Archive » October 12, 2006
Eye on Santa Barbara
By John Watson
JUNIPERO PLAZA GATES
Looking at the evolution of the cultures that have lived on the South Coast, and the materials they used in their buildings, we must start with the Chumash. They built their houses out of surf grass, thatched together with tule on a willow frame. When the Spanish came, they built adobe houses, and as time passed, they used indigenous stone (Santa Barbara sandstone) for garden walls and for their buildings (including the Mission). After the railroad was completed and the trip to Santa Barbara became routine, the wealthy Americans began to settle in the area. They brought a desire for a more finished and fashionable statement for their buildings and the public streetscapes. One of the trades that they brought in to accomplish this fine craftsmanship was the stone masons from Italy.
There are two pairs of gates that define the upscale 1905 subdivision of the Junipero Plaza (named in honor of Junipero Serra, one of the founding Franciscans of the Mission). Nobody knows the name of the masons that designed or built these gates, but they demonstrate a sophistication of form and craftsmanship that has caused these gates to be admired for more than 100 years. A perfectly formed central arch, an integral stone molding that is topped with a decorative finial is indicative of the upscale sensibilities brought to this lasting piece of public art.
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