What could 1.3 million dollars buy in the mid-1920s? After an earthquake rumbled through Santa Barbara in 1925 and leveled the county courthouse, a grandiose new one rose up in its place (tight-fisted voters had earlier denied funding for a grander municipal building).
The Spanish-Moorish design of the courthouse is the most visible example of the city’s post-earthquake mandate that buildings—previously a hodgepodge of clapboard and brick styles and many of which were destroyed during the natural disaster—adhere to a Mediterranean look.
The courthouse flaunts a red-tiled roof, hand-painted ceilings, colorful Tunisian tiles, ornate lanterns, graceful arches, and this spiral staircase.
The walls of the “Mural Room” depict significant moments in California history. (Take the tour and the guide will share which of the scenes were rendered inaccurately.)
Topping the courthouse is a clock tower that looms 85 feet above the city.
So mesmerizing and museum-like is the building that while wandering its corridors it’s easy to forget that it’s still in use.