A restoration project at the Michael White Adobe, which started in April, is now complete.
A team from Mark Sauer Construction, a general contracting firm specializing in historic preservation, was tasked with conducting a partial stabilization of one corner of the mid-19th Century building, which sits between the baseball and football fields and swimming pool at San Marino High School.
Tackling the moisture build-up in this corner of the 170-year-old building was no easy job.
In order to maintain the structural integrity of the building, which is not seismically retrofitted, workers—employing only non-motorized hand tools—replaced old adobe blocks with new ones, no more than six at a time.
The new blocks were donated by the San Tan Adobe Company in Arizona.
Prior to replacing the blocks, workers had to remove up to three feet of plaster that covered the original adobe walls from the building’s interior and exterior. The plaster was applied during a remodel in the 1950s, when San Marino High School was being built.
In addition, the construction team dug down a foot below the building’s current brick floor to the original stone foundation of the building—now completely underground—to provide the walls with added support and a new water drainage system.
The water drainage system, a pebble covered French drain that runs along the restored corner, will ensure that the restored portion doesn’t suffer from a build-up of moisture.
After placing all the blocks, workers installed new electrical wiring and covered the exterior wall with a lime finish, which is true to adobe construction from mid-1800s California.
The interior portion was left exposed in order for the adobe to function as an educational facility, according to Marla Felber, board president of the Friends of the Michael White Adobe, or FoMWA.
FoMWA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the building.
Felber explained that seeing through the clerical side of the restoration from beginning to end required a great deal of effort, especially due to Los Angeles County’s reporting requirements for grants.
The project—made possible by $25,000 in grant money from the offices of Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and former Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky—had to stay within the exact scope of work outlined in FoMWA’s grant proposal, Felber reported.
Workers also collected organic materials during the excavation for an archeological procedure known as flotation.
To date, an analysis of the collected organic material has not been completed.
Though this one corner of the building was restored, Felber said there is more to be done. Moving forward, the Michael White Adobe will need $12,000 to remove moisture from a smaller portion of a wall near the restored corner.
FoMWA has applied for a grant from the Rotary Club of San Marino for this project and will apply for more grants to achieve the full amount.
The engineers working on the restoration were E. Leroy Tolles and Melvin Green. William Ellinger III, a historic architect and member of the Pasadena Heritage Advisory Council, contributed to the restoration.
The Michael White Adobe was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
Anyone interested in seeing the restoration can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information or to make a donation, visit FoMWA’s website at sites.google.com/site/michaelwhiteadobe/.