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Home Working with Section 106 ACHP Case Digest Summer 2004 Puerto Rico: Rehabilitation of Defensive Walls, San Juan National Historic Site (closed case)
Agency: National Park Service
In 1997, the National Park Service (NPS) began rehabilitating the historic defensive walls surrounding the San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico. As a premier cultural icon, the site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a World Heritage Site.
San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico
After repairing and stabilizing the defensive walls, NPS planned to cover the surfaces with a mixture of stucco and mortar. The Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) objected to NPSs determination that its proposed stucco-mortar treatment would not adversely affect the site, arguing that such treatment would jeopardize the walls structural integrity by trapping moisture.
The SHPO also said that the treatment would compromise the walls visual integrity by covering and destroying the surface, which the SHPO considered an important character-defining feature because of its patina of age.
When NPS began stuccoing the sites north wall, however, the SHPO asked the ACHP to investigate NPSs compliance with the Section 106 review process.
The questions this raised, coupled with evident physical problems with the stucco application, led NPS and the SHPO to enter into an agreement in 1998 that detailed a plan for addressing the defensive walls, and that included the ACHP as a full participant.
In a unique partnership, NPS and the SHPO also invited an international team of conservation specialists to explore technical and philosophical issues in the treatment plan.
Through the U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, such a team was convened in 1999, with the ACHP participating as an observer.
Among other recommendations, the team suggested ways to deal with structural stability, drainage, material loss, vegetation, and previous repairs, plus the need to test repair materials such as mortar and render mixes, documenting work as it is undertaken, and on-going research.
Based on the recommendations, NPS executed a Programmatic Agreement in July 2004 with the ACHP, the SHPO, the Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works, and two local preservation organizations on the treatment of the defensive walls around the San Juan National Historic Site.
Staff contact: Martha
Posted August 9, 2004
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