A few weeks ago, we got a call about an exciting event to be held at Tolomato in April: an NCPTT workshop. For those who may not be familiar with this acronym, it refers to the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a government entity created in 1994 to promote preservation training and work on our national heritage sites. The group sponsors workshops all over the country, usually in conjunction with local universities and preservation programs and organizations. They focus on techniques and plans for assisting professional and non-professional organizations in maintaining historic properties .
In our case, the workshop will include the repair of stone markers, a plan for our plantings, and the lime washing of a stone grave enclosure. It will be attended by preservation students from the University of Florida and Flagler College.
This large grave enclosure belonged to the Hernandez/Gibbs family, and the stele in the middle commemorates Ana Hernandez, who died in 1838. The underlying material is coquina, and as you can see from these photos, it’s not in very good condition.
The work will involve the careful removal of plant material (Florida’s persistent airplant and lichen) along with any loose pieces of the Portland cement that was used in the past to repair the original coquina and stucco. Once the surface is cleaned, several layers of limewash will be applied.
Limewash is a solution made of water and lime, which in St Augustine was obtained by burning oyster shells in a lime kiln. While limewash can be thickened with various materials, in this case it will be thin and will be applied in thin coats, as many as ten of them. This will have the effect of sealing the porous stone under it. However, traditional limewash, made of natural materials, wears off under the assaults of weather and plant life and must be reapplied fairly often. Limewashing protects the fragile coquina stone, and when it wears off, as we see here, the coquina begins to weather and disintegrate.
Stay tuned to see the work on the grave enclosure. We’ll post photos as we get them.