1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake


Brother Michael Lamm, a member of the Franciscan Friars, stands on the steps of the earthquake damaged Mission Santa Barbara. This photo was published in the July 1, 1925 Los Angeles Times and subsequently republished around the world.

Faith Amongst the Rubble

George Watson

June 29, 1925, Santa Barbara, CA

The June 25th 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake was a major event for the Northern California region, and its impact was slightly reminiscent of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The Santa Barbara earthquake had a duration of 19 seconds and a magnitude of 6.8 along with extreme aftershocks that hit the city repeatedly throughout the day and evening. Los Angeles Times Staff Photographer George Watson was dispatched immediately to capture the city’s wreckage and photographed Brother Lamm in an iconic image standing among the fallen debris of the mission’s damaged bell towers. Similarly, the San Gabriel Mission in San Gabriel, CA suffered a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in 1855 which resulted in its roof collapsing and its bells torn down. After being rebuilt, the San Gabriel Mission has survived, with relatively little damage, several major earthquakes in 1933 (Long Beach), 1971 (Sylmar-San Fernando), and 1987 (Whittier Narrows), earning it the nickname, “the Mission of Earthquakes.”

Mandatory Credit: George Watson/ The LA Times/ LA Times Archive at UCLA.La_me_0620_BrotherMichaelLamm.jgp/LAT Staff Writer: Jeffrey Miller, 10/8/1987/Scott Harrison, 6/28/2019


The Arlington Hotel damaged by the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake is pictured with massive damage and rubble running down the hotel’s exterior stairway. This view of the Arlington Hotel on the Victoria Street side shows the structural collapse of the five-story, center, and three-story sections of the hotel. The Arlington, originally built in 1873 and rebuilt again in 1911, after its original structure burned in a fire in 1909, spanned an entire city block that covered State, Victoria, Sola, and Chapala Streets. The hotel would not survive the destruction of the Santa Barbara earthquake, and in 1931 the Arlington Theatre was built on the former State Street location of the Arlington Hotel.

Historic Hotel


June 29, 1925, Santa Barbara, CA

The Santa Barbara earthquake took place at 6:42 am on June 29, 1925 with a duration of 19 seconds, a magnitude of 6.8, and an epicenter located in the ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara. Believed to be a result of an extension of the Mesa or Santa Ynez fault lines, the earthquake reverberated throughout California being felt as far south as Orange County. The Santa Barbara earthquake caused severe damage to structures located in the business district near State Street, resulted in $8 million in damages, and caused 13 deaths. Two of those deaths occurred at the famous Arlington hotel, which hosted a variety of wealthy patrons, presidents, and royalty. Bertram D. Hancock, son of Southern California oil and real estate tycoon G. Allan Hancock, and Edith Forbes Perkins, widow of Charles E. Perkins, President of the C.B. &Q. Railroad, were victims of the earthquake. They died when a 50,000 gallon tank installed in the hotel to prevent fire damage crashed through their rooms located in the five story section pictured above.

Mandatory Credit: The Los Angeles Times/ The Los Angeles Times Archive at UCLA, edu.ucla.library.specialCollections.latimes, Arlington Hotel (Santa Barbara, Calif.) (subject).  LA Times Staff Writer: Scott Harrison, 6/28/2019/ San Diego Union Tribune: “From the Archives: June 30, 1925: Quake rocks Santa Barbara”, 6/30/2018