Santa Barbara Courthouse Design Sketch from 1919

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Santa Barbara Courthouse Design Sketch from 1919
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(Image: Arts & Architecture, November 1919)

By Betsy J. Green

Back in February 1919, the city announced that it was holding a competition for the design of the new courthouse (the present building). This month, July 1919, the winner was announced – Edgar A. Mathews of San Francisco. Here’s his sketch for the courthouse. 

Recognize it? No? Well, that’s because the design of the runner-up was the one that was actually built. There seemed to be a couple of reasons why Mathews’ design was not built. One was budgetary, and one may have involved a complaint about fairness from some of the people on the committee who judged the designs. 

It was also mentioned that the courthouse was supposed to be a memorial to the young men from Santa Barbara County who lost their lives in the war, but none of the designs addressed that. 


Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1918 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the fifth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com​

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bjgreen Jul 14, 2019 02:11 PM
Santa Barbara Courthouse Design Sketch from 1919

My thanks to former Mayor Sheila Lodge who pointed out that the competition for the courthouse design back in 1919 was administered by the county, not the city.

aragorn Jul 14, 2019 08:54 AM
Santa Barbara Courthouse Design Sketch from 1919

The design looks alright, but I do say the Courthouse that was built in 1929 is much better. I wonder if the Architectural Board of Review would have approved the design by Edgar A. Mathews. But the ABR didn't come into play until 1925 and the Courthouse that was built was already approved by the people of the committee. I saw Robert Kennedy there in the Sunken Garden when he came to here in 1968. I was 12 years old.

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