Above: The altar of the church at Old Mission Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara’s Mission-era buildings, with their white stucco, red-tile roofs, thick wooden beams and arched doors, bear a striking resemblance to the architecture in parts of the Côte d’Azur. That is one of the many reasons why this stretch of the Southern California coast is often referred to as the American Riviera. One almost forgets that the Mission period, when Spaniards ruled and these structures were built, only lasted from 1780 to 1822. The era was followed by a stretch where ranching and agriculture were prioritized, and then, at the end of the Civil War, the Victorian period took hold. The architecture of the city changed, and maritime transport became the focal point of all trade and industry.

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