Santa Barbara is a city so rich in history that its easy to sometimes miss something very interesting. A prime example is Casa de La Guerra. It's right in the middle of everything. It's just off State Street a half block from El Paseo Nuevo shopping mall. You'd think everybody would swing by to check out their wonderful exhibits. Unfortunately, most people in town don't realize what a wonderful slice of history is right under our very noses. When you first walk in there is a simple room that does double duty as a video hall and bookstore. If you take a left from there, however, you enter room upon room of fabulous vignettes. It was so easy to linger to admire the fascinating artifacts.It is easy to walk away with an appreciation of what life in early Santa Barbara must have been like.
The Casa has been at the heart of Santa Barbara's history since its construction (1819-1827) by the fifth Presidio comandante, Jose de la Guerra. He was a wealthy and influential man who history tells us was a true leader and protector of the people. His family continues to be important in this county to this very day. As the town grew up around the Casa, it played a central role in celebrations, especially Fiesta. During the earthquake of 1925, the Casa served as a role model for the rebuilding of the devastated city.
The Casa de la Guerra was the residence of the fifth commandant of the Presidio de Santa Barbara, Jose de la Guerra y Noriega from 1828 until his death in 1858. Descendants of Jose lived in the home until 1943. The site is currently owned and operated by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation as a historic house museum. The address is 15 East De la Guerra Street, Santa Barbara, California.
The time when Jose lived in the casa it was known to locals as the casa grande (big house), as the thirteen room structure dwarfed the surrounding one room adobes. In the casa grande period, Jose added the altito structure. The altito structure no longer stands, but acted as Jose's office and was where he stored his money.
The 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake did significant damage to the residence, and due to Jose's declining health, his son Pablo spearheaded renovations. Pablo's renovations reflected the change in style in the Santa Barbara area, modifying the home to give it a Victorian appearance. The most significant changes in this time were the removal of the adobe columns in favor of wooden columns and the addition of wooden siding to the house.
The Casa is a Santa Barbara City Landmark, a California Historical Landmark. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places together with Paseo de la Guerra as "El Paseo and Casa de la Guerra".The house is being restored and furnished to appear as it might have between 1828 and 1858. The Casa de la Guerra interior is open to visitors Saturdays and Sundays, although the exterior may be explored any time.
Directions: From the 101 freeway, take the Garden Street exit and turn towards the mountains. Drive until you read De la Guerra Street. Follow it until it deadends on State Street. Parking in this area is a bit tight. There is some limited parking across the street at the De la Guerra Plaza, but your best bet is to turn left on Anacapa Street and then right on Ortega Street. The parking garage on your left usually has spaces.