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 Santa Barbara > Attractions > The Waterfront > Stearns Wharf > History


Stearns Wharf was built in 1872 to serve cargo and passenger ships. In the 1930s, gamblers boarded floating casinos at the pier, and during World War II it was turned into a naval installation. Now, the wharf has numerous shops and restaurants and gets 5 million visitors a year, making it Santa Barbara's No. 1 tourist attraction. 

On November 18, 1998 was seriously damaged by a fire that was fed by the specially treated timbers from which the wharf is built. It took firefighters 3 1/2 hours to put out the fire and regular crews were joined by fireboats.

This wasn't the first time the wharf was threatened by fire.  In June 1986, another fire caused heavy damage at the wharf and charred about 50 pier pilings, sending a black cloud of smoke more than 200 feet into the air.

Go to the Stearns Wharf Fire Picture Gallery

Cyber Dive

Halloween 1997 there was some mighty interesting things going on on the wharf.  Deep-sea divers were getting wet but the cyber-divers taking the vicarious plunge with them, spread all over the world, remained dry as a bone. Live and in real-time, using underwater microphones and cameras, a group of divers broadcast their expedition, designed as an instructive show-and-tell, over the Internet. Cyber-divers could even ask the in-the-ocean divers questions -- and get an instant answer. And many of the folks who lined up on the pier to watch -- and those who lined up online -- gave high marks to the deep sea cyber lesson.

Go to the Cyber Dive Picture Gallery