During Spanish colonization of California, the territory was divided into four
military districts, each under the jurisdiction of a military establishment
or presidio, which protected several missions and vast areas of land.
The Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara was the last of the four presidios
established. The territory covered by the military districts of the Santa
Barbara Presidio included more than 7,000 square miles, and extended from
the San Fernando Valley to San Luis Obispo, and from the Pacific Ocean
inland to the San Joaquin Valley. The presidio protected the missions
of La Purisma, Santa Ynes, Santa Barbara, San Buenaventura, and San Fernando.
The initial settlement at the presidio began in 1782, and consisted of
temporary barracks and a palisade. Permanent construction began in 1788.
Although Monterey was the political capital of California during most
of the Spanish and all of the Mexican periods, the majority of the ruling
class preferred the climate and beautiful surroundings of Santa Barbara.
The Pueblo of Santa Barbara was established in 1826 after a community
began to develop around the walls of the presidio. The original appearance
of the presidio was that of an enclosed quadrangle of buildings (offices
and residences) surrounding a central plaza that was traditionally used
as the parade grounds. The Presidio of Santa Barbara remained in use until
the mid-19th century, long after California's other presidios had been
abandoned. What remains today of the old presidio is incorporated within
the Santa Barbara Presidio Historic District. Two adobe buildings remain
from the presidio and have been carefully restored. El Cuartel and La
Caneda Adobe are part of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.
Several other historic adobes, both inside and outside the walls of the
presidio, have been preserved as well. The Historic District is bounded
by Carrillo, Garden, De la Guerra, and Anacapa Sts. Call 805-966-9719
for more information on the State Park.
Photograph courtesy of Santa Barbara Trust for Historic
The Santa Barbara Presidio Historic District is
also featured in our Early History of the California Coast travel
Santa Barbara | St.
Augustine | San Juan National Historic Site
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