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Santa Barbara - South County

Ornate ceiling illuminated for the first time by Courthouse Docent lamp project

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A two-year-long restoration project just finished up in a section of the historic Santa Barbara County Courthouse. The work was completed indoors, in an area below the famous clocktower and above the main tiled stairwell.

Once the historic landmark reopens to the public, visitors will be able to look up and see a beautiful, ornate crimson and gilded ceiling. Robert Ooley, Architect for Santa Barbara County, said that stairwell ceiling was "never before seen."

There's a simple explanation for that -- there was no light. Now, there is.

"The stairwell ceiling looks fantastic," said Ooley.

Ooley credited Rodney Baker, Chair of the Courthouse Docent Council Project, and the Courthouse Docents for completing the lamp project, with help from local artisans.

A special lift with a scale will soon be used to weigh the massive lantern. (Beth Farnsworth/KEYT)

"It's about 10 feet tall and it had to be cleaned and restored, specifically to take out years of birds nests. So, we were able to do that without disturbing any of the current residents," said Baker.

The ceiling, which is the only wooden ceiling in the building, was also cleaned and restored. It is essentially the floor of the clock room.

The massive glass and wrought iron lantern is designed after those on Spanish galleons centuries ago.

"The tradition was, after a safe voyage to the new world and back, the chandelier or lights would be donated to the church as thank you for a safe voyage," Baker explained.

Baker gave kudos to Ann Kale and Associates Inc. and Tanya and Dave at Holroyd Studios for doing the restoration work. Kale donated her time and Holroyd Studios gave the City a huge discount on the project that was estimated to be upwards of $20,000 in cost.

Barbara Peters, Robert Ooley and Rodney Baker stand near newly renovated courthouse lamp (Beth Farnsworth/KEYT)

Ooley, Baker and Barbara Peters, Courthouse Docent Publicity, said money collected from the sale of postcards, refrigerator magnets and courthouse tours go toward restoration projects.

The lantern still needs a little more glass work. Once complete, it will also shine on the Dwight Murphy portrait hanging on the wall.

While the historic courthouse is not yet open to the public, once it is, the massive lantern will illuminate the steps below and ceiling above to welcome visitors back to one of Santa Barbara's favorite landmarks.

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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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