Santa Barbara’s Adobe Construction History

With the arrival of the Spanish colonists, Santa Barbara came to be built with the oldest-known construction material: mud. Santa Barbara’s oldest buildings were made from adobe brick, the word “adobe” deriving from the Spanish adobar, “to plaster.” These early settlers found a landscape largely devoid of trees that could yield lumber suitable for building. An alternative building material had to be found: adobe brick.

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The central ingredient in adobe brick is clay-like soil. The physically arduous task of making adobe bricks began by digging a pit into which soil was thrown and water added. Once these materials were blended into a smooth mixture, straw and sand were added, serving to bind and strengthen the adobe. The sand also aided in the even drying of the adobe bricks so they would not warp or curl. Hitting upon the correct proportions of soil, water, straw, and sand was vital; otherwise, the bricks might crumble or be too soft. Trial and error was often necessary until just the right formula was achieved.

The adobe was then poured into wooden forms to create the bricks. Once removed from the forms, the bricks were set aside to dry. Depending on the size of the bricks, which generally averaged anywhere from 50 to 60 pounds, they could take as much as a month to completely dry. Once the bricks had achieved a consistent color throughout, they were ready for use. A surprising number of bricks was needed to build even small structures; a one-room home could take as many as 5,000 bricks.

Water is both a key ingredient and the great enemy of adobe; untreated bricks can dissolve. Construction of a proper foundation was very important, for the foundation not only gave a building a firm base upon which to rest but also protected the adobe walls from groundwater. Each wall had beneath it a trench filled with rounded stones covered with mud.

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Adobe walls were thick by modern standards, around two feet for smaller buildings. Two-story adobes were fairly rare. To give the walls greater strength, they were covered with a coating of sand and mud. Window openings were usually small, and these often were fitted with wooden bars or covered with a steer hide or blanket. Glass was virtually unknown. Wooden floors were atypical. Most floors were packed earth with a coating of steer’s blood to make them hard and smooth. New coatings were periodically reapplied.

The next step was construction of the pitched roof. A ridgepole ran the length of the building and was connected to the side walls of the adobe by rafters. Saplings were placed perpendicular to the rafters to create a crosshatch effect. Atop this was placed thatch, and atop that, curved tiles of kiln-fired adobe, laid in an overlapping fashion.

Finally, the adobe walls were sealed with a plaster made of lime, which was produced by firing seashells. The lime was mixed with sand and water, and the mixture applied to the walls with bare hands. As the mixture dried, it would harden, forming a protective coating. This coating tended to flake and so was periodically reapplied. The finished adobe was cool in the summer and warm in winter and proved to be quite durable. Santa Barbara’s historic adobes have survived any number of earthquakes over the decades.

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The increasing influx of Americans to Santa Barbara after 1850 caused a decline in the popularity of adobe construction; the newcomers wanted houses that reminded them of home. In some cases, adobes were covered with wood siding, sometimes for aesthetic purposes or as protection from the elements. Construction of Stearns Wharf in 1872 allowed for increased imports of lumber and hastened the arrival of Victorian architecture. Many adobes succumbed to development. For example, the imposition of the grid pattern of streets in the early 1850s led to the razing of any number of adobes.

Yet the architecture of modern-day Santa Barbara, with its white walls and red-tile roofs, very much harks back to the city’s adobe days. Outstanding examples of Santa Barbara’s Spanish Colonial style and its variants include the El Paseo complex, City Hall, The Arlington Theatre, and any number of commercial buildings and private residences that dot the city landscape.

In many ways, Santa Barbara’s adobe days live on, but how many of us know of the toil and trouble it took to construct Santa Barbara way back when?

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Beverly Palmer, Santa Barbara

Wildflowers, Effective All-Natural Pesticide!

Spring is here, which means now is the perfect time to make plans for your garden. And if there's one thing you should be thinking about adding into the mix this year, it's wildflowers.

