First Europeans to see the area were members of a Spanish expedition led by a Portuguese explorer, who sailed through the Channel in 1542 and anchored briefly near Goleta. Sir Francis Drake sailed past the area in 1579. Vizcaino gave the name "Santa Barbara to the area, in gratitude for having survived a violent storm in the channel on December 3, which is the eve of the feast day of Saint Barbara.
It took until 1769 for a colonizing land presence with the arrival of Gaspar de Portola and Father Serra in upper Las Californias. The expedition was sent by King Carlos III to occupy the region, convert the natives to Christianity and fortify it against the British empire and Russia.
Portola's expedition reached Santa Barbara on August 14, 1769. The native's irritated the Spanish with gifts and loud music that Portola moved the camp, so the soldiers and missionaries could get some rest. Portola did not stay and in 1782, a force of soldiers led by Don Felipe de Neve and accompanied by Father Serra built the Presidio of Santa Barbara, which was one of several military outposts meant to protect the area against foreign interests. The presidio was finally completed in 1792.
The soldiers that came to build the Presidio had brought their families with them and many decided to stay in Santa Barbara. The adobes were built near the Presidio and arranged haphazardly. Many of Santa Barbara's old families are descended fro the early settlers. Many of the street and place names are derived from the early settlers.
By 1803, the Mission's chapel was finished and by 1807, a complete village for the Indians had been completed by their own labor. The site of the village is on the Mission grounds.
On December 21, 1812, one of the largest earthquakes in the history of California completely destroyed the first Mission, along with most of Santa Barbara. This earthquake, also, caused a tsunami which carried water all the way to modern day Anapamu Street and carried a ship a half mile up Refugio Canyon. After the earthquake, the Mission padres decided to build a larger and more elaborate Mission complex, which is the one that survives to the present day. The church was completed in 1820 and the bell towers were not finished until 1833.
The most serious military threat to Santa Barbara during the Spanish period was from Hippolyte de Bourchard, a French privateer working for the Argentine government, which along with Mexico was attempting to throw off Spanish rule. Bouchard was given the task of destroying as many Spanish assets as possible and in particular the ports in the Americas. He had done that in Monterey, which was the capital of Alta California, before coming to Santa Barbara.
Bouchard landed at Refugio Canyon, where they pullaged and burned the ranch belonging to the Ortega family. Monterey alerted Santa Barbara and the Presidio despatched a squadron of cavalry who caught three stragglers and dragged them back to Santa Barbara. Bouchard sailed to Santa Barbara a few days later and threatened to shell the town if his men were not returned.Jose de la Guerra y Noriega, who was the commandant of the Presidio granted Bouchard's request, but Bouchard did not realize he had been tricked. Santa Barbara was not as heavily defended as it seemed to be. The hundreds of cavalry that Bouchard had seen through his spyglass were really a few dozen men riding in large circles who were stopping and changing consumes each time they passed behind a patch of heavy brush. Bouchard departed without destroying the town.
In 1822, the Spanish role ended and Santa Barbara, along with the rest of Alta California became a territory of Mexico. In 1824, there was an Indian rebellion. The Indians resented the poor and scape-goating treatment given by the soldiers at the Presidio, who were resentful of not being paid by the new government. The rebellion was started by the inland relations of the Chumash at Mission Santa Ines and spread to Mission La Purisima Concepcion.
In Santa Barbara, cattle ranching became the predominant land use. Horsemanship and cattle ownership were the symbols of status. The Chumash became laborers on the ranches with the oldest established families. During the Mexican period, Santa Barbara grew into a modest and informally organized collection of structures around the central Presidio. By the mid-1840's, the population had reached approximately 2500.
In August, 1846, Commodore Robert F. Stockton anchored a warship in Santa Barbara harbor and deployed a contingent of ten Marines to occupy the town. They proceeded to the Presidio, where they hoisted the Stars and Stripes over the City for the first time. The town was peaceful, so the ten marines left and were replaced by ten calvary men from John C Fremont's army. A contingent of a hundred Mexican cavalry sent by General Jose Maria Flores came and chased the calvary away. The calvary fled on foot up Mission Canyon and fortified a rocky ledge below La Cumbre Peak resisting the calls to surrender, when the Mexican force set fire to the chaparral the Americans climbed over the mountain ridge going north and eventually reached Monterey and joined forces with Fremont.
