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Restoration of Mission San Jose

May 15, 2015

For 2015 Preservation Month, we showcase some of our photographs of the lengthy and extraordinary restoration and reconstruction of the buildings at Mission San Jose.  These images, mostly from 4×5 glass plate negatives, were all taken by staff photographers of the San Antonio Light newspaper.  They are included in our San Antonio Light Photograph Collection (MS 359).

Though minor repairs had begun much earlier, the first major project began in 1928 after the collapse of San Jose’s church bell tower.  A Light photographer immediately visited the scene to record the aftermath for a front page article.  Less than seven weeks later, he photographed the beginning of the reconstruction of the tower.

In 1932, the San Antonio Conservation Society began the restoration of the granary.  This project was the first of the San Jose rebuilding projects that were accomplished by laborers from government relief programs.  The Light photographers made several trips to the site to illustrate articles updating the ongoing restoration.  Of particular interest are features that appeared on January 17, 1933 and February 14, 1934.

These photographs provide a chronology of the restoration.

 

Spectators view the debris of the bell tower that suddenly collapsed on March 9, 1928.  This photograph was published the following day with an article stating that Catholic Archbishop Arthur J. Drossaerts had already appointed an architect to plan an immediate reconstruction, financed by the church.  (MS 359:-L-0282-C)

Spectators view the debris of the bell tower that suddenly collapsed on March 9, 1928. This photograph was published the following day with an article stating that Catholic Archbishop Arthur J. Drossaerts had already appointed an architect to plan an immediate reconstruction to be financed by the archdiocese. (MS 359:-L-0282-C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A massive frame scaffold sits beside the church during reconstruction of the tower by Frederick Schutte Construction Company, April 1928.  The project was finished by the middle of August, with Schutte announcing that the work was accomplished using only the original stones.  (MS 359: L-0512-

A massive frame scaffold sits beside the church during reconstruction of the tower by Frederick Schutte Construction Company, April 1928. The project was finished by the middle of August, with Schutte announcing that the work was accomplished using only the original stones. (MS 359: L-0512-01)

Workers remove debris inside the Mission San Jose granary, owned by the San Antonio Conservation Society, early December 1932.  The east wall (left) was determined to be unstable and demolished.  (MS 359:  L-0175-K)

Workers remove debris inside the Mission San Jose granary, owned by the San Antonio Conservation Society, early December 1932. The east wall (left) was determined to be unstable and demolished. (MS 359: L-0175-K)

Workers, furnished by the Central Relief Committee, begin reconstruction of the east wall of the granary, January 1933.  (MS 359:  L-1424-B)

Construction workers, furnished by the Central Relief Committee, begin reconstruction of the east wall of the granary, January 1933. (MS 359: L-1424-B)

Central Relief Committee workers uncover stone foundations, later determined to be the long-forgotten mill, near the north wall of the mission compound.  The granary is in background on left, January 1933.  (MS 359:  L-1424-E)

Central Relief Committee workers uncover stone foundations, later determined to be the long-forgotten mill, near the north wall of the mission compound. The granary is in the background, January 1933. (MS 359: L-1424-E)

View looking west from church roof showing large model of the mission complex that was used for planning the reconstruction.  Beyond is the granary, with new roof partly complete, April 1933. (MS 359:  L-1424-J)

View looking west from church roof showing large model of the mission complex that was used for planning the reconstruction. Beyond is the granary, with new roof partly complete, April 1933. (MS 359: L-1424-J)

Worker beside the model, painted with reproductions of the geometric designs that once covered the walls of the church and convento, July 1933.  (MS 359:  L-1424-K)

Worker beside the model, painted with reproductions of the geometric designs that once covered the walls of the church and convento, July 1933. (MS 359: L-1424-K)

Remnants of the original Indian living quarters, constructed of tufa, along the west wall of the mission compound, January 1933.  (MS 359:  L-1424-G)

Remnants of the original Indian living quarters, constructed of tufa, along the west wall of the mission compound, January 1933. (MS 359: L-1424-G)

The following year, the San Antonio Light photographer stood in the same location to record the reconstruction of the Indian apartments, using sandstone as the building material, February 1934.

The following year, the San Antonio Light photographer stood in the same location to record the reconstruction of the Indian apartments, using sandstone for the building material, February 1934.

Fortified gate constructed by Civil Works Administration employees from plans by restoration architect Harvey Smith, February 1934.  (MS 359:  L-207-E)

Fortified gate constructed by Civil Works Administration employees from plans by restoration architect Harvey Smith, February 1934. (MS 359: L-207-E)

Civil Works Administration employees prepare to rebuild the north wall of the mission church, February 1934.  (MS 359:  L-0207-A)

Civil Works Administration employees prepare to rebuild the north wall of the mission church, February 1934. (MS 359: L-0207-A)

Federal Emergency Relief Administration workers construct a concrete dome on the mission church, February 1935.  (MS 359:  L-0207-N)

Federal Emergency Relief Administration workers construct a concrete dome on the mission church, February 1935. (MS 359: L-0207-N)

Scaffolding covers the entrance to the church while a waterproofing compound is applied to the carved stone façade, November 1935.  The dome remained unfinished until funding became available the following year.  It was finally completed in early 1937, with a rededication service held in the church on April 18, 1937.  (MS 359:  L-0836-A)

Scaffolding covers the entrance to the church while a waterproofing compound is applied to the carved stone façade, November 1935. The dome remained unfinished until funding became available the following year. It was finally completed in early 1937, with a rededication service held in the church on April 18, 1937. (MS 359: L-0836-A)

Group looks at excavated ruins of the Mission San Jose mill shortly before the San Antonio Conservation Society began restoration, March 1936.  On left is Mrs. Conn Milburn, of the Conservation Society, with Erhard Guenther, president of Pioneer Flour Mills, and Mrs. J.K. Beretta, of the Society of Colonial Dames.  The Colonial Dames contributed funds for the project and Pioneer Flour Mills researched and built the mill machinery.  (MS 359: L-0972-L)

Group looks at excavated ruins of the Mission San Jose mill shortly before the San Antonio Conservation Society began restoration, March 1936. On left is Mrs. Conn Milburn, of the Conservation Society, with Erhard Guenther, president of Pioneer Flour Mills, and Mrs. J.K. Beretta, of the Society of Colonial Dames. The Colonial Dames contributed funds for the project and Pioneer Flour Mills researched and built the mill machinery. (MS 359: L-0972-L)

Sculptor Eraclito Lenarduzzi, owner of Southern Monument Company in Houston, begins work of replacing missing portions of the statues on the richly carved church façade, May 1948.  (MS 359: L-3533-F)

Sculptor Eraclito Lenarduzzi, owner of Southern Monument Company in Houston, begins work of replacing missing portions of the statues on the richly carved church façade, May 1948. (MS 359: L-3533-F)

 

 

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