The Santa Barbara News-Press has announced that all remaining operations are moving from downtown Santa Barbara to its printing plant in Goleta. Efficiency was cited as the reason, but who cares? The newspaper has been moribund for years. The interesting question is what will happen to the iconic 1922 building anchoring De La Guerra Plaza.
Some history from the Historic Landmarks Commission’s staff report encouraging the building be landmarked, which it was in 2015:
The earliest building at the south end of Plaza de la Guerra was built in the early to mid 1850s, the Sepulveda Adobe that continued to define the south boundary of the Plaza until it was demolished in 1922 to make way for the construction of publisher Thomas Storke’s Daily News Building (later changed to the Santa Barbara News-Press). The building was designed by George Washington Smith in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style, in keeping with the new theme of downtown Santa Barbara. […]
In 1951, the firm of Edwards and Wade constructed a two-story addition off the east
end of the building’s north elevation. It features a large tower capped by a belvedere
with a pyramidal roof built off the east end of the north elevation. Construction of the
addition included replacing the lower roofline at the east end of the 1922 building with one that matched the plate height of the building’s central block. […]
The construction of the tower introduced an emphatic vertical element that had not characterized Smith’s original scheme. The insertion of two large rectangular windows that mimicked the appearance of the first floor’s existing fenestration produced a more balanced if not symmetrical arrangement than had Smith’s design. The tower now contributes to the significance of the original building facing Plaza De La Guerra. A rectangular building was added* that fronts Ortega Street and is does not contribute to the historic significance of the original building.
[UPDATE 4/24: *I neglected to mention that the addition fronting E. Ortega Street is slated to be demolished as part of the 66-room hotel project at 710 State Street. UPDATE 4/28: Scratch that. I was confusing 19 E. Ortega (home to Nomad Goods, which is part of the 710 State Street project), with the other building behind the News-Press, which used to be home to NS Ceramic.]
As for the future…. Plans to make over De La Guerra Plaza are inching their way through the city’s lengthly approval process, and the building is a linchpin in any effort to bring the area back to life. In January of 2022, however, the Independent reported that Wendy McCaw—owner of the newspaper and the building—was refusing to engage with the city on the matter of the plaza. She may want to change her tune, seeing as how any changes to the building (or attempts to build on the adjacent parking lot) will require city approval.
The building would make a great home for an art museum, if the city didn’t already have one. What downtown Santa Barbara doesn’t have is a truly high-end hotel. Having never been inside, I have no idea whether such a thing is even feasible.
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