Restoring the Casa to Its Original Configuration
In 1992, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) began work at Casa de la Guerra to restore the grand adobe home of Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega, who became the commandant of nearby El Presidio de Santa Barbara in 1815. The Casa had been remodeled many times between its completion in 1828 and SBTHP's acqusition of it in 1971. Sometimes this meant small changes, like adding a dividing wall, and sometimes it meant significant change, like the repairs and remodel after the Fort Tejon earthquake in 1857. The Casa was also repurposed as it went from a family home to being incorporated into El Paseo, a 1920s retail and office complex.
During a preliminary archaeological investigation in 1990 and a later, more thorough investigation in 1992 to 2001, the SBTHP determined the earliest configuration of the Casa and in the process learned some surprising things about the building materials and techniques. Archeologist Mike Imwalle and his crew also found some intriguing artifacts in some of the strangest places.
With the decision to return the Casa de la Guerra to its original configuration, they removed all the newer materials and structure, including more than 100 tons of concrete. These moments of removal revealed some unexpected information about the adobe bones of the Casa.
Mike's field notes and stories reveal that there were moments of danger and frustration, but also many moments of discovery as they uncovered a casa that looked quite different from the structure used as a shopping center in 1970.