January 13, 2005 - “This Could Be Heaven Or This Could Be Hell”
As you know by now, Ed likes tile. So, it was no surprise that yesterday’s Wednesday Where Is It Contest was such. But locating one particular mosaic in a city of mosaic art is as hard as finding an affordable condo in Mammoth on Martin Luther King Weekend after a big storm … that hard.
This particular tile mosaic is found on State Street in front of the entrance to the old Hotel Californian. The Hotel, built in Spanish Colonial Revival style, had the misfortune of being completed only four days before the big Santa Barbara Earthquake of 1925. The outside walls were lost and their demise was captured dramatically on film.
Repairs were made, and the Hotel operated at that location for many years. Recently, it housed a lively bar on first floor.
Today, the Hotel and the bar are empty … but by no means forgotten. The building has become an important pawn in developer Bill Levy’s game of life. In case you don’t know the details, Bill Levy and The Ritz-Carlton have been given approval to rebuild lower State Street with timeshares, pedestrian walkways, little shops, and parking lots.
The permits for the project have been granted and extended. The only issue floating around today is whether restoring the old Hotel Californian will be the first step of the project, or the last.
The City has concerns that if restoration is scheduled as the last thing, it might never get done (like the Miramar). What if the project runs out of money - if the Levy runs dry, so to speak?
This project sure puts song lyrics into your head, doesn’t it?
“Bye, Bye Miss American Pie”
“You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave.”
“Putting on the Ritz” – Fred Astaire or Young Frankenstein, take your pick.
Looking for Channel Islands Surfboards? There is now only a hole in the ground, just south of the old Hotel, where Channel Islands’ storefront used to be. Well, they have moved a couple of blocks over to Anacapa Street, just on the other side of the train tracks from Hazard’s and Santa Barbara Running - two businesses that had to relocate because of the Bermant Development Company’s project on Chapala.
A couple of other businesses on lower State Street - Hot Spots and the bike rental store - will need to clear out before Levy breaks ground.
There is no notion of where the new hot spot will be.
The dedicated staff of edhat.com was unable to find much information on the mosaic tile piece itself. The dolphin, the palm trees, and the words “Santa Barbara” written in an uneven font provide a neat pathway into the rightmost entrance to the building. We attempted to contact Levy’s company to ascertain if there are any plans to preserve the mosaic, but our phone calls were not returned.
In the daily contest, there were many subscribers who got close to the correct answer. No, the tile is not in front of the Dolphin fountain, at State & Cabrillo, near Eladio’s, the train station, nor even just off the sidewalk on the left-hand side of the old Channel Islands building (sorry, Aaron). Only Chryss was able to provide an absolutely correct answer. Chryss wins a t-shirt that can be picked up at the Edhat office … by appointment, until we get our carpet replaced. BTW, underneath our soggy carpet we found old kitchen-grade linoleum … not good news. Remember, Ed likes tile.
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Once again, a special thanks to the very nice people at the Santa Barbara Historical Society for answering all our stupid questions and helping us gather information for this story. The picture of the California Hotel is from the Joel Conway collection and taken by Dwight Faulding.