The final event of the Mexican-American war for Santa Barbara was Fremont's return over San Marcos Pass which at the time was little more than a trail. This happened on the night of December 24, 1846 during a torrential rain storm. He led his California Battalion over the mountains. Once he got over the mountains he spent several days regrouping and then marched into Santa Barbara to capture the Presidio with no resistance. All the men interested in fighting had left for Los Angeles to join forces head by Flores and Andres Pico, which had assembled to defend Los Angeles. On January 3, Fromont headed south, arriving in Los Angeles ten days later. The treaty of Cahuenga was signed on January 13, 1847, which ended the war in California. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed a year later, Santa Barbara formally became part of the United States.
Santa Barbara began to attract settlers, as people discovered the charms; including the fact that almost anything planted would grow. California became the 31st state in 1850 and quite soon after that Santa Barbara City and County came into being. The population in 1850 was 1185 people, but that number doubled in ten years.
On April 9, 1850, Santa Barbara incorporated as a city and formed an official town council. Settlers coming from the east, wanted dwellings made of wood, which had to be shipped from Oregon, as the local trees were not suitable. The import of wood was one of the issues that resulted in the development of the port.
Another consequence of the American takeover was the creation of the street grid which replace the haphazard jumble of dwellings and irregular paths.
Another change that accompanied the transformation of Santa Barbara from a small village to a significant town was the founding of the first newspaper, the Santa Barbara Gazette in 1855. the newspaper was printed in half English and had Spanish. Spanish remained the language used for public records until 1870.
During the 1850's, life in Santa Barbara was disrupted by men returning from gold camps in the Sierra Foothills and gangs of toughs and highwaymen. Some targeted the Spanish population causing racial incidents. The confrontation with the gang led by Jack Powers at the "Battle of Arroyo Burro" in 1853 in which he intimidated and drove away a posse of approximately 200 citizens was one of the most dramatic incidents of the period. Powers was not thrown of town until some vigilantes from San Luis Obispo rode to Santa Barbara to get rid of him. He was murdered and hurled into a den of hungry wild board in Sonora, Mexico.
In 1859, Santa Barbara recorded the highest temperature of 133 degrees F, which was ever noted on the North American continent. This record stood until Death Valley topped it by one degree in 1913. Two other weather events happened that had an effect on the development of Santa Barbara. There were catastrophic floods during the winter of 1861-1862, during which the Goleta Slough, which was formerly open to deep water vessels, completely silted up, becoming the marsh it remains today and the disastrous drought of 1863, which forever ended the Rancho era, and the large ranches were broken down and sold in smaller parcels for development.
Victorian period-During the Civil War, one troop of cavalry organized to join the Union cause, but never saw action against confederate forces; they served briefly and bloodlessly in Arizona versus Apache raids. In 1869, the first coeducational preparatory school in Southern California, Santa Barbara College opened. Improvement in the harbor included the building of Stearns Wharf in 1872, which increased the commercial capacity of the port. Also in 1872, Jose Lobero built an opera house, State Street was paved and gas lamps lit downtown.
Writer Charles Nordhoff was commissioned by Southern Pacific Railroad to write about Santa Barbara and to draw Easterners to the town. This writing was responsible for the boom in the tourism industry that commenced in the 1870's and would eventually lead to Santa Barbara becoming a world famous resort. The Arlington Hotel built in 1874 and destroyed by fire in 1909, housed many of the Eastern tourists.
The isolation of Santa Barbara ended in stages. Stearns Wharf allowed access by steamboat in 1887, the railroad to Los Angeles was completed and in 1901, the railroad was put through to San Francisco. The day the first train arrived from San Francisco; was the last day of the stage coach over San Marcos Pass. The first electric streetcar line opened in 1896, as the demand for transportation increased. In 1900, the population had reached 6,587.
In the 1890's Summerland Oil Field was found and began to be developed. Summerland was the site of the world's first offshore oil well. Most of the oil had been pumped out by 1910, derricks remained on the beach into the 1920's and the field remained partially productive until 1940.
Santa Barbara was the center of the United States silent film industry from 1910 to 1922, before anyone associated the name "Hollywood" with movies. The Flying A Studios, a division of the American Film Company covered two city blocks and was at a time the largest movie studio in the world. The studios produced 1200 films during that period of time, including the world's first indoor set and likely the first animated cartoon. Only about 100 of these films are known to have survived today. Many of the films were westerns with Lon Chaney, Sr. and Victor Fleming as a couple of the actors. Before the Flying A became predominant in 1911, there were 13 separate film companies. The local film era ended in 1922 when the studios moved south, needing a larger city.
