“The only thing more destructive to historical landmarks than a bulldozer is procrastination on the part of preservationists.”

Walker A. Tompkins, historian

disrepairIt’s still there. Right where it’s been since 1929, when oil rich executives decided to build a showpiece filling station to celebrate the wild success of their Ellwood oil field.

barnsdall 1

They spared no expense and hired an exclusive architecture firm to build a exquisite building in the Spanish colonial revival style.

fancy signIt won several awards and was a successful business for decades, until the rerouting of the highway isolated it from traffic. By the early 1950’s, the station was closed to the general public.


So there it sat, unused and abandoned, but not unnoticed.

bb9Throughout the years, generations of folks enjoyed the beauty of the little building and wondered what the future would hold for it.


In January of 2015, Goleta History started a petition to preserve the Barnsdall gas station. The response was overwhelming. This building means a lot of things to a lot of different people, and they were very passionate about it. Nearly 3,000 signatures were quickly collected, hundreds of citizens offered to help with the restoration and people came out of the woodwork with ideas and plans they had for the building.  If you take the time to read some of the comments on the petition, it’s a lot of fun. The petition got a lot of media attention, from local papers to NPR. In February, 2015, we presented the petition to the Goleta city council and several citizens spoke eloquently on behalf of the structure.


On June 11th, 2015, that same city council called a media press conference to proudly announce that they had worked out a deal to save the historic gas station for future generations.

Beanie billionaire Ty Warner had generously agreed to donate the building and one acre of land to the city of Goleta. He was thanked and praised and everyone celebrated a great victory.


Now, one year later, we continue to wait and wonder when Ty Warner will make good with his generous and well publicized announcement. No one knows. The city staff is clueless and they seem like they don’t have time to be bothered with something so trivial as an old gas station.

historic buildingst1Most of the work of creating a Historic Ordinance has already been done by the County, Goleta just needs to adopt it. In fact, there’s already a list of historic resources in the Goleta General Plan. But the city staff insists on starting from scratch, reinventing the wheel, wasting valuable time and taxpayers money.

Barnsdall todaySo that’s the state of the situation, one year later. Waiting. We still haven’t saved the old gas station, and the development is popping up all around it. If you want to help motivate some of the players in this drawn out melodrama, here is a list of emails. Ask them to pressure Ty Warner. Ask them to fast track a Historic Ordinance. Ask them to give the history of Goleta the respect it deserves, before it’s all paved over and forgotten. It’s our heritage, it’s what Goleta is, it’s who we are.

Tim Giles- city attorney-

Michelle Greene- city manager-

Jennifer Carman- planning director-

Goleta City Council-




This is the Ty Warner contact-

Bill Medel- Ty Warner Group- bmedel@twhr.net

phone: 805-695-8887 x14


“The only thing more destructive to historical landmarks than a bulldozer is procrastination on the part of preservationists.”    Walker A. Tompkins


Thanks to Ben Burkhalter and Patti Gutshall for images.