500 Capp Street was constructed in 1886, during what is generally referred to as the Victorian period (1860 – 1900) and is a prime example of a relatively simple Italianate style house. The last owner of the property, artist David Ireland, had a strong influence on the house’s physical state.
Ireland made the house a focus of his work, and put great intention into both the preservation and alteration of various aspects of the building. He changed little on the exterior of the house, with the exception of infilling the light well and introducing all-over matte gunmetal gray paint. Ireland initially wanted to tear out many of the house’s interior walls. However, as he began to appreciate the historic nature of the building, he retained them instead and stripped the finishes, removing wallpaper and carpet until the bare wood floors and plaster walls were exposed. These he coated in numerous layers of glossy polyurethane to preserve the “cracks, blotches, erosions, pits, and discolorations…evidence of the house’s history,” and in so doing, created a work of art expressed by the play of light and reflections over the varnished surfaces. His re moval of trim elements was seen as a way of “aggravating the environment” and pieces of conceptual art that he installed in the house became fixtures and integral elements of the interior architecture. Despite the changes he made, the house retains sufficient fabric from the 19th century that blends with Ireland’s interventions, which have achieved significance in their own right.
ARG Conservation Services was retained by the 500 Capp Street Foundation to assess and carry out conservation treatments at 500 Capp Street in San Francisco. The first phase assessed the stability of interior plaster finishes and applied artwork prior to future building improvement projects on the basement and exterior. The second phase included an investigation of the house’s exterior envelope. Priorities for this assessment included a survey of all elevations of the property, investigation of current roof conditions, and moisture infiltration in the second floor northwest office. Short-term repair and maintenance recommendations were made based on the investigation’s findings. Conservation treatments began in the third phase, to conserve the interior plaster finishes and to provide protection for wall applied elements as recommended in the previous assessment report. Ornamentation and areas of sagging sealing plaster were strengthened and stabilized. Applied artwork in the house was documented and protected prior to building improvement projects to the basement and exterior. Repair and conservation of the second story windows and their finishes was carried out in phase four. The objectives of this phase were to stabilize areas of flaking varnish finish, and to improve security and weatherproofing in the house during a larger seismic upgrade project. The fifth and final phase, included the restoration of the interior plaster, wood finishes, and window signage. The goal was to restore the interior finishes to the period of significance (c.1978) starting when David Ireland moved into the house. Work included re-varnishing walls, ceiling, and floors, trying to use similar materials and methods used by the artist in 1978. Front door and window signage were also restored to their appearance during the selected historical period.
Interior Finishes and Hardwood Flooring Restoration
The 500 Capp Street Foundation
San Francisco, California