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URBAN HIKE

The Final 2 UH Invitational Hike
updated: Jan 07, 2012, 9:30 AM

By the Urban Hikers, Peter Hartmann & Stacey Wright

On the last day of 2011 we completed our mission of walking each and every street within the city limits of Santa Barbara - all 256 "centerline miles" of them.

When we began our project in November 2009, we felt certain we could complete it within about a year. After deciding to not only walk Santa Barbara, but also to photo document and report about it, we realized a year wouldn't be enough time. So, we reevaluated and set a new goal of 18 months...but a whole lotta lollygagging and an unexpected knee injury in June (which led to surgery for a torn meniscus in October) set us back even further. By November, Stacey's knee seemed well enough to resume the hikes and we became bound and determined to finish what we'd started by the end of the year. And we did - at exactly 3:52 p.m. on December 31st.

When we hopped off the downtown shuttle at our meeting place at the corner of State and Canon Perdido Streets at exactly 2:00 pm, we were blown away to see a crowd of about 50 people waiting to join us in the final two-mile stretch of our journey. We were greeted by friends, family and local celebrities including, Neal Graffy, Catherine Remak and Ashleigh Brilliant. It was a gorgeous day and we were thrilled to have so many friends along.

This is the route we took that day. We'd asked Neal Graffy to come along and give a walking history tour of the 20 or so blocks we would walk, most of which are rich with local history, lore and legend.

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Here we are we making our way, while listening to Neal give us very interesting historical information about almost every "landmark" we came across.

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And this is part of the group meeting, David, a local who happened to step out of his home to give us a little history about the Italian neighborhood that once existed in this part of town.

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Most of the hikers who joined us stayed on task, sticking with the group and finishing up at the El Paseo....even the one who took a little diversion to make a new friend along the way....as we always say, "Expect the unexpected."

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What follows is a photo-journal of our hike, along with pertinent historical information, much of which was provided by Neal Graffy along the way. We will do our best to re-create the adventure for you, but this account will certainly not come close to reconstructing our hike. We had so much fun on this last leg of our adventure that we're considering having an annual Urban Hike Invitational (narrated by Neal Graffy, of course) each year. But we guess we'd better run it by Neal before we mention it...

Beginning at State and Canon Perdido, home of the new Marshall's, we immediately headed east, toward the foothills. Our first landmark was the glorious Lobero Theater, first built as an opera house in 1873, and later designed by our favorite architects, George Washington Smith and Lutah Maria Riggs in 1924.

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Next we came upon the US Post Office. Here, Neal pointed out that Thomas Storke, one-time US Senator and editor of the SB News Press, as well as local Postmaster from 1914-1921, helped to situate the Post Office in its present location in 1936. This was largely due to the fact that it had served as a house of ill repute, frequented by many local bigwigs, some of whom were near and dear to Mr. Storke. We're glad he had the good sense to encourage its placement, as we find it incredibly convenient and beautiful.

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Next we came upon a reconstruction of what had been the heart of Santa Barbara; the Presidio. And while it's not the real deal, it's still pretty darn neat. Especially when the Historical Society holds its Presidio Days, and helps people understand and experience a little bit about how difficult life must have been in the early days of Spanish and California history.

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Across the street is a sweet little building, El Cuartel, which once served as the home of a presidio soldier.

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Heading east, we entered what was historically Chinatown, which later became Japantown. We recognized the building as the long-time home of Jimmy's Oriental Garden, home of the famous Mai Tai. Neal recalled that when he was younger, there were still a number of Chinese living in the apartments above what is now the Sojourner. He's also aware that the building once housed a gambling hall and a "house of ill repute". He didn't think it all that bad, considering that in those days the "girls" were like teachers, and the subject was what is now referred to as "health". In a way, it was education that the State needn't bother to subsidize.

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Next, we passed a long-time favorite of ours, the now Legal Aid office, which was built in the 1870's or 1880's, and was originally a tea house. We remember it best as the Teahouse Restaurant, back in the good old days...

