The North Door
A Deep Dive
by Rebecca Ward
This is the 3rd post on the decorative doors of the site that are attached to the storehouse next to the hacienda. This time I will be writing about the North Door. The North Door is the door that we believe to be older. This door was made with more of a symmetrical, traditional design. The eight-pointed stars on the top half and the cross on the bottom half of the door point to it being made in the 1800s at some point. These more traditional elements of the design point to strong Iberian cultural influences. Eight-pointed stars are significant symbols of Islam. They have their roots in Babylon and became a part of Middle Eastern and North African culture that eventually made its way into Spain when the Moors arrived. Moorish culture mixed with Spanish culture (in fact, the Spanish language is essentially Arabic and Latin mixed together) and those influences came to the Southwestern US with the Spanish Settlers. Crosses are popular design elements in most cultures but have particular importance in Spanish design elements.
A new paint job?
Like the South Door the paint on this door could be traditional or not. The doors certainly match in color but whether they started that way or not is the question. One of the more unique parts of the North Door are the painted 3D squares on the bottom half of the door that surround the cross. These squares may be more recent additions to the design of the North Door. Here is a picture of the North Door from the 1970s. It was found in the digital archive for the Palace of the Governor’s when I searched “Los Luceros.”
As you can see from this photo the 3D design is either not present or had faded and was repainted. If this door really is 150 years old (or older) then it would stand to reason that it had been painted more than once and so its design could have changed. Here is a picture of the 3D squares up close. From far away these squares look like they are carved elements on the door like the cross and the stars, when in reality they are completely painted designs.
Where did the North Door come from?
This door may or may not be original to the property. We do not think it is original to Los Luceros, but anything is possible. It is more likely that this door was found at a different Hacienda or homestead site nearby and either taken or bought and then added to the storehouse during Mary Wheelwright’s ownership of the property in the 1920s or 1930s. Rae has some leads about who the carpenter may have been and that would give us a good clue as to where this door would have probably originally been hanging.
Features of the North Door
This door is a much sturdier door than the South Door. There are no holes in this door. As you can see from the photo of the back of the door, it is one cohesive piece of wood. Rae Beaubien, the conservator, is pretty sure that the front of the door (the decorative panels) may have been attached to the solid back. Basically, the decorative elements may have been taken from the original wood backing and placed on the current door. This may have been done as a way to preserve the decorative parts of the original door by securing them to a new piece of more solid wood. In a weird turn from what I expected the stars are not hand carved. They are made from narrow parallelogram shapes that can be purchased in most hardware stores or are easily made from simple cuts with a saw. Rae Beaubien believes that these shapes were purchased and pieced together into the design we see because she did not see anything uniquely hand carved or chiseled about them. Nothing that indicated a woodcarver put their own unique stamp on them.
These insights have led me to really question whether this door is the older door. Maybe parts of this door are older but the majority of the door is newer or the same age as the South Door. It was common practice for people in the early 1900s to take things they wanted from nearby, abandoned homes. Doors, windows, and other wooden parts were often repurposed and added to newer or occupied homes. Rae has completed her full assessment of the doors and has a report ready to go for the site. I am not allowed to read it yet but in the next couple of weeks when I have the approval to share what she thinks about them in more detail I will write about it here. From what my site manager has told me her report identitifies which parts of the doors are older and newer. I'm really looking forward to reading this report as it will be the most comprehensive assessment we have of the doors in one place.
Originally published on March 19, 2021 as part of the Adobe Speaks series.