Friday, June 24, 2016

Santa Barbara Photoplay, Part II

Mural Room, Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Last year the Courthouse Legacy Foundation funded the restoration of Daniel Groesbeck's magnificent murals and John Battista Smeraldi's faux finish beams. Depicting the early history of Santa Barbara in a 360-degree cinematic style, the mural's impact is heightened by the elaborate 30-foot ceilings coated with Dutch metal gilding and bronzing powder paint.
Santa Barbara Photoplay
By Augustus Mayhew

My jaunt to Santa Barbara's "American Riviera," albeit with oil platforms and construction sites, was unexpectedly enriched when a two-hour JetBlue delay allowed me to take part in California's #1 interactive attraction — the nonstop three-hour rush hour between LAX and Ventura. Set between freeways and red carpets, LA's seismic pleasures are as fleeting as they are imagined however regarded its cutting-edge style, customs and culture. LA appeared to be simply much more than what it was during the 1980s when I last visited West Coast friends.

My recent stay was prompted by Santa Barbara and Palm Beach's shared architectural taste for Spanish-inspired designs. Santa Barbara's iconic courthouse is widely considered among the nation's finest Spanish Colonial Revival buildings, if not, the greatest. The city's centerpiece is both a multi-functional civic venue and noteworthy cultural museum. Built on the site of a previous courthouse leveled by the June 1925 earthquake, the U-shaped modified Spanish castle plan houses a more than 150,000-square-foot complex integrating four separate buildings. Organized in 2004, the Courthouse Legacy Foundation was established to preserve and maintain the facility's legacy created by California's finest engineers, craftsmen and artists.

I spent one afternoon at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum perusing the El Mirasol collection with the guidance of research director Michael Redmon. At Palm Beach, El Mirasol is associated with Ned and Eva Stotesbury's 1919 mansion designed by California-trained architect Addison Mizner. Actually, El Mirasol was first the name of a Santa Barbara house-turned-hotel owned by the Stotesbury's good friends Albert and Adele Herter. In 1904 Mary Herter bought one of the town's Mission Revival estates that upon her death was converted into an exclusive hotel named El Mirasol by her son and daughter-in-law. The Herter's hotel and bungalows attracted a Social Register clientele from 1913 until 1919. The year before they sold the hotel, the Herters were consulting with the Stotesburys on the design of their Palm Beach house. At the same time, the Philadelphia couple named their ocean-to-lake Palm Beach property El Mirasol, one year before they hired Mizner.

