Tucked inside the Santa Barbara Courthouse is the aptly named “Mural Room,” a lush chamber adorned with more than 4,100 square feet of canvas murals depicting the area’s early history.
Painted by native Californian and muralist Daniel Sayre Groesbeck, the Mural Room was originally designed as a meeting room for the county’s Board of Supervisors. The architect William Mooser told the Board of Directors he would design a “throne room” like that of a castle, which would have mural rooms where rulers received guests and conducted business. It took Groesbeck four months to paint all the murals in the room, and he received $9,000.
The murals depict scenes from the history of Santa Barbara. You’ll see events such as the 1786 founding of the Santa Barbara Mission, the 1602 expedition of Sebastián Vizcaíno, and the 1846 arrival of John C. Fremont, signifying the shift from Spanish to American rule.
Though Groesbeck painted the Mural Room’s four walls, Giovanni Battista Smeraldi of Palermo, Italy, painted its ceiling. Smeraldi used the Mudéjar style, which is a mixture of Spanish and Moorish ornamentation and decoration. He also designed and painted the ceiling’s beams, frieze, and corbels.
Know Before You Go
The Santa Barbara Courthouse is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tours start in the Mural Room on the second floor every day at 2 p.m., and also at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. You can also go up to the top of the clock tower to get a view of Santa Barbara.