History of the Docent Council

What is now the Santa Barbara Courthouse Docent Council, grew from the inspiration of Marilyn McMahon. While serving on a grand jury in 1973 Ms. McMahon determined that the Courthouse afforded a unique opportunity to educate people about the history and architecture of the building, and for school children, an experience with the process of the legal system. She recruited members of the Lawyers’ Wives Club, Junior League, and Santa Barbara Bar Association, and formed “Santa Barbara Courthouse County Tours”. The group, then consisting of 15 charter docents, held their first public tours on Law Day, May 1, 1974. The success of these tours spawned approval from the legal community and County offices, to conduct school tours and architecture tours regularly.

In the fall of 1974, an intensive 3 1/2-month training program was conducted for the charter docents, and 15 more provisional docents. From September 1974 to June 1975, 54 school tours were conducted, and architecture tours were held every week, and the group adopted the term “Council”.
In the late 1970’s, under incentive from docent Peggy Hayes, the Council added operation of the Courthouse lobby booth to their mission. Following a 1978 earthquake in Santa Barbara, the Council also took interest in Courthouse restoration projects.
In 1981, the County Board of Supervisors designated the Council official hosts for the building, and included the privilege of “having representation in matters concerning the building” in their declaration. The Council formally incorporated in 1982 under the official title “Santa Barbara County Courthouse Docent Council”.