The Royal Presidio Chapel is endangered and has been on the National Historic Park Service Watch for more than 10 years. It is in danger of moving into the “Threatened” category unless immediate and comprehensive rehabilitation is undertaken. The severity of the damage increases yearly as does the cost of mitigation.
The building is threatened by earthquakes, moisture, exposure to pollutants and the elements, inadequate drainage, bio-deterioration caused by fungi, algae, and lichens, and the roof is infested with termites.
What is being done to save the Royal Presidio Chapel?
In 1992, a Historic Structure Report was commissioned to study the history, current condition, needs and appropriate action to be taken to conserve the Royal Presidio Chapel. That report, finished in 1999, was written by Edna Kimbro, an internationally respected historian.
Today, we are proud to say that we have assembled a prestigious group of professionals who specialize in historic structures. Because of grants given the Chapel by The Getty Foundation, The California Missions Foundation, The Walker Foundation, the Community Foundation of Monterey County, and the many generous donations of private individuals, these professionals have finished the Planning Phase.
Work began in May 2007 to alleviate the moisture problems which have plagued the Chapel for over 200 years. The existing concrete apron which prevented evaporation of moisture in the exterior walls was removed and a French drain was constructed around the entire perimeter of the building to divert water away from the sandstone walls. The roof was removed in order to repair wood members damaged by termites and also to install the attic portion of the retrofit.
In addition, the existing plaster was removed from the stone walls for assessment of the walls current condition. What was found confirmed the immediate need to repair and in many areas, replace mortar and stone. Ironically, the nave walls, built in 1794, were in much better condition than the transepts and apse which were added in 1858. In fact, the southern facing walls (rear walls of the church) were in such bad condition they were in danger of collapse and required 100 tons of replacement stone and lime mortar to rebuild approximately 80% of those walls. With the blessing of good weather through December, the majority of the stone masonry work has been completed.
The seismic portion of the conservation is in full swing. The attic portion has been completed as well as the horizontal tying together of the interior and exterior walls. Vertical core drilling will be taking place in February 2008 leaving only the front facade and bell tower to be completed.
But our beautiful old church has left her oldest secrets to the last to be discovered. From all the records which have been left to us, it was always assumed the interior of the church was relatively plain. What we have come to learn in the last few months is that originally the interior was a beautiful vibrant space worthy of a king’s church. We are still uncovering pieces to the puzzle and will share our discoveries as we make them.
Below you will find a video that documents the conservation effort.