History of Santa Barbara

The history of Santa Barbara runs deep, through many cultures, across the Santa Barbara Channel, and throughout the city as it stands today. Culture is around every corner, and as you step into Santa Barbara, it’s also a step back in time into early Hollywood or to the very first days of Fiesta.

From the basketry and boat-building techniques of the Chumash Indians, to the Spanish Colonial influence that can be seen around every corner, and the first days of filmmaking, Santa Barbara’s history is vast and truly unique.

Spanish settlers gave the city its distinct architectural style in the form of Old Mission Santa Barbara and what is now the County Courthouse — a style that was carried forward by local visionaries after a massive earthquake destroyed much of the area’s infrastructure in 1925.

And before the curtain went up on the Los Angeles film scene, Santa Barbara was a booming hub for the silver screen, home to California’s first major movie studio, Flying A Studios. Hundreds of silent films were produced in Santa Barbara in the early 1920s, and Charlie Chaplin himself was known to frequent the area.

Maritime tradition began long ago and remains prominent in Santa Barbara. The famed Stearns Wharf is the oldest working wharf in California, built in 1872 by John Peck Stearns. Today, visitors enjoy walking Stearns Wharf, which is where one can find a variety of shops, restaurants, and local businesses.

Santa Barbara continued to make notable history into modern times when it established the world’s very first official Earth Day celebration in 1969. The annual Earth Day Festival still takes place in Alameda Park every April. Santa Barbara marks its history throughout the year with a series of festivals and events. Relive the festive Latin heritage during Old Spanish Fiesta Days. Celebrate the city’s 300+ days of annual sunshine during Summer Solstice. Watch as stars still walk the red carpet into the city’s many beautiful theaters during the annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Explore the centuries that established Santa Barbara as a world-class destination, and that give reason to celebrate our brilliant history all year long.