 Spring Wildflower :: Santa Barbara

Spring Wildflower :: Santa Barbara

Wildflowers aren't just pretty — they're good for your garden, too. Flowers like oxeye daisies, red clovers, poppies, and wild carrots can serve as all-natural pesticides by attracting useful insects to your garden, according to Modern Farmer. These "good" bugs then protect your beautiful blooms and veggies by preying on destructive pests.

Wildflowers are a "secret" that farmers have relied on for years, planting the pesticide alternative on the perimeters of their farms to protect crops. But more recently, many farmers have begun experimenting with a new method: planting strips of wildflowers right alongside their crops and vegetation.

 Santa Barbara Coastline :: Spring flowers

Santa Barbara Coastline :: Spring flowers

 Botanic Gardens Meadow :: Spring

Botanic Gardens Meadow :: Spring

Fifteen farms in England have been testing the strategy over the past five years, and they found that the wildflowers attracted all the right kinds of bugs to the right areas, according to The Guardian. While more research is needed to understand how beneficial the practice is for large-scale farms, a previous study published by Proceedings of the Royal Society B found the method to be effective at reducing pesticide use and plant damage caused by insects.

What's more, wildflowers are also a natural way to enhance your soil's health and increase your garden's yield, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). They're also low-maintenance and tend to need less water. So whether you're growing veggies, crops, bulbs, or flowers in your backyard this year, consider skipping the toxic stuff and opting for this organic pesticide instead.

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Beverly Palmer, Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Awarded $10 Million Desalination Grant

The city of Santa Barbara has been awarded a $10 million grant by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to offset the $72 million cost of reactivating the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant.

 Santa Barbara Desalination Plant Aerial

Santa Barbara Desalination Plant Aerial

The desalination plant has been a permanent part of the city’s water supply portfolio since 1994, and in its reactivated state has been supplying water to city water customers since May 2017.

The plant serves a key role in providing a high-quality, local, drought-proof supply that is available for health and safety needs despite rainfall conditions.

During reactivation, state-of-the-art technology and design practices were incorporated to minimize electrical demand and environmental impacts. The plant currently produces 3 million gallons of drinking water per day.

This is equivalent to 3,125 acre-feet of water annually or about 30 percent of the city’s demand.

 Santa Barbara Desalination Plant

Santa Barbara Desalination Plant

 Charles Meyer Desalination Facility Sign

Charles Meyer Desalination Facility Sign

“This grant provides a direct financial benefit to our customers,” said Joshua Haggmark, city water resources manager.

“Now in the seventh year of drought, the cost of providing water service has risen dramatically to ensure sufficient water is available to meet the needs of the community," he said.

"This grant will go a long way in helping to minimize the need for a large rate increase in the near future while providing much needed funding for water infrastructure,” he said.

DWR’s Round 4 Water Desalination Grant Program is funded by Proposition 1 which was passed by California voters as part of the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.

Proposition 1 provided $7.5 billion in funding to improve California’s water reliability through increased water supplies, protection and restoration of watersheds, water quality improvement, and increased flood protection.

Of that funding, $100 million in grants were set aside for brackish or seawater desalination projects.  

The city would like to acknowledge and thank State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson for her support of Prop. 1 and her support of Santa Barbara’s work toward drought resiliency and desalination.

Jackson was instrumental in making it possible for the city to compete for the grant funds given the accelerated scheduled for reactivation of the desal plant.

“As we work to address our region’s ongoing drought, it is critical that we invest in maintaining a reliable and safe water supply. I am proud that I was able to assist the city of Santa Barbara with securing this grant, as it helps ensure the city has a diverse and drought-resilient water system,” Jackson said.

For more information on the desal plant, visit www.SantaBarbaraCA.gov/Desal or call the water resources division, 564-5378.

— Madeline Wood for city of Santa Barbara.

