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tumacacori Summary

historic image
1912 photograph showing the damage wrought by a large earthquake in 1890 which caused the structural failure of the pediment. Note the first preservation efforts in the installation of fencing after the designation of Tumacácori as a National Monument in 1908.
The Mission's Service as a Church
The Mission San Jose de Tumacácori is one of three Spanish missions and was the first monumental church structure built within the Tumacácori National Historic Park, a National Park Service site.
The current church was built beginning in 1800 to replace the Jesuit San Cayetano de Tumacácori across the river within the lands of the O’odham (Pima) Native Americans and is the primary landmark of significance for the Tumacácori National Historic Park.

The Jesuits were influential in shaping the expansion of New Spain during the colonial drive of the Spanish empire, thereby establishing missions throughout the Sonoran Desert (area encompassing both Arizona and the present day Mexican state of Sonora), California, and Arizona. After the Jesuits were expelled from the Americas by the Spanish King Carlos III in 1767, the missions were inherited by the Franciscans. In a period of general decline from Apache hostility, competing settlers, lack of support from the Spanish government, discontent within the converts, and disease, Tumacácori entered a period of general abandonment beginning in 1848 until the National Park Service initiated preservation in 1918. Frank Pinkley’s interventions began a tradition of preservation at Tumacácori that would later guide much of the philosophy and history of architectural conservation in the Southwest.

historic image
1922 photograph showing restoration efforts, most dramatically seen in the rebuilding of the façade pediment. 


The façade of the mission at Tumacácori can be read as a document in itself that communicates the development of American preservation philosophy for almost 100 years. Under the stewardship of Frank “Boss” Pinkley, conservation methodologies were experimental and would eventually give rise to the use of traditional building materials and methods as a form of repair. By the 1940s traditional methods gave way over the next three decades to the use of synthetic resins and non-traditional treatments of grouts, water repellents, and consolidants.  By studying the application of these methods in succession, one can gain a perspective of nearly a century’s worth of preservation thinking and  insight into the development of architectural conservation and historic preservation in the United States.

historic image
1849 journal sketch by H.M.T Powell on his way to California.