Four long years have passed but finally, conservationists have completed their project to rehabilitate
five floors of murals in a Grand Canyon National Park watchtower. These murals were originally created
in 1932 in the seventy-foot Desert View Watchtower. The eight decades that passed before the
restoration project began took its toll on the murals.
The passing of time brought with it damage by wind, rain, and snow. Eventually, the salt deposits on the
walls resulted in wearing away the paint and cracked plaster. Additionally, human wear and tear also
played a part in the decomposition of the murals. Unfortunately, this included graffiti and carved names.
Thankfully, the conservationists from The Conservation Associates of Santa Fe, New Mexico, that
dedicated their time and talent to the project were able to remedy the scars of the decades. After
employing different restoration tactics to the various blemishes, the team was able to return the murals
to their original luster.
To restore the historic windowsills and staircases, Jenn O’Neill, the park’s partnerships and planning
coordinator, explained that the team used conservation toning techniques to recreate the natural
pigments in the wood. For graffiti, which was done with an array of permanent markers, nail polish and
pens, the O’Neill explained that the conservationists had to use a host of different removal techniques.
This was not an easy feat. Five floors create an overwhelming structure to begin with. However, when
you are dealing with not only eighty years of wear and tear, but also historic materials, the project
becomes even more tedious. Every inch of the restoration area needed to be searched, researched, and
restored. Additionally, cleaning and repairing the blemishes was only the beginning. Afterward,
conservationists had to painstakingly recreate the murals, using the same techniques, colors, and vision
as the 1930s painters. (Talk about painting a picture of the past.)
“This is the largest conservation project conducted within the tower since it was built and the murals
were painted,” Craig Chenevert, the park’s historical architect, said in the press release that announced
the completion of the project.
However, now, future generations can once again enjoy the wonder of the watchtower, in all its
splendor. This is a true accomplishment, not only for the Grand Canyon but for the conservationists who
worked so hard to make this restoration a reality.
Additionally, funding from the project came Artplace America and National Trust for Historic