Thanks to generous and thoughtful donations by the Pearl Chase Society and the Museum League, the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum’s Courtyard Fountain was conserved to its original glory! Conservator-in-Residence Amy Green supervised the restoration project over a period of two weeks in July as visitors and staff viewed the progress.
The Museum’s project entailed conserving Iznik tiles made in Turkey during the mid-16th century. According to Katie Thoma, one of the conservators who worked on the project, the tiles suffered from considerable exposure to water and weather. The tiles were painstakingly cleaned, filled, and repainted where losses occurred, and now continue to be a delight of blue design for all to see.
The tiles were initially collected by Lockwood de Forest, Sr. in the 1880’s and were installed as part of contracted work with Lockwood de Forest, Jr. in 1925. Similar tiles, along with many others, were later donated to the Museum in 1983 by Elizabeth de Forest.
A public, illustrated talk and tour about the Fountain, the tiles, and restoration project was held on July 15. Museum Librarian Terri Sheridan described the fountain’s historical significance, including Lockwood de Forest, Jr. and his affiliation with the Museum, as well as the contributions of the Hazard family and why the early Museum and fountain were dedicated to Rowland Gibson Hazard.
In 1917 a recent Santa Barbara transplant Rowland Gibson Hazard was hired as the museum’s first curator. Hazard was an avid egg collector and his extensive collections were added to the museum. Hazard died in 1918 and his widow Mary along with his sister Caroline stepped into his shoes to help curate the eggs and then to serve on the Museum’s board of Trustees. The two women were not always happy with the direction the museum was taking and began to plan. With the support of others on the board they donated land and funded a new building at the present site of the Museum of Natural History on Puesta del Sol Avenue behind the Mission. The Museum was officially founded in 1916. In April of 1922 a new building was unveiled as a memorial to Rowland Gibson Hazard. Hazard’s contribution is acknowledged in words carved into the marble plaque in the center of the 1922 tiled fountain wall.
“In abiding memory of Rowland Gibson Hazard, man of affairs man of letter, lifelong student of ornithology, this building and this wood are dedicated. Oh all ye fowls of the air bless ye the Lord.”
The historic fountain no longer uses water and the former water basin may be repurposed with drought- tolerant plants and succulents.
Conservator Amy Green, who supervised the restoration, is a founding partner of Silverlake Conservation in Los Angeles, a firm that specializes in the treatment of sculpture and architectural finishes. The company was established in 2001 and works on wide variety of materials including metal, cast stone, and concrete, but has gravitated towards historic tile and architectural terra cotta.
She holds a certificate in historic preservation from the University of Southern California, an MA in tile conservation from Antioch University and is a Professional Associate with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Work (AIC).
A reception and photo opportunity recognizing the Pearl Chase Foundation for its grant donation to help restore was held on September 1st in the Museum Courtyard.