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San Benito
April 20, 2024

Community Foundation aids historic adobe restoration in San Juan

The Community Foundation for San Benito County has provided significant support for an historic adobe wall restoration in San Juan Bautista.

According to an article provided by the foundation:

Established during the Gold Rush Era in 1886 in Jackson, California, the Native Daughters of the Golden West is a State-wide fraternal and patriotic organization steeped in the appreciation and understanding of the history of our beautiful State of California. Through rich historical traditions, NDGW fosters the love of Country and veneration of our pioneers as two of its key tenets. In 1910, the women of San Juan Bautista requested that a local parlor (i.e., a ‘chapter’) of this organization be instituted in their City, and thus began what is today the 107 year old NDGW San Juan Bautista Parlor No. 179.

In 1933, the members of NDGW San Juan Bautista Parlor No.179 purchased what, at the time, was the dilapidated relic of the Pico-Boronda Adobe at 203 Fourth Street, one of the original 1840s structures in the city. This was an investment made by the women of the SJB community as a first step in reclaiming one more important piece of SJB history. San Juan Bautista is called the City of History due in part to its many outstanding historic buildings that reflect the early years of California statehood.

During the 84 years since, the NDGW members have dedicated their energy and personal resources to its reclamation and preservation because of the building’s paramount importance to the community as a whole; visitors to SJB significantly help support the city, many drawn here in part by the complexion of this historic community as demonstrated by the buildings. Historians such as Charles W. Clough have underscored that such buildings dating back to the mid-19th Century are not numerous in the West, yet San Juan touts a remarkable collection.

More recently, an extensive fund-raising effort spanning several years permitted a very costly new roof, electrical wiring, insulation, and bathroom improvements, which increased the Parlor’s ability to invite people from across California to many functions in their esteemed “Adobe Home”. However, the exterior walls had been gradually declining assumedly due to weather, the occasional earthquake, and simple age causing the building to become structurally unstable in several areas. In 2016, the needs out-stripped the resources of the Parlor members and they turned to the Community Foundation for San Benito County for much needed financial assistance through a substantial impact grant, for which they publicly announce “BRAVO!” and “Thank you!” for their generous support.

The restoration project objectives were clear: to repair and preserve the original adobe material that comprises the exterior structure. The outcome is the successful restoration and preservation of the once damaged adobe walls, which had been dramatically deteriorating.

The Chris Ingram Lath and Plaster of Carmel engineering team was hired, and after an in-depth analysis, clarified the issues: “inadequate draining capabilities of incompatible and impervious materials previously applied to the structure several years prior impeded proper drainage.” Areas above the base (approximately 30″ up) only required minor crack repairs. In addition, the team installed expansion joints in areas where the original 1840 structure adjoins the later addition–added on at the rear of the adobe several decades later for “indoors” kitchen and lavatory functions. These expansion joints will now reduce the likelihood of recurring large cracks caused by the two separate structures moving independently.

At the time the original CFSBC grant application was submitted in April 2016, the estimated timeline for the project was two-four months. The grant was approved in mid-June; however, due to heavy rains, the project was finally completed in December 2016.

The scope of work included: removing the existing plaster at all lower wall areas 30″ from the base, cleaning and preparing newly exposed adobe areas, installing drainage/weep components at the base of the wall areas to allow for proper drainage, filling cavities, installing copper expansion joints at areas adjoining the two structures of the building, applying a three-coat natural hydraulic lime plaster finish to the repaired adobe areas, sloping surfaces and repairing cracks, and applying moist curing for lime plaster and wash applications to finished repair areas.
Much of the labor entailed placing multiple layers of adobe on the structure, each requiring extended periods for drying over several days.

The outcome has been the successful repair and stabilization of the damaged base and walls of the structure.

The members of NDGW San Juan Bautista Parlor No.179 are most grateful for the financial support from the Community Foundation of San Benito County and for the team of skilled crafts men from Chris Ingram Lath and Plaster of Carmel. The Chris Ingram team enjoys a well-earned reputation as eminent restoration experts because of their considerable work repairing and restoring many of the California missions and other adobe structures of historic significance throughout the region.