The Downie Museum & Basilica Forecourt Restoration is Complete!
The Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt Project is a $4 million restoration project that seismically strengthened, restored and preserved a 100-year-old adobe structure, increased the museum interior exhibit space, added ADA accessible restrooms, remedied all flooding and draining issues affecting the Basilica, and provided ADA access throughout the garden and museum. With the incredible support from our donors and the talented project team we were able to successfully complete this important restoration to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of Carmel Mission in fall of 2021.
Downie Museum Restoration
The Downie Museum adobe is rich with history, not only from the past 100 years, but also has ties to early Mission life. The Downie Museum adobe was commissioned by Father Ramón Mestres, renowned from John Steinbeck’s novel Tortilla Flat, in 1919. This 1,157-square-foot building was completed in 1921 as quarters for the visiting priest. In 1980, it was dedicated as a museum to honor Sir Harry Downie, who spent 50 years as the Mission’s great restorer. This adobe structure is believed to have been built on the site of Junipero Serra’s 2nd Church, from 1773-1776. As the Mission grew it served as headquarters for the Mission system and was later used for the Mission’s physician until the Mission was abandoned in the mid 1800’s.
This 100-year-old adobe was seismically strengthened in accordance with the Unreinforced Masonry Act, preserving it for future generations. The Roof reinforced and the fireplace was restored. The museum previously housed the Mission’s main restrooms which were relocated, doubling the museum exhibit space. Interior doorways were found opening up the Museum to its original floor plan. Two ADA family restrooms were built in the storage rooms on the west side of the building.
The Carmel Mission Foundation is hoping to work with the Carmel Mission Parish, in exploring designs for the expanded exhibit space, to include the re-creation of Harry Downie’s workshop previously viewed through a small window in the west wall. In addition, many of the artifacts dating back to the 1700’s, that were recovered during earlier restorations, will require additional conservation before returning to the restored Downie Museum
The Carmel Mission Foundation successfully completed the Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt restoration project in time to celebrate the momentous 250th anniversary of the founding of the Carmel Mission this fall.
Surrounding the Downie Museum is the 6,800 square foot Basilica Forecourt, originally built in 1936. This is the main entrance courtyard to the renowned museums and Basilica. The Forecourt needed accessibility upgrades, as required by law. Drainage solutions will now prevent water that previously flooded the Basilica and pooled under the Baptistry and Bell Tower during heavy rains. Grading and paving will be completely redone to provide an ADA accessible, hazard-free walk to the Basilica, Cemetery, and Museums. After the original concrete surface of the Forecourt has been removed, and exterior fire lines, utilities, sewer, and drainage trenched in, minor grade alterations were made by bringing in fill to reduce the steepness of the slope from the entrance gate for the purpose of meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. An accessible, step-free paths were constructed to connect the courtyard to the fountain, gardens, and Downie Museum. All drainage issues were remedied the historic fountain now works properly, and the entire Basilica Forecourt was resurfaced with a new concrete/river stone with brick borders to resemble the look it had previously.
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