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Beverly Palmer, Santa Barbara

Green Program Expands to Bike Fix-It Stations

The Towbes Group, as part of its green program, has installed a bike fix-it station at Pacific Oaks Apartments, corner of Hollister Avenue and Pacific Oaks Drive, adjacent to the new bike lanes installed by the city of Goleta along Hollister Avenue.

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This is the second, of five bike fix-it stations installed to date. The Towbes group said it expects to complete the installation of bike fix-it stations across the residential and commercial properties in Goleta by August.

Many residents at Towbes Group communities throughout Santa Barbara County live within biking distance to their work locations.

The Pacific Oaks Apartments community is within five miles of Goleta’s major employers.

Among working Pacific Oaks residents, 68 percent work within five miles of their apartments. A larger group, 84 percent of working Pacific Oaks residents, work within 12 miles of their apartments, the Towbes Group reports.

These figures are consistent with all Towbes apartment communities in Goleta, Towbes Group said.

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The proximity of Pacific Oaks Apartments, along with the new and modified bike paths in the city of Goleta, makes bike commuting from this and all Towbes Group properties in Goleta easy, Towbes Group said.

“We want to foster a community that uses alternatives to driving, and the investments of bike fix-it stations, bike parking, and miles of bike paths around us are further evidence of what businesses, municipalities and individuals can all do to make it easier to leave the car at home,” said Craig Zimmerman, president of The Towbes Group.

The Towbes Green Program is a company-wide initiative to meet, and in some cases exceed, energy- and water-efficiency standards at new and existing properties; support alternative modes of transportation; and encourage environmentally-conscious living, Towbes Group said.

Currently, nearly 60 percent of the Towbes Group residential communities are Green Business certified, with two new certifications earned each year, the company reports.

To mark the installation, and bring awareness to the importance of bike use on the Central Coast for a positive impact on the environment, a commuter bike was donated by The Towbes Group. Bici Centro and the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition donated a commuter bike-apparel kit. Both were raffled.

By Jessica Doss for the Towbes Group

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Beverly Palmer, Santa Barbara

#805Strong: What to Do and How to Help

The biggest question most of us are asking concerning the #thomasflood in Montecito, is what can we do and how can we help? Below are a list of disaster relief events that you can support, which will go towards various relief funds and will help rebuild our city after the devastation. Let us stand together to see #santabarbarastrong again. 

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1/22: The 37th Annual Messiah Sing-Along This event will be presented as a statement of unity and solidarity of our community in the wake of the recent devastating disasters. All proceeds will go toward the Unity Shoppe. 7:30pm. First Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance Ave. $15-$20. Call 965-4122.

1/26: Metal Concert for Victims of the Thomas Fire and Mudslide Ventura metal band Bone Maggot will headline this concert to raise funds for the recent disasters. Also performing will be bands Dark Vital Flames, Mulholland, and Slow Down. 8pm. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, 1221 State St. $8-$10. Call 962-7776. sohosb.com

1/27: Santa Barbara Strong Benefit Concert Area high school students have come together to put on a benefit concert where all proceeds will be donated to the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund. Enjoy performances by soloists, Jazz Villains, and Dos Pueblos Jazz Choir. 7pm. Elings Performing Arts Ctr., Dos Pueblos High School, 7266 Alameda Ave., Goleta. Donation: $10. Email santabarbarastrong@gmail.com.

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1/28: Quire of Voyces: The Mysteries of Christmas: A Healing Concert for Our CommunityThe Quire will sing music that soothes and heals. Firefighters and first responders can receive free tickets. 3pm. St. Anthony’s Chapel, Garden Street Academy, 2300 Garden St. $15-$20. Call 965-5935. quireofvoyces.org/concerts

1/28: SoCal Strong Concert for Thomas Fire Victims Fund More than eight bands, including the Tearaways, will perform to raise money for victims of the recent fire. 3-11pm. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, 1221 State St. $25-$200. Call 962-7776. sohosb.com

