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Presidio's Historic Arguello Gate Gets Facelift


Presidio of San Francisco (July 21, 2008) — The Presidio Trust said today the $100,000 restoration of the Presidio’s historic Arguello gate will be completed by the end of July. Since late May, crews have been using a combination of brute force and painstaking sculpting to repair the gate’s piers and adjacent walls.

The Arguello gate was constructed by the U.S. Army in 1896. Some of the 112-year old gate’s piers had cracks so large you could see through to the other side. To repair the cracks, crews wrapped the piers in nylon straps and pulled them together. Then, working from photographs, and using mortar and basic sculpting tools, they recreated the gate’s intricate designs.

“We very much respect the labor which went into creating something like that. It’s a monument. It’s an artifact. It’s a piece of history. So we try to preserve it as much as we can,” said Oleg Lobykin, the founder of Stonesculpt, the company that has been doing the restoration work.

“It’s really been a remarkable transformation,” said Christina Wallace, the Trust’s Conservator.

Last month crews replaced the capstone that sits atop the gate’s southwest pier. The capstone was knocked off when a truck crashed into the pier in 1996, and had been in a storage facility in the Marin headlands ever since.

Just one day after the capstone was replaced, a concerned and observant neighbor wrote the Presidio Trust, saying it appeared the capstone had been installed backwards.

“My heart did skip a beat when I saw the message. Fortunately I have done enough of these projects to have checked and double checked everything I could think of before we started. I was actually pleased that someone took the time and was interested enough to send us the detailed message– I was also happy that we did our homework.” said Wallace.

After digging up some old photos, Ms. Wallace was able to determine the capstone had indeed been reinstalled in its original configuration. Unlike other gates to the Presidio, each sandstone pier at the Arguello Gate has a different emblem facing south.

The Presidio Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to manage the Presidio of San Francisco, a former army base located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The 1,500-acre site contains the infrastructure of a small city as well as expansive open space, a 300-acre historic forest, spectacular views, and rare and endangered plants and wildlife. It comprises nearly 6 million square feet of buildings, including 469 historic structures that contribute to its status as a National Historic Landmark District, making it unlike any other national park. In establishing the Trust, Congress mandated that it make the park financially self-sufficient by 2013. The Trust is the only federal agency with this mandate.”

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