Adobe Speaks

The First Project

Conservation of Historic Doors

by Rebecca Ward

The Door Project 

As established in my last blog post the first Saving America’s Treasures Grant (SATG) project that is being started on site is the conservation of two decorative historic doors on the eastern face of the storehouse/garage. Conservator Rae Beaubien is going to be completing the conservation and preservation work on the doors. Rae has worked on a number of wood conservation and restoration projects but these are her first Spanish Colonial style doors. She is incredibly excited to start this project and has already completed her initial assessment of both doors. For the rest of this series on the doors it is important to establish which door is which. From now on the doors will be referred to the South Door and the North Door. Here are pictures for reference: 

North Door
South Door

 First Steps and First Impressions

The door conservation process is going to be a long process and involve more than one step. With this first assessment done Rae will be moving on to more of the physical work needed to be done with the doors after we decide on a course of action for the doors. There are still a number of questions about the doors that we will need to answer as the project progresses. One that is particularly import is where the conserved doors will be stored or displayed when the conservation process is complete. 

Last week I met with Rae (over a video Zoom call, no germs were exchanged). During our conversation about the doors and how they are related to the history of Los Luceros she told me about her first impressions and what she thinks her first conservation steps will need to be. The most surprising deatail that she mentioned was that the North Door has very little unique craftmanship in the design. Most of the wooden elements were wooden block shapes commonly found in hardware stores and were most likely not handcrafted for this specific door. The South Door has more unique elements with all of the circle designs on the door but this door is less robust and of a flimsier base.  

To begin with Rae needs to discover the kind of paint and how many applications of paint exist on the doors. We need to decide if we want the existing paint to remain. If we decide not to keep the old paint then Rae will expertly sand down the doors and apply a new coat of paint in the same colors and styles we can see present on each door. If we decide to keep the old paint then Rae will re-adhere the paint that is flaking off to the doors. This second option means that we will have to make an additional choice to repaint sections of the doors to match or leave them in their current weathered condition. The aestethic of the view shed around the Hacienda will certainly be a large factor in deciding how the doors will look at the end of this project. 

In addition to determining the painted destiny of the doors Rae will also need to do some extensive repairing of the South Door. While it is not apparent from the outside, the South Door has holes in it. These holes are substantial enough to see light through them when the door is closed. This door is much thinner than the North Door, so the South Door has not weathered its years as well.  

Who Makes Decisions

We will need to consult multiple stakeholders of Los Luceros to see what they feel is the right course of action after conservation is complete. Throughout this process Rae will be consulting not only the site staff here at Los Luceros but other groups invested in preserving the site's history as well. While we will be considering everyone’s input Rae’s recommendation for the doors will hold the most weight. She is the expert. For example, if Rae’s recommendation is to remove the doors and place them in storage after the conservation process is complete, we will most likely be creating reproductions and hanging those in the original door’s place.  

More questions will almost certainly come up in the conservation process. As Rae uncovers more information about the doors, we may change our opinions about what we want the ultimate outcome for the doors to be. At this point in time we are exited to see this project get underway and learn more about the doors through physical examination and historical reserach. 

Originally published on February 21, 2021 as part of the Adobe Speaks series.

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