For those more interested in Santa Barbara's ongoing real estate pyramid rather than Andalusian aesthetics, several months ago Oprah paid $28 million for Seamair, the 23-acre horse farm adjacent to her $50 million palatial estate Promised Land, according to published reports. For Sale signs appear scant. On the other side of the mountain in Los Olivos, Neverland Ranch, rebranded Sycamore Valley Ranch, is still being shown for $100,000,000. Jeff Bridges' 985 Hot Springs Road enclave, the one he bought from Kenny Loggins, has been repriced by Sotheby's at $23.5 million.
Santa Barbara, postcard view.
Santa Barbara, postcard view.
Saint Barbara, tile plaque. Casa del Herrero Foundation. The image depicts the city's 18th-century origins as part of the Spanish mission developments. This historical persona contrasts with today's eclectic urban character.
Downtown's Upper and Lower State Street is a split screen of disparate values.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse, 1926-1929
1100 Anacapa Street
William Mooser & Company, architect
For further information contact: Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation
Anacapa Street elevation. At night, the courthouse's monumental scale and low massing take on the informal Andalusian ambiance that civic leaders sought following the 1925 earthquake. Because of the community's respect and reverence for its Spanish heritage, Santa Barbara was one of the first communities in the nation to make historic preservation an integral part of the planning process.
These photographs represent the architect's original courthouse models. Several years before the earthquake, the town had already decided that new construction should follow its adobe Spanish heritage. The rapid approval and building of the courthouse gave the town a powerful focal point.
President of the Courthouse Legacy Foundation, architect Bill Mahan and I spent several hours touring the courthouse. A 50-year resident of Santa Barbara, Bill serves on the Historic Landmarks Commission. In 1991, Bill's firm worked with renowned architect Charles Moore in a major restoration of the courthouse.
Courthouse, tile plaque.
Mural artist Channing Peake (1910-1989) painted this artful recreation of the courthouse's formal opening during the city's Old Spanish Days Fiesta in 1929.
To the right, the Main Arch links the Service Building with the Anacapa wing. The Rotunda Tower staircase links the Anacapa corridor with the Figueroa wing, far left. Landscape architect Ralph Stevens created a sunken garden at the site of the old courthouse basement that functions as an event gathering place and performance area.
From the observation deck (El Mirador) 110 feet above the ground, a southwest view toward Montecito and the ocean beyond. To the left, the courthouse's historic Jail wing, since converted into offices for the sheriff and district attorney.
From El Mirador to the right, a view of the iconic Franciscan Mission Santa Barbara (1820), rebuilt after the 1925 earthquake.
Anacapa Street, courthouse entrance.
The restoration of the Main Arch is the Courthouse Legacy Foundation's current project. Most likely, the architect patterned the arch's design after a similar one found at Casa de Carvajales in Caceres, Spain,
Main Arch, detail. Framed by two 20-foot Corinthian columns, the arch features sculptural figures of Athena and Ceres.
The arch's tunnel ceiling is credited to John Smeraldi.
The entrance to the administration wing is beneath the arch.
Spirit of the Ocean, fountain. Ettore Cadorin, sculptor. 1929.
Fountain, detail.
Main lobby, sculpture of civic leader Pearl Chase.
The first-floor galleries are furnished with period Spanish reproductions and paintings.
Spanish-style bench.
A spindled entrance leads from a corridor to the sunken garden's terraced lawn.
A variety of wrought-iron and glass windows
overlook the gardens.
Second floor corridors have arched openings overlooking the Sunken Garden.
The courthouse is enhanced with an immense collection of imported Spanish-Moorish tiles produced by Tunisian potter Jacob Chemla, recreating the ambiance and imagery of Seville's Alcazar and Granada's Alhambra. Several years earlier, George and Carrie Steedman designed their Montecito home Casa del Herrero with palettes of Chemla tiles.
The smooth white walls are accentuated by an array of ceramic tiles. Floor tiles were installed by Gladding, McBean & Company. The Les fils de Chemla tiles were imported by the Robert Rossman Company, New York. La Fitte tiles were imported from Spain.
Chemla tiles make up many of decorative tableaux. In the above image, the female figures on each side of the stairs and the surrounding tiles were La Fitte tiles while the remainder are Chemla tiles from the family's Tunis pottery.
Centerpiece, Chemla tiles. For an in depth look at the many sites in New York that once housed Chemla tiles before they were demolished visit Michael Padwee's website New York Tiles: LOST TILE INSTALLATIONS: The Tunisian Tiles of the Chemla Family,
Chemla tile tableau, detail.
Chemla tile tableau, window seat.
Chemla tile tableau, detail.
Chemla tile tableau, window seat.
Chemla tile tableau, detail.
Chemla tile tableau, window seat.
Chemla tile tableau. The architect's plans specified Gladding, McBean & Company as suppliers of the floor tiles.
Chemla tile tableau.
Chemla tile tableau.
Les Fils de Chemla also provided the small decorative inset floor tiles.
Gladding, McBean & Company floor tile with small Chemla tile inserts.
Tile flooring, risers.
Chemla tile tableau.
Chemla tile tableau, close up.
Chemla tile tableau.
The tile tableau complemented the painted ceilings and faux wood concrete beams and columns.
Born in Palermo, John Smeraldi was schooled in Renaissance fresco painting.
Ceiling detail. John Smeraldi, artist.
Mural Room
Daniel Groesbeck, mural artist - John B. Smeraldi, ceiling artist.
During his 25 years as Cecil B. DeMille's concept artist for films such as The Ten Commandments, King of Kings and Reap the Wild Wind, Groesbeck developed the skill to convey a story with evocative images. The Cecil B. DeMille Foundation houses many of Groesbeck's original story boards, scenery illustrations and character drawings.
Mural, detail. The murals were painted on muslin and glued to the walls.
Mural, detail. Groesbeck lived in Santa Barbara for many years.
Mural, detail.
Mural, detail.
Mural Room ceiling, detail. John B. Smeraldi, faux artist.
Mural Room ceiling, detail. Portions of the ceiling were restored following an earthquake in 1979.
Rotunda tower staircase. Located at the junction of the Anacapa and Figueroa Galleries, the unique inside-outside staircase is a distinctive element.
Figueroa Street entrance path.
Figueroa Street elevation, Lawyer's entrance.
Jail wing
Santa Barbara Street
Originally designed as jail cells and the jailers' apartments, today the complex's endpoint is occupied by the sheriff, district attorney and various administrative offices. The landscape features more than 50 varieties of palms.
The courthouse landscape has many of its original plantings.
The jail wing has underground parking and a distinctive circular staircase.
Jail wing, formal entrance. Santa Barbara Street.
Connected to the Figueroa wing by what is called the Bridge of Sighs, a turret isolation cell with a conical roof is the facade's captivating attraction.
Turret isolation cell, close up.
Main Arch, Clock Tower and El Mirador, view from the Sunken Garden.
Hall of Records

