The Old Mission Santa Barbara was founded by Spanish Franciscans in 1786, and it's just one of the picturesque sights that help put Santa Barbara on the map.
The bells have been ringing at the mission for more than two centuries. But the first residents of this area date back thousands of years, to the Chumash people.
The town was named by the Spanish explorer, Sebastián Vizcaino, in 1602 for Saint Barbara, the third-century Christian martyr. When Spanish settlers arrived in the 18th century, they built (along with the Chumash) "El Presidio," a fort to protect the California coast from foreign invasion. The nearby mission was built soon after, setting a Spanish architectural style that endures to this day.
When an earthquake nearly destroyed the mission, and much of the city, in 1925, local visionaries insured that Santa Barbara would rebuild and rebound in the same design.
And did it ever.
The oceanfront jewel, two hours from Los Angeles, became known as "Hollywood to the North." Silent film pioneer Charlie Chaplin built California's first major movie studio here, Flying "A" Studios, producing hundreds of movies.
In the coming years, this once-sleepy seaside town became a place where people from all over would escape for fun in the sun. Chef Julia Child spent both her childhood and retirement on these beaches.
Today, with its outdoor lifestyle, fresh seafood, and beautiful homes, Santa Barbara is the epitome of the California dream, a town dubbed the "American Riviera."
- Montecito's El Fureidis, a Gilded Age treasure in Santa Barbara
- Inside Bellosguardo, a reclusive heiress' historic home
For more info:
- Old Mission Santa Barbara
- Santa Barbara Historical Museum
- El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Park
- Visit Santa Barbara
Story produced by Jon Carras. Editor: George Pozderec.
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