Among the well over 100,000 photographic images in the collection of the Gledhill Library at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the Santa Barbara Mission is well represented. From the earliest days of photography in this area photographers, amateur and professional, have been drawn to the South Coast’s most recognizable landmark. For some 160 years the Mission has been portrayed on prints, on 35 millimeter slides, on stereographs, and in postcards and these images have been rendered in black and white, in color, sepia, and in the vibrant blue shadings of cyanotypes.
The cache of Mission photographs at the Gledhill captures not only the buildings and grounds and the changes they have undergone over time, but also comprise a visual document of the life of the Franciscan community there as well as the role the Mission has played in the larger Santa Barbara community. Please enjoy this selection of images of the “Queen of the Missions.”
This hand colored image of the church interior dates from 1898. Recently the backless benches for parishioners had been replaced with the ones seen here.
The Franciscan community gathers for a portrait, 1882. Third from left is Fr. Joseph J. O’Keefe who wrote, The Buildings and Churches of the Mission of Santa Barbara in 1886. Fifth from left is Fr. Francisco Sánchez who had arrived at Mission Santa Barbara in 1841 and was the oldest Franciscan missionary in California at the time.
Whether arriving in Santa Barbara by stagecoach, ship, train, or auto, oftentimes visitors would make a point to visit Mission Santa Barbara. Here a group has found a “perfect parking spot” ca. 1910.
Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, O.F.M., at left, was a noted historian of the California missions and spent some thirty years at Mission Santa Barbara. Here he examines one of the many rare volumes housed at the Mission Archive-Library with his assistant, Fr. Felix Pudlowski.
Deterioration of materials used in the restoration of the Mission after the 1925 earthquake necessitated a teardown of the towers and façade in 1950-52. They were rebuilt with reinforced concrete and faced with limestone. Reconstruction was completed in the summer of 1953.
This aerial was taken by Karl Obert, a highly regarded landscape and architectural photographer. Behind the Mission is St. Anthony’s Seminary, rebuilt after the 1925 earthquake. The photograph dates from the early 1960s.