Santa Barbara Courthouse Docent Council

History of the Docent Council

At their first meeting of the year September 15, 1973, members of Lawyer's Wives of Santa Barbara voted unanimously to appropriate a sum of $150.00 to start a training program for docents or guides to lead tours through the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. The proposal was contingent upon the fact that the County Bar Association and Junior League, as possible co-sponsors of the project, each contribute a similar amount for a total initial budget of $450.00.

The Council was founded in 1974 for the purpose of interpreting to the public tile history, art. and architecture of the beautiful building, and to provide school children with a law experience complete with mock trial and visit to a real court in session. Then, early in their development, the Council made guardianship of the architectural integrity of the Courthouse an important part. of their bylaws. Eventually that guardianship was broadened when they were designated by the Board of Supervisors to be official hosts for the building, and a little later, advisors to the Board on suitability of items or exhibits requested for the corridors.

In 1980, when it was determined that there were no plans to repair the very noticeably deteriorating fountain at the Anacapa entrance, the Council undertook restoration of the "Spirit of the Ocean," procuring half the needed funds from the County, raising the rest from sales and donations, and successfully completing the project in December 1983. Unfortunately there were no guarantees that the treatment would last. Further treatment and repair was required periodically, and the Council has continued to fund the maintenance. The fountain project made the Council very much aware that County funding for some things around the Courthouse cannot be counted on, and with that realization, they began an enthusiastic involvement with, and dedicated commitment to, the general upkeep of the building and its furnishings.