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.”
The earthquake which struck Santa Barbara in the early morning of June 29, 1925 caused massive damage to the Mission. Reconstruction took over two years; the restored church was consecrated in December 1927.
Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, O.F.M. and Fr. Augustine Hobrecht, O.F.M. inspect damage in a Mission corridor in the aftermath of the 1925 earthquake.
Adequate water supply has been a concern for Santa Barbara throughout its history. In the years surrounding the beginning of the 19th century, Mission Santa Barbara constructed an elaborate water system which reached high into the foothills of the Santa Ynez Range. This image was taken by I.N. Cook in the 1890s.
The Mission is the site of two Old Spanish Days Fiesta events. La Fiesta Pequeña on the Mission steps opens festivities and is followed the next day by La Misa del Presidente, a mass in honor of that year’s El Presidente and the directors of Old Spanish Days. This photograph by Karl Obert dates from 1935.
Famed landscape photographer Josef Muench has captured the excitement of Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta. Muench’s photographs appeared in over three hundred publications, most notably in the magazine, Arizona Highways.
This hand-colored postcard probably dates from around 1910. Here the Santa Barbara Mission serves as both an architectural embodiment of the holiday and a recognizable symbol of sunny California.