Santa Barbara’s historic El Presidio, the site of an original Spanish colonial fortress first founded in 1782, held an open-house for hundreds of visitors Saturday.
Known as Santa Barbara’s 18th century birthplace, the Royal Presidio fortress was built by the Spanish as they explored the California coast during the late 1700s, and served as the Spanish’s military and governmental headquarters in the region. Saturday’s celebration of the historical landmark honored 18th century Spanish traditions such as the mixing of adobe brick and tortilla making, and emphasized stories from the region’s Native American residents, the Chumash.
El Presidio membership coordinator Jared Brach said the open house aimed to give visitors a tangible understanding of the area’s history.
“Seeing it, being able to touch and feel it — it gives people a different experience,” Brach said. “It brings it to life.”
Brach said adobe bricks mixed by volunteers would be used to contribute to reconstruction efforts as part of the Presidio Northwest Corner Reconstruction Project, an attempt to retrofit the Presidio’s aging structure. The project is currently 18,000 bricks short of being finished.
“These bricks are needed to finish the last phase of the project,” Brach said. “As much as possible we try to use the same materials and building techniques as they used back then.”
UC Santa Barbara student and Presidio staff member Diana Hardin said she made tortillas and spoke with attendees about El Presidio’s heritage.
Hardin, a second-year history major, said the event was an opportunity for people to learn about California’s roots.
“Foods that they ate like tortillas, rice and beans are still big staple foods in a lot of cultures today,” Hardin said. “It’s important to preserve history like this to show people where things came from.”
El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park maintains the site and structure of the Royal Presidio fortress, which was the last of four military fortresses built by the Spanish during their exploration and conquest of California’s coast. The property is located in modern downtown Santa Barbara at the intersection of Santa Barbara and East Canon Perdido Streets.
People dressed as uniformed soldado s— Spanish soldiers — stood on guard throughout the event, recognizing Spain’s presence in the area at the time.
The event was hosted by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, which has managed the structure since the 1960s. SBTHP also owns other area landmarks such as the Casa de la Guerra.