Presidio of San Francisco (June 2, 2009) — By the end of the summer, the restoration of the gates at the Presidio’s three historic entrances€”the Lombard, Presidio, and Arguello gates€”will be complete. Crews began work on the Lombard Gate, the last of the three to be restored, this month.
Built in the late 1890’s, the Presidio’s “front door,” is getting a substantial makeover. The Lombard Gate’s four sandstone piers and adjacent walls are being restored, its cast iron and steel gates and fences are being repaired, and two new light fixtures are being installed atop the gate’s taller piers. The work, which is scheduled to be completed by August, is funded in part by a grant from the S.H. Cowell Foundation.
The Lombard Gate, like its sandstone sibling at Arguello, has been battered by more than a century of San Francisco weather and other wear and tear as well as the occasional wayward vehicle. In 1996, a truck dislodged one of the capstones from the Arguello gate. Likewise, a concrete scar marks the spot where a car knocked out a section of the Lombard gate’s southern wall. As part of the restoration, that concrete patch will be replaced by sandstone.
For the painstaking task of recreating the intricate carvings on the gate’s piers, the Presidio Trust has again turned to master carver Oleg Lobykin who performed the restoration of the Arguello Gate last year, at one point using the Lombard gate as a reference.
“The designs are the same,” says Christina Wallace, architectural conservator for the Trust. “But the funny thing is the orientation of the stones is different. None of them face the same way€”both from pier to pier and from gate to gate. There’s not really any rhyme or reason to how they were positioned and nobody knows exactly why.”
Like at the Arguello Gate, however, the “winged angel of victory” carved into the side of one of the gate’s capstones will have to be left unfinished.
“We still don’t know what she’s holding in her hand,” explains Wallace. “We never re-created it at the Arguello Gate and we won’t re-create it here either because we don’t have any good evidence of what it looked like. If we are able to figure out what it is, then we’ll have it resculpted.”
Once the sandstone restoration is complete, the iron and steel gates will be reattached and the new light fixtures will be installed. The new fixtures are reproductions of the original globes from the 1930s, which are larger and more ornate than those most recently seen on the piers.
The Presidio Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to oversee the Presidio of San Francisco, an urban national park located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The 1,500-acre site contains expansive open space and spectacular views, a 300-acre historic forest, and rare and endangered plants and wildlife. It also comprises nearly 6 million square feet of buildings, including 469 historic structures that contribute to its status as a National Historic Landmark District.”