Category Archives: Preservation Projects

Restoration of the 1928 Ross Dickinson Mural in the Alhecama Theatre

by Michael H. Imwalle

Patty West cleaning the mural surface. Note the un-cleaned portion to her left. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Built in 1925, the Alhecama Theatre at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park was originally called the Little Theatre; it became the Pueblo Theatre in 1937. It consisted of a single-story multi-use auditorium with a raised stage. The building is among a cluster of eleven wooden buildings and one stucco building that date to the Community Arts Association’s Festival Arts School (later named the Santa Barbara School of the Arts) that thrived from 1920 to the mid-1930s. In 1928 painter Ross Dickinson painted a mural depicting a Mediterranean village scene on the wall opposite the stage.

Patty West examining the edges of the Celotex panels around the holes cut for the projection booth. Photo by Ashley Emma.

In 1939 significant changes were made to the building including the addition of a foyer and ticket booth, a fly above the stage, and a small apartment. Modifications to the original building included the addition of a projection booth above the foyer for showing films. In order to project films, five rectangular openings were cut through the Dickinson mural.

Installation of the Celotex patches to infill the holes. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Outhwaite Foundation in 2016 and additional funding from a special appeal to members of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP), the mural has recently been restored. In January of 2017 Patty West, director and chief conservator for the South Coast Fine Arts Conservation Center, began a two-phase project to clean and restore the 1928 mural.

Tracing the design on to the Celotex panels. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

The first phase of the project began with the meticulous cleaning of the mural’s surface with a very mild detergent mixed to match the pH in oil paints used by Dickinson. After more than a week, and thousands of filthy cotton balls later, the cleaning was completed. The next phase of the project was to patch small cracks and tears in the underlying Celotex paneling on which the mural was painted. The final stage of the repairs was to insert Celotex panels to fill in the holes cut for the projection booth in 1939. This was accomplished by finding an identical match to the surface texture of the original Celotex, then building a frame within the wall to which the new panels would be attached.

Close-up of in-painted design on the new Celotex patch. Photo by Patty West.

After the new panels were installed, it was time for the final stage of the restoration, the in-painting of the new panels and all the other repaired surfaces of the original mural. The in-painting was done by lightly tracing the design onto the new panels then painting the final image with reversible conservation paints to match the surrounding mural colors. After nearly a month, the restoration was complete! Thank you Patty, the Outhwaite Foundation, and SBTHP members who contributed to the restoration of this fabulous remnant of the Santa Barbara School of the Arts!

Completely repaired and restored mural. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Michael Imwalle is the Associate Executive Director for Cultural Resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Cate School Volunteer Day at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park

On Wednesday February 2, 2017, Cate School teachers Renee and Peter Mack arrived at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park with eleven students to volunteer for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. SBTHP Executive Director Anne Petersen welcomed the group and Associate Executive Director of Cultural Resources Michael Imwalle provided the group with a brief introduction into the history of the Presidio and adobe construction. After the introduction SBTHP Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Garcia gave them an introduction to “Whitewashing 101.”

Students whitewashing the last section of the exterior of the Presidio Chapel. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Students whitewashing the last section of the exterior of the Presidio Chapel. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

Students divided into four teams and efficiently tackled a variety of projects including tasks related to storm damage and storm preparedness. One group cleaned drains filled with sediment after the February 17th deluge, and another filled sand bags for protecting historic structures during future rains. Under Eduardo’s direction two groups worked on preparing and whitewashing the exterior of the Presidio Chapel, the first defense wall, and the comandancia. buildings and walls around the Northeast Corner complex. Thanks to students Brandon Man, Grace Blankenhorn, Brie Walker, Alice Zhang, Piper Brooks, Jackson Weinberger, Carlo Jacobson, Bryce Jackson, Abnishek Suresh, Nick Carlson, and Ryder Dinning for all your hard work!

SBTHP Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Garcia with his army of Cate School students whitewashing the first outer defense wall. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
SBTHP Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Garcia with his army of Cate School students whitewashing the first outer defense wall. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Volunteers whitewashing the back wall of the Comandancia. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Volunteers whitewashing the back wall of the Comandancia. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

Without hard working volunteers like the Cate School volunteers, it would be impossible to maintain all the adobe structures in the park. We appreciate your annual contribution and look forward to working with you again next year!

Group photograph of Cate School faculty and student volunteers. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Group photograph of Cate School faculty and student volunteers. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

 

2016 United Way Day of Caring

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Transporting mulch. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

by Mike Imwalle

The United Way Day of Caring provides an opportunity to give back to the community through a morning of helping out various nonprofits in the Santa Barbara area. It is the single largest volunteer event in Santa Barbara County with more than 1600 volunteers laboring at 51 work sites. For more than the last decade Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation staff has worked with Day of Caring volunteers to make repairs, routine maintenance, make adobe bricks, and garden at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park.