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As we ambled along, one of the Urban Hikers noticed a "Gone" piece that had heretofore been unknown to us. We have seen many examples of his street art in the Funk Zone, and elsewhere around town, and were delighted to discover this charming little piece on this, our very last official hike.

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Next we came upon an adobe that looked to date back into the 1800's. Neal gave us the history, explaining that it is actually a more "modern" adobe, built in the 1930's by one of a member of the Hyde family, later to become of the prominent Mountain Drive pioneers.

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Although we didn't venture in, we passed one of the Urban Hikers' favorite little enclaves - El Caserio. It was originally built as an artists' colony in the 1920's and 30's and is just as "Santa Barbara" as it gets. Maybe one day...

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Near El Caserio is another architectural marvel...we know that not a lot of people appreciate "mid-century marvelous", but we do. So we include this photo of the "California State Building", which we don't think it is anymore. As far as we know, it's the current location of the Daily Sound. Regardless of who occupies it, we love the lines of this building, and think it's worth noticing.

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At the corner of Canon Perdido and Salsipuedes, Neal Graffy spoke about the origination of the street name Salsipuedes. In researching his book, "Street Names of Santa Barbara", he was forced to consider a number of possibilities, and determined that it was due to a box canyon in a swampland/marsh that the street got its name. We believe him...but we had learned in high school history class that Salsipuedes, Spanish for "get out if you can" was named for a hospital in the area, later re-named St. Francis...

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If you look closely at the above photo you'll see that across the street from the location is a baseball field dedicated to Eddie Matthews. While Neal was admittedly a little vague about the history of Mr. Matthews, one of the members of our group readily knew that he was a "Hall of Famer" 3rd baseman. Edhat readers are so darn smart!

Next we came to a canon that sits across from the entrance to SB High School at the National Guard Armory. We considered for a moment or two that it could actually be the "lost canon" for which Canon Perdido is named...but then we noticed the date on the cannon was 1862...we realized it couldn't be THE lost cannon, because as Neal explained, that cannon was lost in 1848...and he went on to tell us a fascinating story about how a prank by boys from several local prominent families had led to the "loss" of the canon, the levy of a $500 fine on the citizens of the town, and the intervention of the military governor. These events are associated the naming of several streets in Santa Barbara - Canon Perdido, Quinientos, Mason, De La Guerra and Carrillo. It's a fascinating story, and one you really should find out more about it by reading Neal Graffy's street names book.

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As we neared the half-way mark of our hike we came to two cows, both atop buildings. The first, a calf, which appears to be looking longingly at his mother, is a Jeff Shelton creation. The second, the cow atop the building at the corner of Canon Perdido and Milpas is a Santa Barbara icon. Originally placed there when the Live Oak Dairy opened in 1940, it was later removed due to vandalism by SB High School students. For a short time, it remained in a remote location, and was later replaced atop the building that had become McConnell's. There was even a period of time when a group of locals (including our guide and historian) advocated for its placement in De La Guerra Plaza, outside City Hall. Ultimately that attempt failed, but we can see the wisdom and the symbolism in making use of this great icon in the plaza. Maybe one day when Neal is elected mayor...

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Rounding the corner onto Milpas, we waked down one block and then turned onto De La Guerra Street. The first landmark we came to was Santa Barbara Junior High. A beautiful example of public architecture, it was built on what had once served as a dump, located in the wetlands of town. Following the 1925 earthquake, much of the rubble from the destroyed buildings ended up on the site. This made for a sturdy foundation that has withstood the test of time...in fact both of the Urban Hikers and many of the participants of the day's hike attended the Jr. High and found it to be completely adequate, if not fine.

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As we continued on, we stopped for several minutes to consider what looked like some sort of hatch. We never did figure out its significance. Anybody know something about this oddity?

