With the completion of the Gate House Project comes a new chapter in Mission history. For me, the next decade will focus on retaining that which is old or authentic while realizing new ways of creating access to the past.
This means providing more specialized tours, sharing our artifacts, providing opportunities for the public to see preservation up close and in person. Our focus will continue to remain on undoing errant treatments to this site, finding new interpretive measures to convey the meanings of the past, and making sure each guest –whether a student, traveler or local – leaves inspired about what they just saw or learned. As Director, I am focused on finding ways to make history come to life while setting a serious tone and ensuring that we protect and promote this landmark’s religious and historic meaning.
History does not remain history if it is not shared. I learned this lesson first hand when the meaning of the Mission’s 1919 original gate house was lost because the building was neglected and was solely used to store people’s personal items instead of telling a story. In our original assessment of what constituted the Gate House Project I really had no idea that we would end up incorporating this precious building into the Plan. I was surprised to discover the building had been the original ticket booth that Father O’Sullivan had made when he put a wall around the Mission, charged an admission fee, and carved the space out as special from the outside world. We had planned to work around it until we discovered its original purpose. With that discovery, we were faced with some serious choices about what to do.
In realizing the Gate House Project, we brought back this original use in a meaningful manner discovering hidden murals, doors, and an amazing stone foundation. We found out that the building was the last unreinforced masonry building on the grounds. As a result, when rehabilitating the building, we decided to stay true to the structure’s original use and avoided faking that the ticket booth was from the Mission’s 18th century founding period. Instead we focused our work on respecting and reflecting the structure’s period of significance, that of the 1920s and 30s. Our sign program utilized this time period as well. Instead of installing a flowery and majestic script style font for our signs, we researched the era of the 1920s and looked at the Mission’s original signage and determined that a font from that era was appropriate. We even incorporated the 1930s statement “Worth a Visit” found on early signage on this building.
It would have been more convenient and simply easy to revert to instilling a rehabilitation that conveyed a 1770s tone. But that would be revisionist, and irresponsible. And the results speak to the fact that it was all worth doing right.
These kinds of considerations must be made daily when caretaking a site, repairing a painting, or telling a story.
I look forward to continuing to fulfill the promise of the Mission in the years to come. In my mind, the Mission will become a stronger national landmark with places like its historic Sala building being used as museum space, original gate house continuing to serve as the gate house a hundred years later, and traditions like bell ringing happening daily. In the coming months, we will see the opening of our new Mission-operated store, the conservation of the Sala and so much more.
Thank you for your support, I look forward to seeing you at the Mission this summer,
Chief Preservation Officer
The Mission Preservation Foundation Board includes:
N. Christian Anderson III
Peter F. Bastone
Arthur B. Birtcher
Anne Marie Moiso Leonard
Russell S. Penniman IV