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Whitewashing the Chapel. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

This year more than 25 volunteers including groups from Westmont College, and our neighbors Anacapa School, and the accounting firm of Damitz, Brooks, Nightingale, Turner & Morrisset. Volunteers helped SBTHP staff complete a variety of important projects. SBTHP staffers Eduardo Garcia and Isidro Ruiz supervised the whitewashing of the exterior of the Presidio Chapel. Using rollers, long poles, and scaffolding, volunteers were able to whitewash the walls and buttresses to a height approximately 24 feet above the ground. This is an enormous task and is only accomplished when large groups of volunteers can be assembled.

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Cleaning King Carlos. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

Eduardo also supervised two volunteers who cultivated the soil around all the trees in the Cañedo adobe orchard. When they were finished, they hopped on to ladders and cleaned and waxed the statue of King Carlos III. This does not need to be done often, but when it does it always provides some good photo opportunities.

SBTHP Board Member and volunteer Tim Aguilar supervised a small group of volunteers who scraped and sanded the posts and beams of the choir loft and stairs inside the chapel. Last year volunteers helped a paint the interior of the doors, this year they prepared the other interior woodwork so that it could be primed and painted to match. The reconstructed chapel was dedicated on December 12, 1985, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For more than 30 years it has once again served the community as a gathering place for lectures, films, concerts, memorials, weddings, and a variety of other special events. The volunteer efforts to keep this building maintained inside and out are always appreciated.

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Scraping paint in the Chapel interior. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
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Pruning the herb bed. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

SBTHP Executive Director Anne Petersen and Anacapa School volunteer Wes Izuno supervised a group of volunteers in the Presidio Heritage Garden. They pulled out the summer crop of tomatoes, peppers, and cabbages and pruned our sage, lavender, and rosemary. Volunteers also meticulously pruned our Misi Luki bananas, and all the plants in our demonstration plant garden.  Garden volunteers also hauled 2 cubic yards of mulch and topsoil the garden planters to prepare for our fall plantings. Anne also served as our “chicken whisperer” singlehandedly giving “dirt baths” to all six of our Minorcan Black Hens!

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The 2016 United Way Day of Caring El Presidio SHP team!

Thank you to Sue Udden for organizing the sign in table, morning coffee, and pizza lunch for everyone. Thanks to Anna Ogden and Lindsay Rorick of the United Way of Santa Barbara County for organizing the volunteers. Special thanks to all the volunteers who made the 2016 Day of Caring such a productive day at El Presidio de Santa Barbara SHP.

Mike Imwalle is the Associate Executive Director for Cultural Resource Management at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. 

Cate School Volunteer Day at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park February 29, 2016

by Michael H. Imwalle

Students applying mud plaster to adobe garden walls at the Northwest Corner complex. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Students applying mud plaster to adobe garden walls at the Northwest Corner complex. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

On Monday February 29th, 2016 Cate School teachers Annalee Salcedo, Wendi Butler, and Taylor Wyatt arrived at the Presidio with eighteen students to volunteer for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. Associate Director of Historic Resources Anne Petersen welcomed the group and  and Archaeologist Michael Imwalle provided a brief introduction to the history of the Presidio and adobe construction. After we a brief safety meeting with master adobero Tim Aguilar, SBTHP Maintenance Supervisor Eduardo Garcia gave them an introduction to “Whitewashing 101.”

Cate volunteers whitewashing the buildings and defense wall of the Northeast Corner complex. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Cate volunteers whitewashing the buildings and defense wall of the Northeast Corner complex. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

Students divided into four teams and leapt into action (I couldn’t resist) assisting Tim and Isidro Ruiz with plastering the garden walls on the Northwest Corner. Another group worked at sifting decomposed granite for repairing paths and walkways at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP and the Casa de la Guerra. Under Eduardo’s direction two groups worked on preparing and whitewashing buildings and walls around the Northeast Corner complex. Thanks to students Tessa Denison, Charles Shi, Stefan Suh, Isabela Montes de Oza, Maddie Goodman, Julie Phan, William Barron, Eunbie Coe, Jennifer Soh, Kate Tunnel, Malachi Schrager, Morgan Pierce, Henry Dawson, Elizabeth Douglas, Anna Hasson, Diarra Pouye, Elliott Rosenthal, and Zac Towbes for all your hard work!

2016 Cate School student and faculty volunteers. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
2016 Cate School student and faculty volunteers. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

Without hard working volunteers like those from Cate School, it would be impossible to maintain all the adobe structures in the park. We appreciate your annual contribution and look forward to working with you again next year!

