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The first permanent Western settlers arrived in Santa Barbara in 1782 with the beginning of construction of the Presidio a couple of miles closer to the ocean.  The Mission site, which at that time included the Mount Calvary property, was chosen in 1786 for its proximity to resources as well as its prominence on a view knoll, invoking spiritual awe. 

The founding of the Mission in 1786 was on December 4th, the date of the feast of Saint Barbara.  The construction of the buildings commenced shortly afterwards with labor performed primarily by local Chumash.  A village for the Chumash workers was built in the lands behind the Mission and along the creek.  The original adobe and wood structures comprising the Mission were damaged in an earthquake in 1812 and the current Santa Barbara Mission was rebuilt by 1820 with the towers added by 1833.  At the same time, an extensive water supply system was built from the hills behind to serve the Mission buildings and villages, and the young town of Santa Barbara.  Many remnants of this water system remain in the area around the Mission and the Mount Calvary property.

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