Santa Barbara Earthquake – California – June 29, 1925

Damage was extensive and fortunately casualties were few, thirteen in all, because people were still at home when the quake struck.

The Santa Barbara earthquake of June 29, 1925, hit the city area early in the morning when, fortunately, no one was outside and the railway was stationery at the terminal. Violent movements were registered on the rail cars, first from east to west and then from north to south. The Mission Creek Dam, the main source of water for the railway, was shaken by the initial shock and all the water ran away, effectively putting the railway line out of business.

Those Santa Barbara residents who were not already awake survived the earthquake, as did their homes, but almost every chimney in the city crumbled. Several hotels partially collapsed and a few other buildings completely collapsed. Thirteen people were killed, many fewer than would have been had the earthquake occurred several hours later and they had been on their way to work or were traveling.

Commercial buildings did not ride out the earthquake as well as the residences. In the downtown area, along State Street, the rubble was so thick in the middle of the street that travel by car was impossible. In an odd twist of fate, by leveling much of Santa Barbara’s commercial district, the earthquake proved a boon to Santa Barbara’s businesses. City officials seized the opportunity that the earthquake gave them to enforce a stricter building code, requiring commercial buildings along State Street to conform to a Spanish-Moorish style of architecture. Thus, the 1925 earthquake is responsible for the distinctive architecture in the city that has made Santa Barbara a popular tourist destination for the years that followed. The area between Naples and Santa Barbara, a stretch of sixteen miles, was extensively damaged with a number of minor landslides having occurred, all of them toward the ocean side. The roundhouse at the Santa Barbara Terminal, a ten-foot brick structure with a wooden roof, was knocked down.

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