A Golden Eagle Gala

By Richard Mineards   |   December 20, 2022
Dacia Harwood, Lillie Hodges, Riley Harwood, Natalie and Brett Hodges, Brandon Mowry, Dan MacLeod, and Beth Gabler (photo by Priscilla)

The eagle has landed!

After a major nine-month restoration that used 12 books of 22 karat gold leaf, equal to 312 individual sheets or 5.3 grams of gold, by local expert Chris Bailey, a most impressive golden eagle, which used to hang above the stage at the Lobero Theatre at the turn of the last century, will be back at the venerable locale as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.

The 109-guest Jingle & Mingle gala, described as an ovation celebration, filled the historic stage of the George Washington Smith-designed building, originally founded by José Lobero as an opera house in 1873.

Nine-time Grammy-nominated American jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton (photo by Priscilla)

It is the fourth oldest performing arts theater in the U.S.

The golden eagle originally adorned the SS Yankee Blade, owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in American history with his shipping and railroads. The three-masted side-wheeled steamship used to ply its trade during the California Gold Rush, ferrying miners to San Francisco from the East Coast via the isthmus of Panama, a six-week voyage.

It was wrecked in fog off the Gaviota Coast in 1854, with a loss of nearly 40 lives and $155,000 worth of gold. The eagle was eventually recovered on Santa Rosa Island by a young boy and was sold supposedly for a bottle of whisky to Lobero, who hung it above his bar on State Street before moving it to his eponymous theater.

It eventually ended up hanging above the entrance to a local ranch, having been bought by the rancher for $5 and finally ending up at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum where Brett Hodges, a board member of both the theater and the museum, and his wife Natalie decided to restore it to its former glory for the 150th anniversary with funding from David and Sharon Bradford through the WWW Foundation.

It will now sit in the lobby for the next year before returning to the museum for safe keeping.

The gala also featured a short film by Montecito Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges and a performance by Grammy nominated singer Tierney Sutton accompanied by internationally acclaimed jazz pianist Tamir Hendelman with selections from the Great American Songbook and Yuletide staples.

Among the stage-struck crowd were author Fannie Flagg, Bob and Val Montgomery, Riley and Dacia Harwood, Mercedes Millington, Jamie and Marcia Constance, Anne Towbes, Adam and Penny Bianchi, and Charles and Barbara de L’Arbre.


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