By 1920, the population had reached 19,441. The completion of the water tunnel under the mountains to Gibraltar Reservoir on the Santa Ynez River relieved some water shortages. A movement for city beautification began and the idea was to unify the architecture around a Spanish Colonial style, which would go along with mission and other buildings.
A very destructive earthquake happened on June 29, 1925 and was the first destructive earthquake in California since the 1906 earthquake. The 1925 earthquake converted much of the of Santa Barbara to rubble. The epicenter of the quake was centered on an unknown fault offshore and most of the damage came about because of two strong aftershocks, which occurred onshore and five minutes apart.
The earthquake happened at 6:23 a.m. and because of that there was a low death toll. The was a fire after the earthquake, but it was contained by a company of Marines who had arrived immediately to maintain order. The earthquake and the movement for architectural reform is credited with giving Santa Barbara its unified Spanish character. The most famous new structure at the time was the Spanish-Moorish style County Courthouse completed in 1929.
In 1928, oil was found at the Ellwood OIl field and development of this new and rich pool was fast. The peak production in 1930 was 14.6 million barrels of oil. Derricks went along piers into the ocean and the cliffs were dotted with storage tanks. Some of the development exists today. In 1929, as part of the wild burst of oil drilling activity following on the Ellwood discovery, the Mesa Oil field was discovered. The field sprouted over 100 oil derricks in the early 1930's caused the first anti-oil protest, but a local ordinance already allowed such development. The field failure in the late 1930's allowed residential development to continue on the Mesa, although the field was not formally abandoned until 1976.
During World War II, the United States Marines took up residence on the high ground adjacent to Goleta Point, which is now the location of University California at Santa Barbara. The military filled in the Goleta Slough in order to expand the airport. The United States Navy took over the harbor area and north of Point Conception, the Army created Camp Cooke, which is now Vandenberg Air Force Base. On February 23, 1942, a Japanese submarine emerged from the ocean and lobbed about 25 shells at the Ellwood Oil facilities. The was one of only two direct attacks on the United States mainland during the entire war and the first such attack since the War of 1812. The attack caused $500 damage to a catwalk. On March 2, 1942, military authorities issued Public Proclamation #1, which began the internment of Japanese during the war. Approximately 700 people of Japanese ancestry assembled on Cabrillo Blvd. to be taken to Manzanar.
After the war ended any people who had seen Santa Barbara during the war came back to stay. The population grew by 10,000 by 1950. Highway 101 was built through town during this time.
The oil industry moved most of the local operations offshore during the 1950's and 1960's. In 1947, offshore leases were approved by the federal government and seismic exploration of the Channel took place in the 1950's; even though fishermen complained that the underwater explosions were killing fish. The first of the large oil platforms went up in 1958. Stearns Wharf was the main connection for all services going out to the platforms.
A blowout on January 28, 1969 on an offshore oil well at the Dos Cuadras offshore oil field spewed between 80-1000,000 barrels of oil, which produced an immense oil slick which spread over hundreds of square miles of ocean in the Santa Barbara Channel contaminating shorelines and killing wildlife and ruining the tourist industry. GOO(Get Oil Out) was formed shortly after the spill, and oil drilling has been a sensitive subject ever since. Consequences of the spill included the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act in 1970, which require assessment of potential environmental impacts of projects before they begin.
In 1964, the Coyote Fire burned 67,000 acres of back country along with 150 homes and briefly threatening the entire town of Montecito. In 1977, the Sycamore Fired roared through Sycamore Canyon on the northeast fringe of Santa Barbara and destroyed over 200 homes. Most destructive was the 1990 Painted Cave Fire, which burned over 500 homes in several hours during a Sundowner wind event. The fire crossed over the freeway into Hope Ranch and caused over a quarter billion dollars in damage.
In the mid-1970's, the forces opposing uncontrolled growth had become stronger than those favoring development. On April 8, 1975, the City Council passed a resolution to limit the city's population to 85,000 through zoning. In adjacent areas, it was normal to deny water meters to developments which had been approved by the County Board of Supervisors. The city and adjacent areas stopped growing but the price of houses rose sharply.
In 1991, voters approved connection to state water supplies and growth resumed in parts f the city, especially outlying areas. In 2006, only 6 percent of resents could afford a median value house. As a result, many people who work in Santa Barbara commute from adjacent, affordable areas. The resultant traffic on incoming highways is another issue being addressed by long range planners.
The information for this post was taken from Wikipedia.