks like the style has come around again. Many of our subscribers sent in locations of other urns. We went around town and took pictures of some of them. It turns out that blue is a very popular color for urns.
Kermodi, Karebear, T-baby, Hope, Talliesue, Tartiger2, and je2ry all correctly identified the location of our WWII as La Cumbre Junior High. Luckily, we managed to find an urn shaped flowerpot, into which we placed seven Milk Bone fragments. As usual, the Edhat dog was happy to be of assistance. Congratulations to T-baby, who wins a 2005 Santa Barbara Axxess Book.
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