Money and Business

Renovation Saves Santa Barbara Mission Convento From Crumbling

Sandstone walls were falling apart until urgent plan was funded


SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara Old Mission has been saved with some divine intervention in the form of a government grant, local donations, and a solid repair plan.

The latest project, just finished Friday morning, restores the walls on the convento building to the west of the famous mission church structure.  The mission property itself dates back to 1786.

The Old Mission restoration plan has been underway for four years, and had five phases.

Tina Foss is the Director of the Museum, and the Cultural Resources Manager for the mission.  She said, the sandstone walls were coming apart and "what we had was water intrusion in the building  and that's hilarious in in a drought." 

The mission location at the top of Laguna St. is apparently on top of an aquifer that remains active enough to create moisture the building takes into its aging structure.

The window sills at one point were so fragile, you could run your hands along the edges and create a pile of sand.  They staff swept regularly until this project began.

  Using a $1.3 million dollar Save America's Treasure's Grant,  the mission restoration project protected several areas of the property including the facade on the church, the convento building,the solstice window and stabilized the church floor over the burial crypt. (The only crypt in an Alta or Baja California mission.)

 The convento building now has a unique repair with lime plaster to let moisture seep out of the lower portion,  instead of destroying the interior walls.

 It will need touch ups,  but this plan respects the original design and no longer reverts to repairs that trap the damaging moisture, such as concrete and latex.

Pointing out an area towards the walkway and at the base of the building, Foss said, "behind this 18 inch stripe  this is our sacrificial area where we will be constantly replacing material and repairing so it won't be going up the walls."

As the project went along, some hidden history was discovered.  Some of the walls were older or created with materials now previously known.

Historians say they will have to rewrite some of the dates on the building designs, and there's clear evidence work was done by the Chumash Indians.   There are also signs of reconstruction after the 1812 earthquake based on the way walls were found and the mixed types of materials used to build them.

The work was closely monitored by the National Park Service which awarded the grant through the California Missions Foundation.  The Spectra Company in Los Angeles,  one of the leading historical restoration/preservation contractors and  the John Griswold Conservation consultants led the project.

The timeline was completed before the deadline of next Tuesday.  It was necessary to have the historic renovation done ahead of the Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days celebration known as Fiesta. It is the largest event in the city and stretches out over five days. Thousands of locals and visitors will come to the mission for events during the celebration including a massive crowd Wednesday for Fiesta Pequena which will be broadcast live on KEYT NewsChannel 3.

For more information:

comments powered by Disqus

Recommended Stories

Top Local Stories