On a recent afternoon, mason Jose Garcia dipped a foam roller into a bucket of cream-colored paint and swiped several new coats on a cupboard in the friar’s kitchen and dining area at Mission San Miguel.
Garcia’s work is just part of the ongoing renovation inside the mission. Workers have been restoring the centuries-old adobe since the San Simeon Earthquake struck in 2003.
The magnitude-6.6 quake cracked the National Historic Landmark’s mural-covered walls and damaged countless areas inside, which prompted county officials to close the historic church, deeming it unsafe.
Nearly eight years later, the bulk of the work is complete. The retrofitted church had its grand reopening in 2009.
Restoration has included strengthening the mission’s walls with resin and attaching them to the ceiling. As a result, the ceiling is lower in some rooms. The parish offices, museum, gift shop, courtyard, sacristy, cemetery and retreat wing have also been fixed and reopened over the years. The courtyards were recently landscaped and are now filled with flowers, plants and new grass.
Altogether, five of seven phases in the mission’s lengthy $14.8 million restoration project are complete.
All the people who have done work on the mission have been an “inspiration,” the Rev. Ray Tintle said.
The two remaining phases include the friar’s residence and retreat rooms as well as the chapel and library. The church’s retrofitting was meant to be the last phase of work, but it was moved up so Mass could resume for the public.
Mission San Miguel, founded in 1797, is owned by the Diocese of Monterey and the Franciscan Friars.
The friars live and work there, but their living quarters remain yellow-tagged — faded gold papers with the San Luis Obispo County seal are still taped in the windows.
Yellow tags mean there is limited access to damaged buildings. The friars are the only ones allowed in.
Continued fundraisers by groups including the Friends of Mission San Miguel help supplement the mission’s $7 million insurance settlement from the quake. About $35,600 in proceeds from the Friends’ recent golf tournament, for example, is going straight into the next phase of work.
“Activity is determined strictly on the amount of funding we can get to enter another phase,” volunteer Don LaVallee said.