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A Stabilized Relic

The de la Montanya Monument was constructed in 1909 to house the remains of the prominent de la Montanya family. Unfortunately, the family dispersed, and the descendants did not have the ability to maintain their ancestors’ resting place.

It should come as no surprise that the cost of restoring a deteriorated masonry building can prove to be a cost-prohibitive undertaking. As a result, many historic structures fall into decay and are lost. However, in some cases, there are alternatives to restoration. ARG/CS recently helped Cypress Lawn Memorial Park find one such alternative.

The de la Montanya Monument is an ornate, elaborate structure carved from soft Colusa sandstone. Wide flange beams and steel angles embedded within the sandstone were rusting and pushing the masonry apart. Subjected to multiple earthquakes and years of deferred maintenance, the structure had become unstable and the monument was temporarily shored and enclosed with scaffolding to contain loose masonry that might fall to the ground. The de la Montanya Monument remained in this condition until this year.

Restoration would have been out of the question for a nonprofit organization like Cypress Lawn Memorial Park. One day, while walking the grounds with the organization’s CEO, Ken Varner, we stopped to examine the de la Montanya Monument. We offered a suggestion: instead of aiming to restore the monument, it could be preserved as a stabilized ruin (I love ruins). “That’s it. But I like the phrase ‘stabilized relic’ better!”

And so, work on preserving the monument commenced. Functioning in a design-build capacity, ARG/CS determined what historic fabric could be saved and what had to be removed because of instability. Due to the advanced state of the deterioration of the monument’s upper section, selective demolition was necessary to address life-safety issues and the deteriorated steel frame within the structure.

In addition to the selective demolition any salvageable loose or cracked masonry was stabilized by setting or pinning. Threaded fiberglass rods were used in conjunction with epoxy grout to pin loose and unstable sandstone masonry to the structure’s existing stable masonry. To prevent moisture intrusion all roofing and gutters were recoated, and all failing mortar joints were removed and replaced with a compatible hydraulic lime pointing mortar.

After it had all been documented, all material that had been removed was stored in a covered location on the Cypress Lawn property. Permanent marking of each individual masonry unit, together with extensive photo and annotated drawing documentation, will allow the upper portion of the structure to eventually be restored to its original intended height.

With the scaffolding removed and the waterproofing complete, the de la Montanya monument has been transformed from an eyesore to a handsome, contemplative feature of the historic Cypress Lawn Memorial Park.