Mike Imwalle is the archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. 

Recycling the Earth: Archaeology and Reconstruction at El Presidio de Santa Barbara SHP

by Michael H. Imwalle

In October 2015 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation received a grant from the California Missions Foundation to investigate the architectural remains of the second outer defense wall. A small excavation unit was opened beneath the floor of the 1887 Bonilla house. The primary purpose of the investigation was to evaluate the condition of the wall. The exposure successfully identified in-situ adobe melt on the interior and exterior of the wall, identified the historic grade outside the wall, and recorded an episode of roof collapse on the interior of the wall. Lucas Nichols carefully exposed the wall including in-situ lime plaster on the interior surface.

All of the soil excavated consisted of adobe melt. Adobe melt is the soil that constituted the adobe blocks used to construct the wall. Over time, gravity and the weather cause the adobe to dissolve or melt and it is redistributed across the ground surface. Once the adobe melt has been archaeologically removed from the unit, artifacts, gravel, and other debris are removed from the soil with 1/8″ sieves. The sterile sandy loam that falls through the screen is recycled into new adobe bricks for reconstruction. Today the soil Lucas is screening is going right back into the walls as mortar. The walls are being rebuilt using soil recycled from the melted bricks originally laid on the second defense wall in the late 1790s.

This week we began the last phase of the Presidio Northwest Corner project. Trust Board member Tim Aguilar and Restoration Specialist Isidro Ruiz are laying adobe blocks to complete the three corral or yard walls behind the recently constructed adobes at the Northwest Corner.  These backyard areas will provide outdoor exhibit space for the new Presidio Visitor Center. Watch the progress as the last walls of the Northwest Corner project are completed!

Mike Imwalle is the archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Alhecama Theatre Rehabilitation

By Michael H. Imwalle

The 1928 Ross Dickenson mural. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
The 1928 Ross Dickenson mural. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Built in 1925, this building was originally called the Little Theatre; it became the Pueblo Theatre in 1937. The original structure consisted of a single-story multi-use auditorium with a raised stage. It is among a cluster of eleven wooden buildings and one stucco building that date to the Community Arts Association’s Festival Arts School (later named the Santa Barbara School of the Arts) which thrived from 1920 to the mid-1930s. In 1928 painter Ross Dickenson painted a mural depicting a Mediterranean village scene on the wall opposite the stage.

The exterior of the Alhecama Theatre. Photo by Micahel H. Imwalle.
The exterior of the Alhecama Theatre. Photo by Micahel H. Imwalle.

In 1939 significant changes were made to the building including the addition of a foyer and ticket booth, a fly above the stage, and a small apartment. Modifications to the original building included the addition of a projection booth above the foyer for showing films, raising the stage  nine inches, and installing fixed, raised, theatre seats. At that time owner Alice Schott renamed the theatre Alhecama. The name was derived from the first two letters of the names of her four daughters, Alice, Helen, Catherine, and Mary.

The Alhecama Theatre while in use by the Ensemble Theatre Company. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
The Alhecama Theatre while in use by the Ensemble Theatre Company. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

In 1981 the California Department of Parks and Recreation purchased the site. The theatre was the home of the Ensemble Theatre Company for more than thirty years. When the Ensemble moved to the new Victoria Theatre in 2013, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) made the decision to restore the original auditorium floor and stage and rehabilitate the building to make it accessible and compliant with the American Disability Act (ADA).

Removing the raked seating.  Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.
Removing the raked seating. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

This entailed removing the raised or raked seating to expose the original oak tongue-in-groove floor, removing a 12-foot extension of the stage, and exposing the original pine stage floor. Other features to be restored are the original sash windows and transoms facing the Riviera, and the four sets of glass French doors facing the plaza area historically referred to as “the green.”

Exposing the theater's original stage floor. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
Exposing the theater’s original stage floor. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

ADA improvements to the building will consist of the installation of an ADA compliant restroom, installation of an accessible ramp from the adjacent ADA parking area to the entrance of the theatre, and installation of a new brick patio in front of the entrance that extends out into the lawn area. SBTHP’s goal is to return the building to its original multi-purpose configuration and make the venue available to community organizations for lectures, films, conferences, receptions, performances, and exhibits. Stay tuned for grand unveiling in early 2015. SBTHP thanks the Hind Foundation for their generous support of this project.

Michael H. Imwalle is the archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

California Missions Foundation Supports SBTHP’s Preservation Efforts at the Santa Inés Mission Mills

by Michael Imwalle

Painted Figure as it appeared in 2002. Photo by by Michael Imwalle.
Painted Figure as it appeared in 2002. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

The Santa Barbara Trust for historic Preservation recently completed an important conservation assessment at the Santa Inés Mission Mills property thanks to a grant from the California Missions Foundation (CMF).

