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URBAN HIKE

Urban Hike: In the Details
updated: Sep 10, 2011, 10:15 AM

By the Urban Hikers, Stacey Wright and Peter Hartmann

This week we continued our quest to walk all 256 miles of public streets within the city limits of Santa Barbara. Rather than report on a specific adventure, we've decided to indulge you with a few photos of the remarkable details we've discovered downtown. We're convinced that unless you see most of these while on foot, you haven't had a chance to savor them or think about their purpose.

The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, "Whoever wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details." Here are some of the "particular details" of our town. We like this bell, and think the details are interesting…on closer look, what appears to be a Spanish motif is actually Asian.

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Everyone has seen this building and the communications equipment on the roof. Did you ever stop to think about the function of that contraption? Is it still in use? What does it do? As far as we know, it is still in use for telecommunications, and beams signals to towers in the foothills and elsewhere. The building itself is really gorgeous. We think it would make a grand hotel. But then again, we enjoy good cell service…

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Although we appreciate the beauty of the old, we are by no means partial to it. To prove it, we'll show you examples of some of the other marvelous things we see and love. Others may not agree, but we think this mid-century marvel is worth a second look.

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We're sure that some of what we show you today has been featured in a Where Is It or a March Edness - and frankly we don't care. We're too distracted by the details to worry about the big stuff ...

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On an early Sunday morning there was almost nobody at the recycling center, which allowed us to pause and ponder for as long as we liked …

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Did you see the guy sacked out in the corner? He was a detail we could have very easily missed with so much else to see in there.

We had some great fun going behind the massive gate at the County Courthouse.

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From the outside, the gate is just as wonderful. You may not know this, but he gate is made of wood, and has not only a really cool latch, but also a sweet little door that allows one to pass without having to open the huge gate.

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Like the rest of the building, the Courthouse is made up of amazing touches and delightful details. We'd never noticed that the seal above the entrance looks like a chain…do you suppose that has something to do with the fact that the county jail was inside the Courthouse for many years? And those scary looking faces that leer down from above surely must have been foreboding for the accused, as they were being walked through those huge doors. The dragon motif in the light fixtures is also a nice touch…

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We urban hikers have spent a lot of time looking down during our treks around town, checking out sidewalk stamps and other interesting things. But we also like to look up. The painted panels under several of the buildings on State Street have fascinated us for years. In fact, we recall them from the "old days", when The White House occupied one of these unique buildings.

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Another of our most absolutely favorite buildings in Santa Barbara is the Ramirez-Gonzales Adobe, which was built in 1825. Today it is home to Randall House Rare Books. We have several books from Randall House in our library, and refer to them when we research historical facts about our town. This place is just too beautiful for words, really.

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We love the old parking signs around town because if you look closely you can still make out the stripes, which during our youths were crisply painted and obvious to all.

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And lastly, a little bit of editorial from the weary urban hikers. We are hurt and saddened when we come across markers such as this one that holds the place of what was once an original Spanish adobe, later to be replaced by more commercial and "upscale" construction. The plaque tells us that on the site there once stood a one- room home built sometime between 1853 and 1870. It was subsequently torn down in 1984, when condos replaced it. Today it appears that at least one of the condos is for sale. Do we really need that many condos? It seems to us a shame that as late as 1984 the significance of an old original adobe was lost on those who endeavored to "improve" Santa Barbara. We hope the remaining original Spanish adobes don't meet a similar fate.

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As always we encourage you to go out on foot and explore our wonderful community, to discover new and different things and above all to keep your eyes, ears and minds open in your travels.

 

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