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Cox Bill May Be Blessing for Mission's Great Stone Church

November 15, 2002|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

Legislation that would pump $10 million into repairing and preserving California's missions might provide enough cash to help complete the restoration of the 196-year-old Great Stone Church in San Juan Capistrano.

The historic church, part of Mission San Juan Capistrano, was all but destroyed in an 1812 earthquake. Restoration efforts began in 1994, though funding has been a challenge.

Roughly half of the estimated $7 million it will take to put the Great Stone Church back together -- a job that includes seismic stabilization -- has been pieced together from federal and county grants and private donations.

Last year, the mission was awarded a $487,000 state grant.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), would allocate money for all 21 missions, although it was unclear Thursday how the funds would be divided.

"We're on the final push to get this done," said Sandy Wheeler, mission spokeswoman. "It's admirable that Chris Cox is recognizing our mission and all the others around the state. What are we going to tell our grandkids if we can't show them what life was like in the old days?"

Designed more than 200 years ago by Isidro Aguilar, the Great Stone Church has been placed on the 2002 list of the 100 most endangered historical sites by the World Monuments Watch program.

The church is five stories high at the sanctuary, topped with seven stone domes and surrounded by 50-foot walls.

The sanctuary dome has already been seismically stabilized, the art has been preserved, and all scaffolding in the central and east portions of the church has been removed. But the vestment room and its dome need to be shored up, Wheeler said.

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