The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Santa Barbara, California

Award Type: Trustee Emeritus Award for Excellence in the Stewardship of Historic Sites

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation was created in 1963 with the initial charge of restoring the Presidio, the Spanish colonial fort where the city was founded. Since then, the group has become the caretaker of the town’s historic buildings and the diverse stories they tell. 

Santa Barbara’s mission architecture is world famous. And for nearly 50 years, one group has been the caretaker of the town’s historic buildings, and the diverse stories they tell.

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) was created in 1963. Their initial charge was to restore the Presidio, the Spanish colonial fort where the city was founded.

Working in conjunction with California State Parks, SBTHP did much more than simply restore it: the Presidio is now a living history site in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. Educational programs, exhibits, artifacts and research interpret the city’s Hispanic heritage. Volunteers help with restoration efforts, which have rebuilt the Presidio Chapel and roughly 20 rooms to date. The organization also restored the 1820s home of a Santa Barbara patriarch and several mid-19th century adobes. In partnership with the state, it operates two historic mills and El Cuartel, California’s second-oldest building. More recently, the organization acquired Jimmy’s Oriental Tavern—a beloved local landmark and the last remnant of the city’s Chinatown—for incorporation into the El Presidio State Historic Site. The acquisition enhances SBTHP's ability to interpret Santa Barbara’s multi-layered history, including Native American, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and Japanese settlers over the past 200 years.

"While each is unique, this year’s outstanding award winners all reflect the importance of protecting what is special and irreplaceable," said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "Thanks to the ambitious work of the Santa Barbara Historic Trust for Historic Preservation, the varied past of this beautiful seaside town is alive and well."