Preserving the Past for Future Generations

National Historic Landmark, 11 historic structures, and 5 museums throughout 22 acres

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“It has been said that, at it’s best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” –William Murtagh

“It has been said that, at it’s best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” –William Murtagh

$4 million Downie Museum & Basilica Forecourt Restoration, is Complete!

Basilica Forecourt photograph by Manny Espinoza photography

Carmel, CA – October 11, 2021 – The Carmel Mission Foundation announced the successful completion of its third major restoration, the $4 million dollar Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt restoration project at the historic Carmel Mission in Carmel-by-the-Sea. After three years of research, planning, restoration design and fundraising for this front section of the 22-acre property, the Carmel Mission Foundation and their generous community of donors together with the Carmel Mission Parish, and the Diocese of Monterey are thrilled to have successfully completed this project in time to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of Carmel Mission.

“I am humbled by the community support and proud of the Foundation’s ongoing efforts and commitment to restore this incredible landmark during a very challenging time.” says Stephanie Zelei, Executive Director of the Carmel Mission Foundation. “This final portion of the project came in under budget and ahead of schedule due to the tremendous contributions of SRA Project Management, Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company, Franks & Brenkwitz Architecture, Cornerstone Masonry, Graniterock, Searle Electric, Green Valley Landscaping, Val’s Plumbing and Chris Ingram Plastering.” Zelei states. “We want to thank the Parish and Diocese for their support during construction while adhering to the challenging COVID safe protocols needed for continued Mission operations.” Zelei adds, “The project looks fantastic, and we hope everyone will find time to visit the property.”

The Basilica Forecourt and 100-year-old Downie Museum adobe were in serious need of restoration. With the completion of the seismic strengthening of the unreinforced adobe, the successful restoration of the roofline, fireplace and wood support beams, the building is now safe, accessible, and preserved for the future. By relocating the nonfunctioning restrooms from the museum and opening the interior doorways the adobe was restored to its original floorplan, which now opens into expanded exhibit space. All areas throughout the museum and garden are now ADA accessible.

The front perimeter wall, which crumbled in August 2020, has been rebuilt, the entrance gates refurbished, and a new gated pedestrian entrance was added alongside the museum store, opening more viewing areas from Rio Rd. All flooding and drainage issues affecting the foundation of the renowned Basilica bell tower, built in 1797, have been remedied, and the historic fountain is now functional. Step-free paths and hazard-free walkways to the museums and gardens are now accessible to all visitors.

This is the third major restoration project the Carmel Mission Foundation has completed since its inception in 2008 and follows the successful structural restoration of the Basilica in 2013 and Central Courtyard in 2016, which offered an updated outdoor gathering space for the Parish and Museum to stay open and comply with COVID-19 operational restrictions. With multiple, historic structures, museums and artifacts still needing restoration, the Foundation is committed to the community’s interest to continue this important work. Over the past 13 years, the Carmel Mission Foundation and the community of donors and volunteers, have raised and funded a total of $14 million dollars into the research and restoration needs of the historic structures, grounds, and artifacts throughout the 22-acre Carmel Mission complex.

With this 3rd major restoration successfully complete, the Foundation will focus on sharing the story of this incredible property, not just the first 60 years of early mission life, but the later 175 years when the United States took over the ruins of Carmel Mission. “Our community has practiced a legacy of joining together in restoring this national historic landmark as the Monterey Peninsula developed around it” says Zelei “it is an exciting time, and we want to share this incredible history.”

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$4 million Downie Museum & Basilica Forecourt Restoration, Step 2  Groundbreaking

Rich Pepe, Steve Aitchison, Bobby Richards, Stephanie Zelei, Fr. Paul Murphy, Sam Gesumaria, Brett Brenkwitz, Mayor Dave Potter

Carmel, CA – April 13, 2021 – Step 2 of the Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt Restoration Project officially began with a groundbreaking ceremony that took place in the Basilica Forecourt on April 5th. Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt project is a $4 million dollar restoration project and is currently 90% funded.

