El Presidio and Raffour House

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Santa Barbara, CA
El Presidio and Raffour House
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In downtown Santa Barbara, near the Presidio, there is a magical area where history is alive and Spanish buildings will awe you. Everywhere you turn there are colorful tilework stairways, intricate wrought-iron gates and windows, and courtyards drenched with sun. There's the Raffour house, 329 E. Carrillo Street, which was built by a French diplomat in 1887, with its blue and aqua tiled stairs. I love those stairs! Next to it is another lovely building with curving yellow Spanish tiled stairs. There are buildings with little potted plants placed strategically down the side. White-washed stucco, red-tile roofs, palms and flowers, and the blue Santa Barbara sky beyond create a delightful atmosphere.

This is the area where Santa Barbara began. For hundreds of years the Chumash Indians lived here, just back from the ocean where it is warmer. Then in the late 18th century, the Spanish built El Presidio. It was destroyed in the 1925 earthquake and rebuilt as it originally looked. Santa Barbara owes its gorgeous Spanish Mediterranean look to the earthquake and a visionary woman, Pearl Chase, who fought to have Santa Barbara rebuilt in Spanish and mission style. From then on, there have been strict building codes in Santa Barbara allowing only Spanish architecture in new buildings. That is why Santa Barbara is so beautiful...
You can go inside El Presidio, at 123 E. Canon Perdido St, now a museum, to learn more about Santa Barbara's Spanish history and see the commander's quarters, decorated chapel, and bell tower. Across Canon Perdido Street, walk into El Cuartel, the cute Guard's quarters, the oldest existing adobe in Santa Barbara. At 33 E. Canon Perdido St, on the corner of Anacapa Street, see the Lobero Theatre, which was built in 1924 by architect George Washington Smith. Next to it, see the Lobero Building, at 924 Anacapa Street. Architect of Hearst Castle, Julia Morgan designed this former women's residence hotel in 1926.
For the walk (which is similar to the Red Tile Tour created by the tourist office), park on Laguna Street near where it crosses Carrillo Street. Walk along Carrillo St towards State St and see the Raffour House on your right. Turn left on Garden Street, first taking a peek up Garden Street on the right at the pretty Spanish buildings. Turn right on Canon Perdido St. Notice how El Presidio is split down the middle to make room for Santa Barbara Street. Turn left on State Street and walk into El Paseo Plaza. After El Paseo, head along De La Guerra Street, north on Santa Barbara Street, right on Carrillo Street and back to your car.
While you're in the area, check out: State Street, the main strip in Downtown Santa Barbara, lined with cafes, coffee shops, and blessed with some gorgeous Spanish arcades, including Paseo Nuevo, El Paseo, and La Arcada. Also, check out the Courthouse with its amazing Spanish architecture, tropical sunken gardens, and tower with 360 degree views of the ocean and the American Riviera. If you love Spanish architecture, check out the cool townhouses on East Cota Street.

Continue to directions...

The blue Spanish stairs leading to the Raffour House.

The plaque in front of the Raffour House.

Gorgeous Spanish architecture is everywhere in this area!

El Presidio.

Panino Sandwich Shop, where you can eat outside looking across at the Presidio.

Spanish balcony on Santa Barbara Street.

View of Spanish rooftop and mountains from Santa Barbara Street.

Tower and mountains, as seen from Santa Barbara Street.

Living history demonstration at the presidio, at 9am on a weekday, for school groups.

Chumash presentation for school groups, at the presidio.

Lemon tree and yellow flowers, inside the courtyard of the presidio.

The chunky architecture of the presidio.

Orange-red roses in the presidio's courtyard.

Rose bush and brick building in the presidio's inner courtyard.

Knobby trees outside the entrance to the presidio.

A school group watches a spinning demonstration at the presidio.

The presidio boundary.


From Highway 101, exit at Garden Street. Turn towards the mountains. Pass about 7 streets and then turn right on Carrillo St and park along the road. If there is no parking on Carrillo St, turn left on Laguna Street and park along the road. The walk is described in the last paragraph above.
El Presidio museum, 123 E Canon Perdido St, call (805) 965-0093. Open daily 10-4:30pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and free for children aged 16 and under.
Raffour House, 329 E. Carrillo Street, Santa Barbara CA 93101.
Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.


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Sara Jo

Tue, 22 Dec 2009

great finds!

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Mon, 05 Jul 2010

I lived in the Raffour House back in the early 70's. Very cool Murphy bed in my apartment. Back then I believe it was owned by a Mr. Tossi an older gentleman. We used to talk and I believe he was one of the Italian immigrants to San Francisco that started the Bank of Italy which I think later became the Bank of America. At least that is how I remember it. Can anyone collaborate or clarify?

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Mon, 05 Jul 2010

Wow that's so interesting! Thanks for the comment.

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