2/3: Thomas Fire Benefit Festival! The concert includes the Kevin Costner Band, Olivia Newton-John, Colbie Caillat, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and more. VIP includes food, wine and beer (for ages 21+), and the concert. General admission is for the concert only, and kids get in for free. VIP: 2-10pm. $200. GA: 4-10pm. Free-$50. Plaza Park, 651 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura. $50-$200. thomasfirebenefit.com

2/25: Kick Ash Bash Say thank you to our heroic first responders at this massive celebration. All funds collected will go toward all first-responder organizations. Ticket price and on-sale date are to be announced. Noon-6pm. Nesbitt Bella Vista Estate, 2800 Via Real, Summerland. kickashbash.com

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ONGOING: Zodo’s Bowling & Beyond Zodo’s is offering free bowling to residents affected by the mudslide in an attempt to offer a safe and uplifting place to spend time with family. Up to six people can share a lane. Show your ID (with zip code) and receive one complimentary game and shoe rental. 5925 Calle Real, Goleta. Call 967-0128.

ONGOING: S.B. Yoga Center Call to find out about the free and discounted services such as yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, and cupping for first responders and those affected by the Thomas Fire and mudslide. Specific offers continue through January 31 and February 28. 32 E Micheltorena St. Call 965-6045.

List of events courtesy of Independent.com

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Do you know anyone who is displaced from their home due to the floods and needs help, if so please let me know? 

Beverly Palmer, Santa Barbara

Holiday Traditions

Have you ever wondered where the tradition of putting up a tree for Christmas came from? Or why we light a menorah for Hanukkah? Find out about the interesting origins of many holiday traditions right here.

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Christmas tree: Christmas trees have a long history. During the pre-Christian era, trees symbolized a connection between heaven and Earth, according to AllThingsChristmas.com. Similar ideas are found in the Old Testament - trees symbolized wisdom and life. The first known electrically illuminated Christmas tree was done by Edward H. Johnson, an associate of inventor Thomas Edison, on Dec. 22, 1882. Trees did not become widely popular in the U.S. until the middle of the 18 th century, but have grown steadily in popularity. Every year, between 25 and 30 million Americans celebrate Christmas with trees.

Menorah: Menorah is a Hebrew word meaning "candelabrum." It refers to the nine-branched ceremonial lamp in which the Hanukkah candles are placed and then blessed, according to JOI.org. The menorah originated as a religious symbol in biblical times. Originally, oil was used in the menorah. Over time, candles were substituted for the oil. Today, the menorah is displayed in the window of most Jewish homes.

Christmas Tree

Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles, called Mishumaa Saba, are a staple of Kwanzaa tradition. These are ceremonial objects with two primary purposes: to re-create symbolically the sun's power and to provide light. Mishumma Saba is three red, a black and three green candles. The black candle is a celebration of being black, of the unique qualities each person brings to the whole family or community. The green candles are vision candles - candles of hopes, dreams, and promises for the future. The red candles are struggle candles, past candles, candles the color of blood and courage. According to www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org, all seven candles help African-Americans to remember a long struggle against injustice.

Mistletoe: A revered plant, Mistletoe is interesting since it has no roots yet remains green during the cold months of winter. According to AllThingsChristmas.com, Scandinavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the Mistletoe. People believed, and still do now, that those kissed under the Mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.

Dogs kissing under misletoe

Giving gifts: Giving gifts is a complex and important part of human interaction, especially around the holidays, according to the NYTimes.com. The exchanging of gifts is one of the core aspects of the modern Christmas celebration, making the Christmas season the most profitable time of year for retailers and businesses throughout the world. Christmas gift giving was banned by the Catholic church in the Middle Ages due to its suspected pagan origins. It was later rationalized by the church on the basis that it associated St. Nicholas with Christmas, and that gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were given to the infant Jesus. Today, gift giving is a staple of the holiday season, regardless of religious affiliation.

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Do you know anyone who is looking to sell or buy a home on the American Riviera? 

Beverly Palmer, Santa Barbara