Located at the northwest corner of the courthouse complex, the Hall of Records is a 60-foot square building surrounded by a drainage swale designed to represent a castle moat.
Hall of Records, entrance doors. Designed by San Francisco sculptor John MacQuarrie, the copper relief panels are the work of metal artist Albert Yann.
Hall of Records, skylight.
Wrought-iron fixtures
Cast Stone works
Ettore Cadorin, the fountain's sculptor, is credited with designing the figurative reliefs. The sandstone was quarried at nearby Refugio Canyon.
Heraldry plaque.
Decorative relief.
The Main Arch's distinctive window, seen from the Sunken Garden.
Column, detail.
Rotunda, stone columns and decorative details. The gold-and-blue painted geometric wall was patterned after a similar configuration in Ravenna.
Numerous representational paintings add historic dimension to the courthouse corridors.
Lady in a White Gown. Della Shull Thompson Rich, artist. 1929.
John Battista Smeraldi, artist
Painted wood, detail. John Smeraldi, artist.
Painted details. John Smeraldi, artist.
Ceiling detail. John B. Smeraldi, artist.
Ceiling detail. John B. Smeraldi, artist.
Ceiling detail. John B. Smeraldi, artist.
Ceiling detail. John B. Smeraldi, artist.
Ceiling detail. Smeraldi was believed to have been inspired by the 14th-century synagogue El Transito, Toledo.
Ceiling detail. The frieze of palm trees was modeled from the Monreale Cathedral and Palatine Chapel, Palermo.
Commemorative plaque.
Historic Santa Barbara

Casa de la Guerra
15 East de la Guerra Street
Once the residence of one of Santa Barbara's distinguished Hispanic families, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation now stewards the adobe complex.
Despite the alterations, remodels, changes, and of course a major earthquake, the adobe's silhouette looks much the same as it did in the late 19th century.
Casa de la Guerra, detail.
Casa de la Guerra, detail.
Located next door to Casa de la Guerra, El Paseo was a mixed commercial-residential passageway, much like Mizner's Via Mizner, that incorporated part of the de la Guerra adobe. After the 1925 earthquake, the Paseo and the de la Guerra house were rebuilt as iconic models for nueva Santa Barbara.
La Arcada, State Street. Santa Barbara's downtown is a mix of the 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival styles and the more contemporary interpretation of the Revival style.
San Marcos Building (right), 1129 State Street. With its arched paseo and decorative façade added and rebuilt following the earthquake, San Marcos became the town's best example of the Spanish Churrigueresque style.
Santa Barbara Historical Museum
136 East de la Guerra Street
Santa Barbara Historical Museum, façade.
The museum's archives and director of research Michael Redmon are located in the courtyard.
A State Street institution, I liked everything about Joe's Café.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is in the midst of a $50 million capital campaign.
Every day is Bike to Work Day in Santa Barbara.
At the top of Upper State Street, the Granada is one of several picture palaces in the downtown, reminiscent of when movies were made in Santa Barbara.
On Lower State Street at the beach, cement trucks, major construction and detours are the main attraction for several blocks.
A June 2016 plein air landscape at Santa Barbara's beach.
The Santa Barbara Inn has been under construction for several years.
Palm trees line Cabrillo Boulevard.
Early morning at Santa Barbara beach.
Seascape with Oil Platforms, 2016.
Located across from Bellsoguardo, Huguette Clark bought the 42-acre marsh and donated it to the City of Santa Barbara in 1930, honoring her sister Andree. Home to 200 bird species, the refuge's freshwater lake and landscape were designed by the eminent Ralph Stevens who also designed the courthouse's landscape.
"Santa Barbara Beach, 2016."
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Palm Beach-A Greater Grandeur