Fumigators to Gas City’s Brewery Art

Fumigators to Gas City’s Brewery Art

Photo courtesy of San Diego History Center

In the 1930s, the Aztec Brewing Co. rathskeller was a popular tasting room. The lavish decor included murals and a painted ceiling.


It’s the art version of dealing with a kid’s hair lice before sending her to summer camp.

Before the city’s 1930s-era wooden bar, saved from the demolished Aztec Brewery in Barrio Logan, can be taken to a conservation studio in Los Angeles, art handlers need to rid it of termites.

Yesterday, the city’s public art manager, Dana Springs, got an urgent message from Wendell Eckholm, the art handler the city’s paying to transport several Aztec Brewery pieces to be conserved in L.A.

When Eckholm and his team from Artworks San Diego pulled the wooden bar out of storage in Santee, they realized it has been hit by termites.

They found bore holes, remnants of mud nests and weakened wood — not exactly the kind of evidence they’d want to risk introducing to ArtWorks’ pristine, climate-controlled art warehouse in Kearny Mesa, nor to the L.A. conservation studio.

“It’s hard to say whether that’s currently happening or had happened sometime in the past,” Eckholm said. “But you want to make sure that you’ve arrested any kind of possibility of current infestation.”

So they called Springs to get permission to take the bar to be fumigated.

Now the piece has an interesting weekend ahead. It will enter a storage container on site at Lloyd Pest Control. Fumigators will close the doors this afternoon and pump it full of vikane gas tomorrow and Sunday.

“We cover and shoot it just like a house,” said Melody Bowe, who’s worked at Lloyd Pest Control for 30 years. She said the company loads up a storage container with picture frames, furniture and other pest-ridden pieces nearly weekly.

They’ll let the container air out on Monday and Eckholm’s team will pick it up Tuesday to take it to L.A.

Springs said the hiccup didn’t shock her.

“We knew these things were old; we knew they were in fragile condition,” she said. “That’s why it’s going to be conserved.”

The bar is the centerpiece of a collection of furniture, murals and roof beams that the city has been storing for more than 20 years. The art came from a brewery built in Barrio Logan after Prohibition. While the property changed hands several times, the brewery’s tasting room was boarded up. Eventually a new owner wanted to raze the site, and artists discovered the art right before the wrecking ball was due. The property is now a parking lot and the art’s been sitting in storage. Now it will be uncrated, conserved and soon seen again in a new complex in Barrio Logan.

KPBS’s Angela Carone and I dove into the story earlier this year, telling the history of the pieces in a two-part print and radio series. You can read and listen to more here.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

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Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. You can reach her directly at kelly@vosd.org.

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Dionne Carlson
Dionne Carlson subscriber

So glad that this wonderful art will finally be seeing the light of day.


So glad that this wonderful art will finally be seeing the light of day.