The operation to restore the California Tower in Balboa Park to good health is successful, and the scaffolding comes down tomorrow.
Sixty-plus years shouldn't be much in a building's life but, says professional restorer A. E. Sendgikoski, "We recognize that a building is like a human body. If a man gets sick, he takes an aspirin or gets treatment, but when a building gets sick no one does anything about it."
But, in the case of the California Tower and the Museum of Man, the city did recognize the fact that the structures had skin problems, so authorized $632,000 to cure their blemished facades.
City Engineer Tom Meade said, "The tower wasn't in any danger. Damage was primarily cosmetic, but if allowed to continue the stone would have been badly damaged."
The structures were built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition commemorating the opening of the Panama Canal. Cornerstone of the California Tower was laid in August, 1913, and the structure was dedicated Dec. 31, 1914.
Considered the finest work of architect Bertram Goodhue, designer of the buildings at Cal Tech and the Nebraska State Capitol, the buildings were not the finest work of the builder, who pulled a boo-boo.
"In making the stone blocks, the builder used sea sand, full of sodium," Sendgikoski said. "We would never do this today. Then, over the years, the sea air has permeated the surface six to seven inches leaving deposits of sodium. These cause small holes in the stone, leading to crumbling."
His crews have been heating the stone. This brings the sodium to the surface. Then a shock jet of cold water is directed to the hot surface which washes out the sodium. Then the stone is impregnated with a resin compound that will protect the surface.
"Then, there were heavy deposits of pigeon guano which when mixed with rain, made acids that corroded the stone. This has been removed." Meade said. "Now, the life of the buildings has been prolonged for another 50-60 years."
One of a rare breed, a professional restorer, Sendgikoski has been both builder and architect.
"Last big structure I was involved in building was Watergate," he said, "then I went into the scientific restoration of antiquities.”
He's been on the Balboa Park project more than a year and has enjoyed himself thoroughly.
The gate just east of the Cabrillo Bridge has some fine high relief figures done by the Piccirelli brothers — Furio, Attilio, Horatio, Setalio, and Thomas — but old devil sodium hurt them badly.
"I had to train workmen to restore some of the figures," Sendgikoski said. Persons going through the arch can see two bas-relief figures denoting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Until Sendgkoski and his boys did plastic surgery, Atlantic, a nice looking chick, was noseless, while Pacific had problems too.
Also, varied stone urns, pediments and other ornaments were dangerously corroded. They were replaced by exact replicas made of mixture of cast stone and fiberglass — 70 per cent lighter than the original and almost corrosion-proof.
Formerly executive vice president of Universal Restoration, now with Williams Construction Co., Sendgikoski said, "I'm proud of this job, and I love this kind of work."
Some of his restoration jobs include Castle Clinton in Battery Park, New York City; the old United States Bank in Philadelphia, Pioneer Courthouse in Portland, Ore.; and Fanuiel Hall in Boston.
With tile scrubbed and a new makeup job, the tower shines forth unscaffolded tomorrow; the rest of the job will be finished in four or five weeks.
With the 201-foot tower and adjoining structures the only permanent structures in the park, the rest of the buildings were scheduled for removal after the exposition, but they're still with us.
The 1915 exposition was visited by many notables: former Presidents William H. Taft and Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and William Jennings Bryan.
First car over the bridge and through the arch contained Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and his assistant.
Young fellow named Franklin D. Roosevelt.