About 13,000 years ago Native Americans called the Chumash settled this area. By the time the Spanish Missionaries arrived, they were living all along the coast and on the Channel Islands. One hundred and fifty independent villages had a population of about 18,000. The people spoke different but related languages. According to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, "This trade was made possible in part by the seagoing plank canoe, or tomol, which was invented about 2,000 years ago. In addition to the plank canoe, the Chumash are known for their fine basketry, their mysterious cave paintings and their money made from shells."

The Mission Period

The Mission and El Presidio were settled at about the same time in the 1780s. They began an era of colonization and the Christianization of the native Chumash. The missions were secularized in the 1820s (when the ending almost fifty years of growth. The Spanish governed the area until 1822, when California became a Mexican territory until 1846 when Colonel John Fremont and his soldiers took Santa Barbara for the United States.

The Rancho Period

Agriculture and ranching became strong from 1830 to 1865. Although Mexican and Americans ruled during this time, the actual lifestyle of the locals was not affected greatly. Horses, cattle ranches and community were the focal points of this era.

The Victorian Period

After the Civil War, the face of Santa Barbara began to change. Victorian houses soon outnumbered Spanish Colonials. Shipping grew in prominance, as goods and people from the East began pouring in through the small, but growing, port. This begins a period of great experimentation. Agriculture becomes more important as people realize that just about anything planted grows here.

The Earthquake of 1925

The town is devastated by the earthquake. Local towns folk realized that most of the Victorians had burned and most of the buildings left standing were the Spanish Colonials, that relied more heavily on indigenous building techniques. An ordinance is passed making the downtown area Spanish Colonial.

The Boom Period

Somewhere between the Earthquake and now, Santa Barbara exploded from a quiet agricultural community to a busy, well rounded community.


  • When the Rincon portion of the U.S. 101 Freeeway was built in the 1930s, it marked the first time you could actually drive to Santa Barbara along the coast.
  • During WWII, Japanese fired 16 shells near Santa Barbara. They caused no injuries but did cause $500 damage to a shed and catwalk at the seaside Barnsdall-Rio Grande Oil Co. field along Goleta Beach.
  • Parts of the Mission's aqueduct are still in use by the city's waterworks department even today.
  • Many early movies were filmed in Santa Barbara. The Flying-A Studio was the first "Hollywood of the North."

See Also