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Heading back, we stopped to admire a sidewalk stamp - one of several we had seen along the way. As we pondered, we were joined by a man who lives in a home on that block. These are three of the stamps we saw during our hike, the last of which is the one we saw in this block of De La Guerra Street, and which really piqued our interest.

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As we were considering the stamps in the sidewalk, we were greeted by David, a resident of the area. He told us about the neighborhood and explained that it had once been home to many of the city's Italian stone masons and shopkeepers. He pointed out the sandstone wall in front of his property and speculated that it was made with the "leftovers" from large jobs around Santa Barbara and Montecito, considering the fact that the blocks were far from a perfect match.

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You can see David speaking with our group if you scroll up to photo # 3.

A bit further down De La Guerra we came to a building that looks to have been a neighborhood market at one time. We bet it was an Italian market...

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And then we came the THE Italian Market. Many in our group are friends with Tino and his wife, and everyone agreed that he makes the best Italian subs in Santa Barbara. There also seems to be a consensus that if you've had the privilege of eating at the original Italian Market on Olive Street, you are indeed a fortunate soul...

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When we got to the corner of De La Guerra and Santa Barbara Streets, Neal directed our attention up the street to the Rochin Adobe. He explained that it was this building and its history that really launched him into his career as a Santa Barbara historian. He encouraged everyone to find out more about this fascinating icon of local history. Luckily, we had a couple of photos of the place from a prior story, and so we include them here. We wrote a little about the adobe in a previous article "Top of Santa Barbara Street to the Freeway", which is on the Edhat website.

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Next, we found ourselves across the street from the Santa Barbara Historic Society, a fine local history museum. Neal informed us that the next exhibition at the museum is dedicated to the history of the Flying A Studios and Santa Barbara's connection to the early days of cinematography and filmmaking. He is very involved in curating the exhibit and promises that it will be well worth a visit to the museum.

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A stone's throw toward State is another of Santa Barbara's most wonderful places-- the Meridian Studios. The property was purchased in 1920 by Bernhard and Irene Hoffmann, transplants from the East Coast. They had come to Santa Barbra to seek treatment by Dr. Sansum for their young daughter, who suffered from Diabetes, and wound up being incredibly influential in the development of the town. It was the Hoffmanns who, prior to the 1925 earthquake, promoted a "red-tile roof" plan for the city, and began by developing both the El Paseo and Meridian Studios. They purchased the De La Guerra Adobe and the Lugo Adobes, both of which they sought to preserve, and both of which remain today. It is the Lugo Adobe, built in 1830, which sits at the center of the Meridian Studios complex. The Hoffmans hired renowned architect George Washington Smith to design the artist's studios in front of the adobe in 1923, and later hired Carleton Winslow to add the two story building to the west of the studios. Today the complex is occupied primarily by businesses, but in its heyday, it was an artists' colony of renowned artists.

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Entering the final blocks of our "256 mile" journey, we passed the Orena Adobe and a tile mural of a schooner that were both so quintessentially Santa Barbara it made us sad to see the end of our project.

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But we soldiered on...we took a loop through De La Guerra Plaza, passing City Hall and the Daily News/News Press Building. Crossing over to the other side of the street, all we had left was to wander past the De La Guerra Adobe and make it to "The Street in Spain" entrance of the El Paseo, where our journey would conclude.

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We carried on, and at 3:52 p.m. we, along with our merry band of history-seeking hikers, came to the end of our 2-mile hike. We taped our official Urban Hiker map to the wall at the Street in Spain and Peter filled in the streets we had covered in the preceding two hours, thus officially marking the end of our Urban Hike Santa Barbara.

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And then it was off to the El Paseo Restaurant with our new friends for a margarita to celebrate the end of the year and the end of our crazy project.

We plan on continuing to write about the amazing discoveries we made during our hikes of the city, and as always, encourage you to go out and explore. We're sure you'll find unknown treasures in our city, meet some of our amazing neighbors, and experience things you never thought possible. Santa Barbara is more beautiful to us now than ever before!

 

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