Step 2 includes restoring a 100-year-old adobe museum and courtyard in front of the Basilica in time to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Carmel Mission this fall. The unreinforced masonry museum adobe will be seismically strengthening according to state requirements. In addition to the seismic work, interior walls will be opened to expand the museum exhibit space and two new ADA restrooms will be added to the west side of the museum. Draining issues and flooding affecting the Basilica Bell Tower will be remedied and the iconic fountain will be repaired. Upgraded irrigation systems will be added throughout the gardens and new landscaping with native drought tolerant plants will help with water conservation. The temporary wall constructed during an urgent emergency wall removal in 2020 will be replaced with a permanent perimeter wall and a new gate entrance.

After the original cracked and uneven concrete surface of the Basilica Forecourt has been removed, and exterior fire lines, utilities, and drainage trenched in, minor grade alterations will be made to reduce the steepness of the slope from the entrance gate to meet ADA requirements and create a more enjoyable visitors experience. Accessible, step-free paths will connect the courtyard to the fountain, gardens, and Museums. The entire Basilica Forecourt will be resurfaced to resemble the look it has today.

The goal of the Carmel Mission Foundation is to complete step 2 of the Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt restoration project in  6 months, in time to celebrate the momentous 250th anniversary of the founding of the Carmel Mission in 1771.

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$4 million Downie Museum & Basilica Forecourt Restoration, Step 1


November 1st, 2020, The Carmel Mission Foundation announced that Step 1 of the Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt Restoration has begun.

Step 1 of the Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt restoration began in November 2020 and includes the relocation of the Mission’s main restrooms from the Downie Museum to a new facility in the Central Courtyard. Local contractor Harvest Construction is overseeing this step of the project and is doing a fantastic job completing the new mission-style building on time and on budget. In preparation for Step 2, the Downie Museum artifacts have been relocated to a temporary space on-site to begin the seismic work and restoration needs of the 100-year-old adobe Downie Museum structure.

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Emergency Wall Removal

In August emergency repairs were needed when a portion of the front perimeter adobe wall of the Carmel Mission deteriorated and had to be removed immediately. Carmel Mission Foundation announced that with the success of their past support they were able to fully fund this emergency removal.

The Carmel Mission Foundation worked together with the Carmel Mission Parish team to carefully tear down the deteriorated wall and build a temporary wall in just 2 short weeks. Demolition crews removed 30 feet of adobe wall stretching from the front gate to the museum store. A temporary wall was erected to secure the property until the Foundation can raise the funds needed to rebuild this historic wall wall during the upcoming  Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt restoration project.

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The Carmel Mission Foundation announced on August 10, 2016, that the renovation of the Carmel Mission’s Quadrangle Courtyard had been completed. This was made possible by a $2.2 million grant from the Carmel Mission Foundation.

The large Quadrangle Courtyard is the venue for many important parish and community events. The old concrete surface was removed and new subterranean utility infrastructure was installed to support future Mission restoration work. The Courtyard was then resurfaced with new hardscape designed to last 75–100 years.

The Quadrangle renovation marks the beginning of the Mission’s Phase II restoration, a comprehensive, multi-year project to seismically strengthen and restore the Mission’s 11 remaining historic structures and courtyards, including five museums, California’s first library, and the Orchard House, California’s oldest adobe residence.


The Carmel Mission Foundation announced on October 13, 2015, that the $5.5 million seismic stabilization and restoration of the 220-year-old Carmel Mission’s Basilica has received the prestigious Governor’s Historic Preservation Award. The Basilica restoration project was recognized as an exceptional example of historic preservation efforts honoring California’s cultural heritage.

In 2014, the restoration of the Basilica received a Project-of-the-Year Award from the construction industry for the Northern California and Hawaii Region in the religious/cultural category. The team behind the preservation effort was honored at an industry awards ceremony in San Francisco. Team members included Franks Brenkwitz and Associates, architect of record; Blach Construction, general contractor; Architectural Resources Group, preservation architect; Donald C. Urfer & Associates,structural engineer; on site management; and the Carmel Mission Foundation that funded the project.



Media Coverage

 Board backs more restoration work, improvements at Mission
Carmel Pine Cone – Oct 23, 2020 (p. 7A)

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