Conservator Samantha Emmanuel uses watercolor to infill areas on the painted black baseboard.
Experts spent much of fall 2021 restoring two unique elements in the interior of the Castro Adobe: the painted baseboard and chair rail, both of which are original elements of the adobe and are considered fairly rare for this era. Adobe buildings in the Mission era were decorated with wall paintings and some included a “dado” — a painted or colored band around the interior wall, typically just above the floor. At the Castro, the dado was applied early after construction and was eventually covered with a wooden chair rail.
A chair rail is a strip of wood that runs horizontally around a wall, a few feet up from the baseboard. Chair rails are usually made of wood and attached to the wall where a chair would hit if rubbed back against the wall. In the case of the Castro Adobe, the green chair rail was painted on the mud plaster wall, along with a black painted baseboard. Both had been severely damaged and faded with time and underwent repair through a meticulous conservation process that focused on retaining as much of the original work as possible. Ample research went into the analysis of the paint colors and composition with chips of the original paint being studied microscopically to understand the material.
The intention of conservation is to improve the condition of the artifact by stabilizing physical condition problems as well as addressing deterioration or damage. Rather than simply repainting, the conservation expert strives to retain as much original material as possible. At the Castro, a substantial amount of the historic finishes have survived over the decades, some of which was protected by an older staircase and other areas were essentially protected by the installation of a wood chair rail. It was important to preserve as much of the original painted material as possible as well as restore the original design.
Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks hired Samantha Emmanuel, a wall painting conservator, for the project. Samantha has experience conserving murals and painted decorative surfaces on both lime-based and earthen substrates. Her expertise was essential to restoring the original painted design on the interior adobe walls.
Samantha’s work at the Castro Adobe began with cleaning and stabilizing the baseboards and chair rail, including removing multiple layers of overpaint and old limewash, securing edges of paint loss, etc. This was no easy task!
The next step was “inpainting” using paints that are compatible with the original finishes. Watercolors were used to disguise previous damage and repairs to the original. The rest of the design was meticulously restored using tinted lime paint, which is what was used originally to paint the interior of the Castro. Debra May, principal partner of May/Burch Conservation of Los Angeles, contributed her knowledge and expertise on inpainting during this phase of the restoration.
It took almost four weeks to complete the stabilization and restoration of the painted baseboards and chair rail, preceded by many weeks of planning. We are so excited to have this important feature conserved and restored at the Castro Adobe. Thank you to both Samantha and Debra for all the hard work!
Before. This photo shows the upstairs Fandango Room, the only room with a painted chair rail. It was damaged by a wooden chair rail, which was installed on top of the painted one that is now restored.
After. The painted baseboard and green chair rail conservation in the Fandango Room is complete. Brackets for earthquake bracing for seismic stabilization were placed into walls behind the baseboard causing much damage to the original feature.
The first floor painted baseboard is complete. The baseboard had been severely damaged by the application of a wooden baseboard on top of it.
The restoration of the Castro Adobe is almost finished! Plans for interpretive exhibits have been created. The installations will help visitors understand the life of the Californios and Native people who lived and worked on this land, through an innovative, touchable, hands-on experience in the historic adobe.
A key next step is furnishing the historic building with period-accurate pieces for the 1840s-era Rancho. To accomplish this, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks is searching for historically accurate furnishings such as an 1840s-1860s era sofa, chairs, side tables and a washstand, as well as any items belonging to or related to the Castro family of Santa Cruz.
The photos below provide examples of the furnishings needed to tell the story of the Castro Adobe.
Empire Dining Table (shown closed)
Empire Dining Table (shown extended)
Empire Dining Chairs
Empire Center Table
Mantilla Comb (or other grooming items of the period)
Riatas (lasso) and other Mexican rancho era horse tack
Empire Sofa ex.1
Empire Sofa ex.2
Religious items of the era (1840s) including santos, bultos, or crucifix
Empire Wash Stand ex. 1
Empire Wash Stand ex. 2
1840s-1870s Mantilla ex. 1
1840s-1870s Mantilla ex.2
Baby Spool Crib
Hand Painted Chinese camphorwood chest
Criss Cross Frames
Chinese Sewing Table
Please consider donating or selling these items to Friends. If you think you have one or more of the items on this list please email Jessica Kusz, Friends’ Historic Preservation Project Manager at Jessica@nullThatsMyPark.org. Please include a description and photograph of the item, and anything you know about its age and history. Thank you!
It’s been over a year since the pandemic put a halt to our day-to-day lives, but that didn’t stop construction on the Castro Adobe State Historic Park. In fact, the restoration work continued without interruption while the park was closed to the public.
Recently, the floors were restored by carefully sanding and treating with tung oil to protect the wood. The flooring contractor stained the new wood so it is similar in color to the old wood but is still discernable as new/filler flooring. The result is a floor that maintains the historic character of the material while protecting and preserving the wood flooring.
