Norman Caldwell Oral History

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Norman Caldwell Oral History


A graduate in civil engineering from UC Berkeley, Norman Caldwell went on to earn his Master’s Degree at Cal Tech and joined the US Army Corps of Engineers following America’s entrance into World War II. Shortly after his service, he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps and served as a pilot and weather meteorologist for the duration of the war. Upon his return home to Santa Barbara, he commanded the local Air Force Reserve Squadron until retiring at age sixty as a colonel in full military parlance. Norman also led the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department during a period of rapid growth throughout the city and is responsible for the construction of many of our present public facilities and County buildings. Upon retirement from the County, Norman became an active member of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and chaired the Reconstruction Committee, where his engineering background proved invaluable to the reconstruction of the Presidio. His engineering expertise helped guide the reconstruction of the Presidio Padre’s Quarter’s, reconstruction of the Presidio Chapel, and the reconstruction of the Presidio Comandancia, for which he took great care in preserving original foundations and stonework. Norman’s work with SBTHP has enabled the Presidio reconstruction to maintain authenticity while at the same time providing improved structural strength in order to protect against damages from natural disasters. Norman proved a valuable member of SBTHP and his contributions allow us to continue to enjoy Santa Barbara's Royal Presidio

Above Photo: Norman and Guy Wilson review foundation plans during the reconstruction of the Comandancia in 1991.

Clip 1: Norman describes his decision to dedicate his time to the SBTHP Reconstruction Committee as he felt that his engineering background would be beneficial to the Trust’s efforts to reconstruct the Presidio.

Clip 2: Proving his experience in public works and engineering useful, Norman details his contribution to the rebuilding of the Presidio Chapel and his efforts to safeguard the building against damage from earthquakes.

Clip 3: While improvements to the Comandancia were undoubtedly important, Norman notes that his reconstruction plans included considerations of preserving what he could of the original foundations and stonework while still providing structural improvement.

*To hear the entire oral history interview or additional clips, please make an appointment with the Presidio Research Center at (805) 966-5073.


September 10, 1991



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Cathy Rudolph


Norman Caldwell


48 min



“Norman Caldwell Oral History,” Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation: Digital Collections, accessed March 28, 2023,

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