According to Santa Inés Mission’s annual account books, construction of two masonry reservoirs and a water-powered grist mill was completed by October 1820. The following year a batán or fulling facility had been constructed. The fulling mill operated with a vertical “New England-style” water wheel which powered water from the zanja (ditch). An interesting feature of the fulling mill structure is an enigmatic anthropomorphic figure painted on the masonry surface of the south-facing wall.

A detailed condition assessment was performed in 2001 to determine the age and condition of the painting (you can read more about that here). While the overall condition of the image was considered good, the study found that it had been affected by fracturing, detachment, surface loss, salt formation, and biological growth. The 2001 study recommended regular monitoring of the condition, including the detailed examination of chronologic, time-lapsed photographs to determine if additional loss of material was taking place.

Antoinette and Rick on the scaffolding during fieldwork phase of the project. Photo by Michael Imwalle.
Antoinette and Rick on the scaffolding during fieldwork phase of the project. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Thanks to a generous grant from CMF, SBTHP was able to hire rock art conservator Antoinette Padgett and rock art photographer Rick Bury to perform an updated assessment of the figure in 2013. The recent study made several recommendations regarding actions to be undertaken to slow or halt the processes that are causing the damage to the figure.   We hope to secure continued support from CMF or other generous donors to support the study and conservation of this important piece of California history.

Michael Imwalle is the archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Scans the Santa Inés Mission Mills in 3-D!

by Michael H. Imwalle

I first began working with Ronald “Chip” Fenenga and students from the Environmental and Spatial Technologies at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in the spring of 2003 during a project to record the Mission Santa Inés Water System. The EAST initiative provides technology training to students through student-driven service projects, including hardware and software for 3D modeling, GPS/GIS mapping, and Computer Aided Design (CAD). The adoption and inclusion of 3D imaging technology seemed the next best step to him and his administration to keep SYVUHS students at the forefront of spatial technologies.

Laser scanner used in the project.
Laser scanner used in the project.

In August 2012 SYVUHS partnered with CyArk to become the first and only high school in the world to use LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology. Using CyArk software, the data gathered by the Faro Focus 3D laser scanner is converted into a photo-like representation of what is scanned.  The scanner cost $65,000 and the software program cost $8,000. Grant funding for the scanner and software were secured from ROP, as well as supplemental assistance from CyArk and their industry partners. To see CyArk’s blog post about the project click here.

The scanner, smaller than an Xbox video game console and mounted on a tripod, can perform an almost 360 degree scan of an area, accurate to within one millimeter, in about 6 minutes. It can scan 1.1 million points of data per second. After a crash course in operating the scanner and software, Chip Fenenga unleashed the new technology on his students last September.

Mike Imwalle with the Students in the EAST program.
Mike Imwalle with the Students in the EAST program.

I met Chip and some of the 32 EAST students working on the project at the Santa Inés Mission Mills on April 25th to begin scanning the grist mill, fulling mill, and reservoirs. Students began taking multiple scans of the exteriors and interiors of the various features while carefully supplementing all of the scanned areas with photography. Of particular interest to me was the operation of the two mills and how water was conveyed and stored for use by each of the two facilities.

Elevation profile of the site created during the project.
Elevation profile of the site created during the project.
Adding additional lights to capture photographic data.
Adding additional lights to capture photographic data.

In order to illustrate this, I asked Chip and his students if they could scan the lower level of the grist mill. When Chip responded by saying that he thought it would be too dark to capture the photographic data, two of the students immediately volunteered to run home and get some lights. Within twenty minutes the young ladies returned with a generator and gangs of lights for illuminating the space. The scanning of the lower level produced new information about the exact location of the horizontal wheel, the size and position of the penstock for driving the water-powered wheel, and how the mill was drained into adjacent Alamo Pintado Creek.

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3D model of the Santa Ines Mission Mills, with elevations, created during the project.

 

EAST program students in the computer lab.
EAST program students in the computer lab.

After collecting the data at the site it is transferred to computers where software is used to render 3-dimensional models of the buildings and features scanned in the field.  A video produced by the students showing animated fly-throughs of the site can be seen here. For a feature story about the SYVUHS EAST class scanning the mission building on KEYT click here.  To read a Santa Ynez Valley News article about the project, click here.

Thank you to Chip Fenenga and the 32 EAST students that participated in this project. Thank you to Superintendent Paul Turnbull, Principal Mark Swanitz, and the entire Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District for this incredibly valuable resource. We look forward to working with you on many successful preservation projects in the future.

Mike Imwalle is the archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.