Sunday, July 17, 2011

Santa Barbara Courthouse

Recently in Santa Barbara, I was given a weekend tour of the area by a native who knows every nook and cranny—including the historic Santa Barbara County courthouse. For whatever reason, I have always pictured Santa Barbara as being farther north on the coast, but it sits just above Ventura County which is just above L.A. County—i.e., in the southern third of the state. This southern proximity accounts for the heavy Spanish Colonial influences in the architecture and history of the region as Spanish explorers, accompanied by Catholic missionaries, merged with the native Indian populations.

All that to say—the Santa Barbara courthouse is stunning. First built in the 1870s, the current courthouse was completed in 1929 after a 1925 earthquake destroyed much of the city. It just goes to show what a vision for blending art, architecture, and service can accomplish. This structure -- indeed, the entire Spanish Colonial feel of all Santa Barbara -- makes other modern cities feel a bit sterile by comparison.

The ceiling of the main entryway into the courthouse:


An interior hallway:


This room is the most famous -- the mural room -- where official city, civic, and community functions are held, including service as a courtroom. The murals depict various events and stages in the settlement of Santa Barbara. The pictures hardly do it justice:








Another shot of part of the interior of the courthouse:


These pictures came to mind when I found a jury summons in the mail upon my return from Santa Barbara. While Union County, NC's, historic courthouse still stands -- and it represents the traditional image of historic Southern courthouses -- my jury duty will take place in the bland, shiny, new courthouse that has replaced it for most county government work. I wouldn't mind reporting to and serving in the old courthouse -- walking on old wooden floors, sitting in old wooden chairs, smelling the history of Union County while I help decide the fate of a stranger (unless my ordained religious status causes me to be excused). That would make the wheels of legal tedium turn faster, for sure. If I lived in Santa Barbara County, I might volunteer for jury duty just to spend a week reveling in the beauty of what is possible when people really try. (Thanks to Priscilla for the grand tour.)

1 comment:

  1. Thank YOU for the was so much fun showing you around...I always discover something new, when seeing things through the eyes of someone who's experiencing them for the first time :). Great job on the photos, they're beautiful!