Courthouse Docent Tour (Part III)

By Lynda Millner   |   August 6, 2020
“The Spirit of the Ocean” fountain at the Santa Barbara Courthouse.

My docent tour of the Santa Barbara Courthouse began in the Mural Room and proceeded through the second floor and out the back by the old jail. We crossed the grounds to the Hall of Records and ended up in front of the courthouse.

As we walk along the path you see three plaques. The first commemorates the 1924 visit of the Count of Monterey. He is a descendant of the 5th Count of Monterey, who was the Viceroy of Mexico. Under his orders Sebastian Vizcaino navigated and named the Santa Barbara Channel in 1602.

The second plaque commemorates the visit of Albert and Elizabeth, King and Queen of the Belgians. They visited us in 1919 in thanks to the people of Santa Barbara for their relief to the people of Belgium during World War I.

The Great Arch at the Courthouse

The third plaque is for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in March 1983. Some of you may remember the deluge of rain that wouldn’t stop during their whole visit. They also visited President Reagan at his ranch above the Circle Bar B plowing through rain swept creeks. Only the day before a woman and her car had been swept away. A truly memorable visit.

Next we come to the fountain, “The Spirit of the Ocean,” designed and sculpted by Ettore Cadorin. Two locals, Maya Sexauer (a professional model) and her brother Wolfram posed for the figures. When they learned that Cadorin was being paid $5,000 for the project and they were being paid 25 cents an hour, they asked for a raise. Their wage was increased to 50 cents an hour.

The Spirit statue is an allegorical expression of Santa Barbara’s closeness to the sea. Sadly it was carved from very porous sandstone that began to crumble. The Courthouse Legacy Foundation raised about $731,000 to carve a replica. Nick Blantern and his team of five British stone carvers worked on the Courthouse lawn where everyone could watch. I’m told that the model, Maya, used to bring her chair, set it up on the lawn and tell folks that she was the one who had posed for the original when she was young. It took about a year to complete.

The grand arch was inspired by Roman triumphal arches and the sculptures on the arch were carved by Cadorin. At the top of the arch is an inscription in Spanish which reads, “God gave us the country; the skill of man hath built the town.”

When the pandemic is over, tours will begin again.


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