Santa Barbarians have watched the evolution of the Funk Zone from the low rent warehouse district to a hip neighborhood gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. The area covers about 10 square blocks, stretching form the Pacific Ocean to Highway 101, bounded on one end by State Street and Garden Street on the other.
An industrial and light-manufacturing area in the years after World War II, it was bypassed by development since the 1960s and became a collection of neglected commercial buildings. An arts culture grew in the area over the last thirty years, similar to Georgetown in Seattle or the Alberta district in Portland. Powered by multiple wine and beer tasting rooms, restaurants, a distillery, shops, galleries and within walking distance to the Harbor, Stearn’s Wharf and the State Street retail shops, more than 80% of all Santa Barbara visitors pass through the Funk Zone.
Before it was funky, it was home to many business. Oreana Winery is in the old Bob Woolever’s Tire Shop building. The Lark sits on the site of the historic Santa Barbara Fish Market building, once housing Castagnola Brothers, a fish-processing warehouse built in the 1920s. The rustic sign from the non-existent Divers Den hangs at the refurbished Municipal Winemakers, a reminder of the past where many, my sister among them, took swimming lessons. I went with my grandfther to Roesers Feed & Mill to get feed for the chickens before it became The Feed Store restaurant, memorialized by the tall building at the ocean end of Gray Avenue, which now houses a gym and fitness center.
Everything changes. It's inevitable, as change is the only constant in the universe. Buildings go up, buildings come down. In between, they house different people, different business, different ideas. Moving forward, never back, waiting for the next iteration. Some day the Funk Zone will become something different, and another group of people will provide an altered perspective on the past and the present, remembering what used to be.