The Pearl Chase Society takes a leadership role in advocating for the preservation of historic buildings and other cultural resources in the Santa Barbara area. Advocacy includes pro-active efforts to identify, document and protect historic buildings, sites, neighborhoods and cultural resources and to promote incentives for preservation. Advocacy efforts include protesting the denigration and demolition of historic resources, speaking at public hearings, and alerting our members, the public and the press about preservation issues.

Whether you are a PCS member or not, you are encouraged to notify the Pearl Chase Society about potential preservation issues or alerts. Please contact the Society as soon as you are aware of an upcoming situation so that the Society will have time to respond.

The following procedures are suggested in order for the Pearl Chase Society to take action on any preservation issue or alert:

Write out the specifics of the structure, landscape or issue involved and the reasons for your concern. Include the property address, if applicable. Provide your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address. Photographs of the subject property and surrounding properties are helpful. Send the information to the Society either by letter or e-mail.

If you are also interested in giving a presentation to the Preservation Committee, which meets the fourth Friday of each month, please call (805) 961-3938.

The committee may recommend persons or agencies that might assist with solving the matter and/or vote to present the issue to the Board of the Pearl Chase Society with recommendations for action. The Board, at its discretion, may authorize that a letter of support be sent to the relevant agencies and officials. The Board may also designate a Pearl Chase Society member to speak on behalf of the Society at the appropriate public hearings.


Courthouse Archway Restoration Project

The Society adopted Santa Barbara County Courthouse’s Main Archway Ceiling in 2009 and paid $67,500 to have it restored.

Originally painted circa 1928 under the direction of Giovanni Baptista (John) Smeraldi, a master at creating European Renaissance architectural decoration, the paintings had faded and chipped over the past 80 years and needed their detail and luster restored.

Smeraldi’s work, often in the Mudejar style, embellishes the ceilings of such notable places as the Cal Tech Athenaem (recently discovered when drop-ceiling panels were removed), the Los Angeles Biltmore, the lobby of the Jonathan Club, New York City’s Grand Central Station and Plaza Hotel, and the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Robert Ooley, County Architect, volunteered his time meticulously gridding and recording the ceiling paintings in preparation for restoration. He found that many of the shadow and shading features had nearly

disappeared and the Dutch metal, imitation gold leaf made from zinc and copper, was so tarnished that the rosettes and stars no long shone.

Robert spent a dozen weekends on a scissors lift tracing the designs on acetate and photographing each element. Ray Mac Painting then came in and did the actual restoration work, and today the designs are as fresh as they were in 1928. The Pearl Chase Historic Homes Tour of 2009, as well as a benefit dinner in the Mural Room of the Courthouse, helped fund the project.

Preservation Watch List

Join the Pearl Chase Society

The Pearl Chase Society’s an all volunteer, not-for-profit conservancy dedicated to preserving Santa Barbara’s historic architecture, landscapes and cultural heritage.