Mission San Agustín in Google Earth
From this page, you can download and launch your own model of the San Agustín Mission.
The mission—and the iconic, two-story adobe convento—were at the heart of the City of Tucson’s plan to rebuild the complex as part of the Rio Nuevo project. The evidence necessary for rebuilding these structures is lacking, however. An example of this problem is the subject of the color of the buildings.
Tucsonan Atanacia Hughes is quoted in 1920 as saying that the mission chapel was “vermilion” (a rusty shade of red) in color. Samples of red plaster and white plaster were found in refuse pits during the Rio Nuevo Archaeology projects. Supporting Atanacia’s account were a number of pieces of red plaster found during excavations at the mission site itself. White plaster was also found, and it was assumed that the white plaster came from the convento. Nevertheless, after the excavations were completed, a plen aire painting of the convento was shown at a local art gallery—and the convento looks decidedly vermilion in this historic image.
Could Atanacia Hughes have confused the chapel for the convento?
On the one hand, we must remember that Atanacia was born in 1850, around the time the chapel collapsed. The convento stood intact for another fifty years after the chapel had fallen, and the two buildings may have become somewhat synonymous in people’s minds. On the other hand, the painter of the convento might have been conveying the building at sunset, with a reddish tone cast across the building’s walls.
Thus, we present two models of the San Agustín Mission, each portraying a different interpretation of the available evidence. Take a moment to download the models and compare for yourself!
The Center for Desert Archaeology uses three-dimensional modeling to understand and share information about the places of our shared past. Google Earth is one way that we can share 3D models in a real-time desktop virtual reality browser.
Because Google Earth is still in a “Beta” stage of development, we cannot guarantee that all possible combinations of computer hardware, web browsers, and operating systems will function with our digital models and Google Earth.
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