Burton Mound Plaque Stolen

By the edhat staff

The plaque at Santa Barbara’s historic Burton Mound has been been stolen from Ambassador Park, reports John Palminteri.

It was located on a stretch of grass and palm trees between Cabrillo Blvd and West Mason Street.

The site is home to a former Native American village, Syuxtun, that was visited by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542. It was also visited and documented by Juan Crespí, Gaspar de Portolà, and eventually Don Luís Burton, the latter who purchased the property in 1860. 

Burton Mound Landmark plaque in Ambassador Park captured in 2017 (Photo: wikipedia)

Burton Mound was named a California Historical Landmark on July 12, 1939. The California Department of Parks and Recreation has acknowledged that Burton Mound has “yielded some of the most important archeological evidence found in California”.

As of 1782, the area was one of the largest Chumash villages on the South Coast with at least 600 people living there. By 1800, there were about 120 people living there with the entire village disappearing by the early 1830s due to diseases introduced by the Spanish or forced into slavery at Mission Santa Barbara.

In 1860, the property was purchased by Lewis T. Burton where he opened a series of businesses in the town, including a post office, general store, and orchards before he died in 1879.

Potter Hotel (courtesy: Neal Graffy)

In January 1903, the property became integrated into the Potter Hotel, a luxury hotel with 600 rooms. In April 1921, the hotel was destroyed in a fire and was not rebuilt. Read more about the Potter Hotel by local historian Neal Graffy here.

After the fire archaeologist John P. Harrington excavated the property on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution. He started the excavation in the spring of 1923 and over 2,500 objects were uncovered by the end of summer that year. The objects from that excavation reside in the National Museum of the American Indian.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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    • NostraChumash: Certainly there was quite a lot more than 35 tons of earth removed. Some say it was more like 100 tons (or more) of material that was removed/scattered without one thought that this was and is sacred ground. The items found there should be returned to the Chumash people as it is by any definition “stolen property.” My family at one time was in possession of many local artifacts, which we gave to the Museum of Natural History about 30 years ago. I’m guessing that the items went into a closet or drawer and won’t be seen anytime soon. A number of friends also have items that I’ve seen at their homes that are sadly used for decorations. Mostly, the items are stone bowls, bone tools, and loose shell beads. I don’t think there are any local native organizations that would take these items….or maybe there is?

  1. Perhaps those who’s ancestors originally lived on the land found it offensive? It basically says a village was found, everyone was eradicated, luxury hotel built and burned then we dug up all the original land owners stuff and shipped it far away to be gawked at by a bunch of strangers. Just a thought…

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