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836 Anacapa St

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Designation Status: Designated City Landmark

Assessor Parcel Number: 031-011-001

Historic Name: Santa Barbara Post Office

Constructed: 1936-1937

Property Description:

A massive two story, irregular-shaped, stucco building, irregular roof elevations. Gabled shingled roof w/ some tile. Open galeria in middle section of second level. Predominately double-sashed windows, w/ metal and glass doors. Essentially in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the building contains many details of the Streamline Moderne style such as chevron decoration, stainless steel doors, and an eagle on the north façade. This combination of the old and the new links architecturally Santa Barbara's past and future. The six panels of interior relief sculpture are by William C. Atkinson. The building is attractively landscaped with hedges and trees.

Architect: Reginald Johnson

Architectural Style: Art Deco

Property Type: Post Office

Original Use: Post Office


Designated City of Santa Barbara Landmark (07/18/1995).

City Council Findings:
1. The Santa Barbara Post Office has a character, interest, and value that makes it a significant part of the heritage of Santa Barbara;
2. Its association with the Public Works Administration, Postal Service, and the New Deal in general demonstrates the extent to which federal government effected changes in Santa Barbara during the Great Depression. The relationship between Postmaster James T. Farley and local newspaper editor Thomas Storke likewise represent the interplay between federal, state, and local agencies in United States history. Further connections between the post office and its chief architect, Reginald Johnson, contribute to its stature as an extraordinary structure in comparison with others in Santa Barbara and around the State;
3. Its exemplification of Mediterranean architectural styles and incorporated elements from the New Deal Moderne vocabulary, and mail services rendered over 57 years of continued service;
4. Its identification as the creation and design of architect Reginald Johnson, whose efforts on the Biltmore Hotel, Santa Barbara Post Office, and other buildings have won acclaim while contributing to the emerging aesthetic and heritage of the City and the State;
5. Its embodiment of elements demonstrating outstanding attention to architectural design, detail, materials and craftmanship;
6. Its location on a prominent corner in downtown Santa Barbara and proximity to other buildings of historic significance representing an established and familiar visual feature of the neighborhood.

National Register Application:
The building was built on the site of an old chinese restaurant in China Town. Just before and after the turn of the century the site contained frame and adobe dwellings, and was known as a "red light district". The post office is located immediately adjacent to the westerly façade of the Spanish Royal Presidio. A bronze plaque placed by the Native Sons of the Golden West on the building's entrance terrace commemorates this fact.

Instead of building in its usual classical style, the U.S. government allowed the building to be built in the Spanish idiom. This was accomplished by the influence of Thomas Storke postmaster of Santa Barbara in 1914 and later to be editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press who traveled to Washington to plead the case for a Spanish style building. Its architect, Reginald Johnson, was one of the master architects who brought the Spanish Revival in Santa Barbara to national prominence. By the mid-1930's Johnson had shifted from pure Spanish imagery to streamline moderne and he let some of these streamline elements trickle into this otherwise Spanish building. Known for his ability to create each building to fit and harmonize with its site, his other works include the Biltmore Hotel and many elegant residences.

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