Nonprofit group Mission San Juan Bautista Preservation Fund is on the cusp of launching a major campaign to restore the historic California mission.
The group began organizing in 2015 and has already raised more the $1 million toward its multi-million dollar goal, according to Jewel Gentry of Prunedale, a restoration fund consultant. He also is California Missions coordinator for the Diocese of Monterey.
“We’re in a place where we feel confident we have something special to share and we know we have the right people in place and the right team together,” Gentry said via phone.
“The needs are substantial,” Gentry said.
The restoration project will be conducted in phases, with restoration of the mission church prioritized first. A projected date for starting and completing the project won’t be known until the money to fund the effort is in hand, Gentry said.
The preservation fund, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, will soon begin approaching individuals for contributions to the project, Gentry said.
“A great group of community people got together and started the preservation fund,” Gentry said.
The mission has major issues that need to be addressed. The entire envelope needs to be waterproofed and repaired, the restoration fund website says. Rotted timbers need to be replaced on the roof, and there is insufficient underlayment and broken tiles in need of replacement. Flashing needs upgrading as well.
The existing cement plaster needs to be removed and replaced with lime-based plaster. Moisture intrusion and entrapment is deteriorating the adobe walls from the inside.
The restoration fund also says drainage systems need to be upgraded to protect the mission from future deterioration. A historic structures report done by Architectural Resources Group Inc. of San Francisco found the south wall has increased seven inches from moisture intrusion.
Tami Adam is president of the 11-member board of directors overseeing the restoration. After organizing, the group found a number of consultants to help with the effort, including an experienced campaign consultant.
“We have a great team working together to get this financing working,” Adam said.
Reuben Mendoza, Ph.D., chair of the California State University, Monterey Bay, School of Social Behavior and Global Studies, compiled the historic and archeological reports to assure historical integrity of the restoration.
Brian Kelly, a retired architect who has worked on other mission restoration projects, is working for the fund on a pro bono basis.
“He’s somebody with immense vision and talent who has brought tremendous value to every (mission) project he been on,” Gentry said.
Kelly has been recognized by the California Missions Foundation in Santa Barbara for his work. He received the Neuerburg Award, the highest honor the foundation gives out.
Mendoza, who just authored a book titled “The California Missions,” first saw Mission San Juan Bautista on a fourth-grade field trip while he was living in Fresno. He said the restoration has to be done. The structure has been subject to massive earthquakes since it was built, and state mandate requires that all masonry buildings be seismically safe.
“[The missions are] pivotal to understanding the indigenous and Spanish history here,” Mendoza said.
Mission San Juan Bautista is the largest of California’s 21 missions. Mission San Juan Capistrano would have been larger, but it collapsed in an 1812 earthquake. Mission San Juan Bautista was the 15th mission built. It’s the last mission that needs to be restored, Gentry said.
It’s also the only mission with a nave and three aisles, and is adjacent to the only remaining original Spanish plaza in California.
“It’s a sanctuary of history,” Gentry said of San Juan Bautista. “Where else in California can you see every aspect of (state) architecture?”
The mission dates back to June 24, 1797, when it was founded by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen near the Mutsun Indian village of Popeloutchom.
Construction of the current mission church began in 1803 and was completed in 1812. It was dedicated on June 24 of that year, on the feast day of John the Baptist. Six months, later it was damaged by a significant earthquake, and subsequently damaged by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
The last major restoration work on the mission was done in the 1980s, Gentry said. The Hearst family gave a significant amount of money for the work that was done based on the technology of the time. That technology has improved dramatically, he said.
The focus of the current restoration is on the visitors’ experience, Gentry said.
“The mission is the focal point of their visit [to San Juan Bautista], and we want to create something that will definitely be there for generations to come,” Gentry said. “We’re all stewards and it’s our turn. We hope, if and when we accomplish our goal, this is something that will take care of itself afterwards.”
To learn more go to the Mission Preservation website.