Naval Reserve Center Santa Barbara

In 1897, a small group of Santa Barbara, California citizens organized the Sixth Division of the California Naval militia to provide coastal defense for the central coast area. In those days, the Division conducted drills, knotting and splicing exercises, and honed their gunnery skills aboard visiting US Navy ships. During this period the division continued to expand, and, when called to active duty in World War I, it consisted of 123 enlisted and four officers.

In November, 1941, the Sixth Division was called to active duty during World War II. Reporting aboard the USS Mount Vernon, a troop transport, they completed more than a dozen trips around the world, from the US to New Zealand, Singapore, and other ports until the War’s end.

Located in the Santa Barbara waterfront area at 113 Harbor Way, the Naval Reserve Center Santa Barbara, originally known as the Naval Reserve Armory, was built for the Navy by the Federal Government’s Works Project Administration (WPA). In 1939 the City of Santa Barbara had deeded the land to the Navy with the customary $1.00 payment to make the contract legal. The City transferred the land to the Navy because city leaders and many others in the community felt strongly that a Naval Reserve Armory would be beneficial to Santa Barbara. Local Reservists had already used their Navy training to help their community in many ways – from aiding in recovery efforts following a disastrous earthquake, to participating in neighborhood improvement efforts and a variety of other community activities.

The City Fathers also believed that the building itself, with its large assembly hall and classrooms, could be of benefit to the community. This proved to be true; in 1958 the Center’s commanding officer reported “In a disaster the Naval Reserve Center is equipped to aid in civil defense. It has a stand-by generator capable of supplying sufficient power to operate its shop, radio station, and the Reserve Center itself, if the shore power should be cut off. A dispensary and a large area where cots can be place for disaster victims is available.” Over the years facilities at the Naval Reserve Center were used by Santa Barbara City College, UC Santa Barbara, youth groups, a high-level scientific conference, and for numerous other activities of benefit to the community. It was also the home of Santa Barbara’s first maritime museum, the Santa Barbara Naval and Maritime Museum, founded in 1982 by Lieutenant Commander Douglas Stouffer, commanding officer of the Naval Reserve Center.

In the mid-1990s – after lengthy negotiations – the Navy sold the Reserve Center to the City of Santa Barbara for $2.4 million. A celebration was held on December 2, 1994, in which the city commemorated the closing of the center by staging a party with a World War II theme. Actress (and local resident) Jane Russell was among the 500 guests. In January 1995 the Navy ended its tenure at the Naval Reserve Center with a decommissioning ceremony. The command moved to a new facility on the Seabee base at Port Hueneme (which – along with the Navy base at Point Mugu – is now known as Naval Base Ventura County). The former Naval Reserve Center building now houses the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, a restaurant, and offices.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum focuses on the discovery and exploration of the Santa Barbara Channel and the area’s maritime heritage. Exhibits include area lighthouses and artifacts, including the Point Conception Lighthouse Fresnel lens, area fishing and diving industries, surfing, the Honda Point disaster in WW II, marine safety agencies, ranching on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands, and shipwrecks.

Former Restaurants

The building has been home to numerous well-known restaurants before The Anchor Rose. Previously, the famous address was home to Chuck’s Waterfront Grill, Endless Summer Bar Cafe, Chomp on the Rocks, and SALTY at the Beach.