There's a new, privately-funded gallery in Santa Barbara, and it might be the smallest yet. Tucked inside the Santa Barbara County Courthouse - on the way to the clock tower that boasts a 360-degree view of the city - is the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery. Two years in the making, this once publicly-inaccessible storage room is now a gallery of time that is intended to be both a place of wonder and a teaching aid for area residents of all ages.
Discover exactly what makes this clock tick at the new Bisno Schall Clock Gallery — Photo courtesy of Bjorn
The center of attention in the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery is the Seth Thomas Tower Clock, first installed in this very building in the late summer of 1929, where it has been faithfully keeping time ever since. It is one of an estimated 2,700 made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company between 1810 and 1932 - although it remains unclear how many of those are still in existence, let alone operation.
When you stand in the room, you are standing inside the clock tower, next to the gears and pendulums that have been making each second count for over 80 years.
In addition to the fully functioning tower clock, this gallery also features a mural that wraps around three of the four walls of the room and was created by local artist Ed Lister. Each one of the three panels depicts the history of humankind's relationship to - and measurement of - time, from Stonehenge to Big Ben. The gallery also features a fiber-optic ceiling that displays stars and other elements of time.
Due to the sensitive nature of time-keeping devices, the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery is open by appointment only. Contact the Courthouse Docent by phone at (805) 962-5454 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to schedule a tour. Guided tours last roughly over a half an hour and are free, although contributions are accepted. Due to the small space, group tours are limited to parties of 20 or fewer.
Located near the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, the courthouse is the perfect spot to start or end your day of sightseeing. There are many shops, restaurants and other attractions very close at hand, including the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. It is a great area for walking and bicycling, and there is ample parking in nearby city lots.
The courthouse is well known for having one of the most beautiful garden spaces in the county. Pack a picnic or sketchbook and enjoy a little time on the lush, sunken lawn after your tour. You might even get lucky and spot a wedding; it's one of the more popular places to get married in Santa Barbara.