PHOTO #1: Victoria artist Debra Chronister, right, and her former student Kendra Schwarz, left, pose with the newly restored Street of Ten Friends sign at the North Main Street entrance to downtown Victoria.
The Street of Ten Friends sign created by Victoria artist Tom Jones in the 1970s is sporting a new, historically accurate, durable paint job thanks to another local artist.
The Street of Ten Friends, or “La Calle de los Diez Amigos” in the original Spanish, is the former name of what is now Main Street. The street takes its name from Victoria founder Martín de León and nine others who were instrumental in the early development of the city.
Explore Victoria Texas Director Joel Novosad began reaching out to artists about the possibility of refurbishing the sign after noticing that it was peeling and chipping in places.
The job was accepted by Victoria artist Debra Chronister, who has experience with similar restoration projects, such as restoring the historic sculptures at the Infant Jesus of Prague Catholic Church in McFaddin after they were damaged during Hurricane Harvey.
“She has such a passion for Victoria,” Novosad said. “Martín de León is key to Victoria’s history, and we were excited to be able to work with an artist who understands the value of that history.”
The art of restoration
PHOTO #2: Local artist Debra Chronister paints in between the letters on the Street of Ten Friends sign.
PHOTO #3: Restoration craftsman Sean Watkins sands the Street of Ten Friends sign to even out the surface before applying the primer.
PHOTO #4: Local artist Debra Chronister researched the Street of Ten Friends sign’s original appearance to choose the correct colors and techniques for the restoration project.
Chronister completed the project with assistance from Sean Watkins, a visiting East Coast-based craftsman known for his restoration work on historic homes, and Kendra Schwarz, a former student from Chronister’s days teaching ceramics at Victoria College.
To prepare for the project, Chronister consulted historic photos provided by Victoria Preservation Inc. and studied the methods that Tom Jones used on his projects.
Based on her research, she learned that the sign was likely finished using linseed oil, which she said creates a “rustic appearance” but is difficult to maintain. This technique was reflected in the historic photos of the sign, which also indicated that the border of the sign was originally lighter than the shade of brown that was used the last time it was repainted.
By applying finishing techniques used in ceramics, she was able to emulate the sign’s original appearance while making it easier to maintain.
Chronister and Watkins also improved the sign’s durability by thoroughly preparing the surface before painting it. They carefully removed the paint from the sign, covered it with white primer and sealed it with multiple coats of paint.
“We prepared the heck out of it,” Chronister said.
Chronister said that the sign, in addition to honoring Victoria’s early roots, is a celebration of the history of art in Victoria.
“Fifty years ago, an artist made these fabulous signs for our community,” she said, referring to the Street of Ten Friends sign and the George Hauschild Cigar Factory sign at what is now Blume & Flour. “Now we’re seeing a renaissance of art in Victoria, with opportunities like the Art Walk and the new art magazine produced by Crossroads Art House. It’s so wonderful to see artists being able to succeed in Victoria.”
To learn more about events and attractions in Victoria, visit www.explorevictoriatexas.com.
View more photos from the restoration project