Historic Earthquakes

Santa Barbara, California
1925 June 29 14:42 UTC
Magnitude 6.8

This destructive earthquake caused property damage estimated at $8 million and killed 13 people. Most of the damage occurred at Santa Barbara and nearby towns along the coast, but the earthquake caused moderate damage at many points north of the Santa Ynez mountains, in the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria River valleys. North of Santa Barbara, the earth dam of the Sheffield Reservoir was destroyed, but the water released caused little damage.

In Santa Barbara, few buildings on State Street escaped damage. Because parts of the main business district and the area near the seashore were built on land fill, many of the structures there were demolished, and others were so shattered that they had to be razed. In general, however, buildings of reinforced concrete were damaged little, except where workmanship was poor; frame buildings covered with stucco, sheathing, or lath also withstood the shock well. Loss to the sewage system was heavy only in areas of land fill, but the disposal plant was destroyed above the surface of the ground.

Among the most conspicuous building failures in Santa Barbara were the Arlington Hotel (a composite building of irregular shape), the Californian Hotel (a new four-story brick building), the San Marcos office building (a four-story reinforced concrete structure), the El Camino Real Hotel (a two-story brick and wood structure), ant the Potter Theater building (a three-and-one-third-story brick and wood structure). Other public buildings seriously damaged included the courthouse, jail, library, schools, and churches.

Structures built on solid ground or pavement of all types withstood the earthquake well. The only severely damaged pavement was that on the boulevard paralleling the beach, where the shoulders of the pavement were displaced 20-36 cm horizontally. The pavement sustained cracks as wide as 40 cm at several points along the beachfront. Concrete curbs buckled in almost every block in Santa Barbara.

The earthquake caused damage on the Southern Pacific Company Railroad from Gaviota (mile 331 as measured from San Francisco) on the north to Ventura (mile 598) on the south. Heavy subsidence of the larger fills and slope failure of the sides of deep cuts were noted on the railroad track from Naples to Santa Barbara. Many of the bluffs in the Naples area, adjacent to the ocean, fissured and caused extensive landslides. A section of ground (about 2 acres), adjacent to the track between Naples and Santa Barbara, subsided about 30 cm.

Felt from Paso Robles (San Luis Obispo County) on the north to Santa Ana (Orange County) on the south and to Mojave (Kern County) on the east. Several strong aftershocks occurred throughout July 1925.

Abridged from Seismicity of the United States, 1568-1989 (Revised), by Carl W. Stover and Jerry L. Coffman, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, United States Government Printing Office, Washington: 1993.