Saint Anthony’s Seminary: The Cultural Context

Saint Anthony’s Seminary dominates Santa Barbara’s skyline from as diverse locations as the downtown, Mission Canyon, the Mesa, the Riviera and outer State Street. The belfry soars above its neighbors and due to the City of Santa Barbara’s charter limiting heights in the residential districts to no higher than 30 feet, it is unlikely (actually, impossible without a revision to the Charter by City wide election) that any building will even come close to challenging its prominence.

As with many complex buildings, the seminary was built over time as money and vision came together to satisfy the needs of a growing institution. The seminary was founded in 1896 and was originally housed in an unused portion of the Mission. By 1899, the seminary outgrew its digs and it became necessary for it to have its own building. From 1899 to 1901 the central three-story structure – with its first floor clad in Santa Barbara sandstone and its upper levels tastefully adorned with Santa Barbara’s ubiquitous white cement plaster, wood windows and red tile roofs – rose from this prominent site.

The building was significantly enlarged in 1923, moderately damaged in the 1925 earthquake, but it was not until 1926 that architect Ross Montgomery’s strong hand gave us the chapel and the tower that is the symbol of this institution. Following their recent experience with the earthquake, Montgomery designed the chapel and tower with exposed reinforced concrete that is an integral part of the bold landmark we see throughout our community.