The Street of Spain

After wintering in Santa Barbara in both 1918 and 1919, Bernard and Irene Hoffman moved permanently to Santa Barbara in 1920. That same year, the Hoffmans purchased the Casa de la Guerra adobe and the properties immediately surrounding it. They hired James Osborne Craig to do a conceptual design for a series of shops and restaurants clustered around a central courtyard in what would become El Paseo. Craig, an immensely talented designer, had studied at the Royal Academy (London), although he never finished his studies there. Despite being only 32 years old at the time he was commissioned, Craig’s strong hand not only brought forth the design for the central courtyard, but also the paseos (mid-block walkways) that connect the central courtyard to the surrounding streets to the east and south. The paseo that connects the courtyard to de la Guerra Plaza is called “The Street of Spain,” the entrance of which is depicted here.

Using the rural Spanish vernacular architectural vocabulary that now dominates most of downtown Santa Barbara, Craig integrated simple one- and two-story white plastered forms into a rather complex assemblage that has the charm and warmth of a Spanish village. At the time, Santa Barbara was a hodgepodge of architectural styles that could be found in most other Southern California towns. It was not until five years later when the earthquake leveled significant portions of the downtown that the rebuilding in the Spanish Colonial Revival style would really take hold. Tragically, Craig died in 1922 at age 34, shortly after construction began on the first phase of El Paseo’s construction. Different phases of the work continued until 1929 under the supervision of Craig’s wife, Mary, a talented designer in her own right, and architect Carleton Winslow.

Many thanks to Pam Post, Ph.D., for her assistance in preparing this article.