The new fire suppression system was installed in the Castro Adobe in summer 2020 by Rollins Fire of Soquel. Mandated by state fire codes, the new system was specially designed to protect the two-story adobe while minimizing visual impact on the historic fabric of the adobe.
Inside the building, the second floor the fire suppression system is almost completely concealed by the ceiling boards. However, the system is more visible on the first floor. There, an attempt was made to conceal the piping as much as possible from the visitor’s direct view — pipes were hidden behind the steel beam, making not as visible from the front entrance.
Outside, the fire suppression is visible underneath the balcony and on the second floor. These pipes will eventually be painted to match the surrounding material and should “disappear” visually.
Much planning was completed beforehand to ensure that the smallest pipes were approved by the Fire Marshal to lessen the impacts visually to the historic fabric.
The fire suppression system will be connected to the new water tank supply soon. Protecting the historic adobe in the event of a fire is a top priority.
Fire preparedness has always been important. But recent wildfires in California only heightened concerns about how to protect important areas and historic structures in the event of a fire.
At Castro Adobe State Historic Park, the restoration plan for the historic two-story adobe building has always included fire suppression, a requirement to open the space as a new state historic park.
Although adobe bricks don’t burn as fiercely as wood might, the adobe building is still very susceptible to fire damage due to the significant amount of wood used in the construction, including in the framing, flooring and the roof.
Plans to add fire suppression features have been in the works for years, though completion was expedited after the devastating CZU Lightning Complex Fire occurred in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties in August and September, impacting several State Parks in the region.
In summer 2020, a fire suppression system — including a modern sprinkler system — was installed inside the building.
This month, a 10,000-gallon water tank was installed to hold water for the fire suppression system, should the system need to be activated. The tank is connected via underground pipes to the south side of the Castro Adobe. A fire hydrant was included near the tank to provide additional protection for the nearby properties.
The installation will be completed this fall and will provide the Castro Adobe State Historic Park with the needed protection should a fire occur.
Beginning in March and taking over two months, the interior walls of both floors of the Castro Adobe were repaired and painted. The work was done by Ingram Plastering of Carmel, and the crew was careful to maintain social distancing requirements during the entire project.
Each room was skillfully finished to ensure the original texture and feel of the wall was retained while repairing any large voids and cracks in the walls. Contractors were also careful not to disturb historic finishes such as the painted baseboard and chair rail. Much of the baseboard and chair rail had been damaged over time, so infill had to be completed and those painted finishes will be restored at a later date.
For each room, the walls first were prepped and scraped of all loose finishes. Next, the cracks were filled with plaster and allowed to dry. After that, the whitewash was applied in layers and allowed to dry. Each wall has about 3-5 layers of whitewash. Ingram Plastering worked on the exterior of the building as well.
The work was completed with a generous grant from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and the Castro Adobe is looking great! (Check out all of these before, during and after shots of the first floor, the staircase and the fandango room on the second floor.)
The Castro Adobe is moving into the early 20th century with electrification!
The installation of a new electrical panel in Room 104 this summer means temporary lights both upstairs and downstairs can be turned on, and the panel has an electrical outlet to plug into.
New electrical outlets are being set into the floorboards. Electrical for permanent lights is also being installed upstairs and downstairs. Upstairs outlets are in progress, but this is a difficult job given the unique construction of the adobe and the historical nature of the building.
This work allows the removal of the temporary electrical panel and post upstairs in the Fandango Room, returning the space to a more historically accurate setting.
These advances, which may seem small, point to the bright future of the building, which is in the process of being restored and opened as the newest State Historic Park.
Libro Castro, a fundraising dinner to support Castro Adobe State Historic Park, was a big success thanks to our sponsors, donors, event attendees, as well as the many volunteers, Friends staff and State Parks staff who help make this event possible!
Six college interns are working in the Santa Cruz District of California State Parks this summer. The group meets Tuesdays to learn about one type of State Parks job. The interns have done a habitat restoration with Google volunteers and the State Parks resources team, they went on an exciting ride-along with the lifeguards, and they learned about ranger careers and got to see one of the brand new ranger vehicles with all its sirens and lights. They also visited the district office and learned about administrative careers.
In this photo they are working on a cultural history project at the Castro Adobe where they helped install the replica food items in the cocina. The interns are Graham Felbrugge from Cabrillo College, Tyrus Borowski from SF State, Bella Kressman from UC Santa Cruz, Sam Roberts from UC Riverside, Jon Bol from University of Nevada-Reno and Ben Dorfman from UC Santa Cruz.
The exterior stainless steel cable has been installed around the center of the adobe building, concluding the seismic work at the site. The cable connects to the interior floor joists by way of a bracket and eye bolt. The cable is then threaded through the eye bolt and is anchored into the wall.
Plaster contractor Chris Ingram Lath & Plaster, use lime plaster to fill in the void and metal mesh is then installed. Eventually the wall will be whitewashed to conceal the cable install area. With the install of the cable, all of the seismic work is officially done at the Castro Adobe!
The crew carefully works on installing the cable and filling in the void.