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The History of the Alamo Part VIII: A Historic Battlefield Erased

The Alamo and Valero Plazas in 1890. This was the Alamo battlefield in 1836.
Ron Current

My last post told the story of the Alamo’s church in the 20th century while under the control of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. In this post I’ll go back a little in the timeline to bring you up to speed on what was happening to the Alamo Plaza while de Zavala and Driscoll were battling over the Alamo’s two remaining buildings. Knowing this history will help you to better understand how the Alamo came to be what it is today. 

It all began with Sam Maverick

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the History of the Alamo Part III, it was Samuel A. Maverick, and his purchasing of the largest sections of the old mission/fort’s grounds, that set the stage for what the Alamo Plaza would become.

His subdividing and selling of the land where the west and north walls had stood, as well as tearing down what original buildings that were left along those walls, had erased the majority of that hallowed ground where the heaviest fighting of 1836 had taken place. Also, with the ownership of these lands in the hands of different individuals and companies it would make the restoration of the Alamo battlefield extremely difficult in the future.

Samuel A. Maverick

When Maverick was subdividing the old mission grounds he left the compound’s large central open area intact. This he donated to the City of San Antonio, and it became Alamo Plaza. During its mission and fort periods this area was not a traditional plaza. Being surrounded by the compound’s walls it would have been the fort’s parade ground.

However, just outside of the Alamo’s main gate was the Plaza de Valero. Valero was a true plaza, a large open common area surrounded by houses with a road that led up to the Alamo’s gate. This plaza was never owned by the Catholic Church, as was Alamo Plaza, and was always municipal land.


 Creating a plaza from a battlefield 

These two open areas had been separated by the Alamo’s main gate building, the Low Barracks, until that was demolished in 1871. Once the Low Barracks was removed residents could now enjoy one of the largest open spaces in the entire city, that’s until it rained. When it rained this whole space became one impassable, gigantic mud hole. 

Between 1888-89, the City of San Antonio undertook a major paving program to solve this mud issue on the two Plazas. The paving material of choice was the ever abundant Mesquite woodblocks.

The city also required that the stores and property owners bordering the plazas install sidewalks. While the paving was taking place a wooden waterline was extended into Alamo Plaza for a fountain that had existed in front of the Hugo & Schmeltzer building (very near were the Alamo Cenotaph stands today).

The Alamo and Valero Plazas in the 1880s. The Market House is in the foreground.

San Antonio was quickly becoming a major urban center, and the two plazas along with it: In 1878 the first street car line was built on Alamo Plaza, in 1882 the Market House building, not an original Alamo structure, was the last building on the plaza to be torn down, in 1887 the city installed public restrooms on the plaza, and in 1890 the U.S. Post Office, the largest structure to be build on the Alamo battlefield at the time, was constructed on the site of the north wall.

Besides the mud issue there was another big concern for the plazas and the buildings around it, and that was the San Antonio River.  Flowing through the middle of the city the river regularly flooded its banks; the most devastating coming in 1921. This led the city to begin looking at different options on how to control its flooding.  It would culminate with the construction of the present system of dams located along the river. With the river levels now stabilized development along the banks of the downtown could  begin. In 1939, partially funded by Federal Works Progress Administration, work began on today’s River Walk. 

The Alamo church in 1900 with the city street coming up to its door.

Continuing with making changes to the plazas, in 1891 the city constructed a park on the Plaza de Valero that featured: trees, shrubs, flowering plants and a band stand for concerts. As more and more businesses began to line the plazas San Antonio saw the need for better traffic control. They paved over the old wooden blocks with asphalt, added streets with curbs, and more sidewalks. One of these new streets went right up to the front door of the Alamo church.

A monument to the Alamo heroes  

The first attempt to construct a monument on Alamo Plaza to the fallen defenders of the Alamo was in 1912. The plan then was to build a 800ft tower on the plaza. However, the group proposing this project couldn’t put together the two-million-dollar cost.

It wasn’t until 1936, during the 100th anniversary of the battle of the Alamo that the idea for a monument was taken up again. In celebration of the battles centennial the State of Texas provided $100,000 for the design and construction of a monument. Local sculptor Pompeo Coppini was commissioned to do the design, which he titled, The Spirit of Sacrifice. Today this monument is known as the Alamo Cenotaph.

The Alamo Cenotaph, 2013

The Alamo Cenotaph is constructed of grey Georgia marble and pink Texas granite. Its center spire rises sixty feet above its 40ft long by 12ft wide base. The base features carvings of members of the Alamo garrison, including the images of Travis, Bowie and Crockett. Also inscribed on the monument are 187 names of Alamo defenders, which were provided by historian Amelia Williams. However new research now shows that some of those listed were not at the Alamo, and that there were more than 187 defenders.

The Alamo Cenotaph was dedicated on November 11, 1940 by then San Antonio Mayor Maury Maverick, the grandson of Samuel Maverick.

A battlefield lost

By the time that de Zavala and Driscoll had arrived on the scene nothing remained of the Alamo battlefield, it was as though it had never existed. And for those who knew nothing of the Battle of the Alamo it was too easy to see only the church as the Alamo, even as they walked on the very ground where heroes had fallen.

My next post will cover the changes to the Alamo buildings and plaza through the late 20th and the early 21st centuries. I’ll also present some of the ideas that have been presented from various groups on how they think the Alamo should look in the future. 

If you enjoyed this post please read the others in this series:

The History of the Alamo: Mission to Fort

The History of the Alamo, Part II: From Fort to Forgotten: http://Www.stillcurrent.blog/the-history-of-the-alamo-part-ii-from-fort-to-forgotten

The History of the Alamo, Part III: From Forgotten to Army Depot:http://the-history-of-the-alamo-part-iii-from-forgotten-to-army-depot

The History of the Alamo, Part IV: From Warehouse to Roadside Attraction:http://the-history-of-the-alamo-part-iv-from-warehouse-to-roadside-attraction/

The History of the Alamo, Part V: Two Angels, Two Different Visions:http://the-history-of-the-alamo-part-v-two-angels-two-different-visions/

The History of the Alamo, Part VI: From Roadside Attraction to a Shrine:http://the-history-of-the-alamo-part-vi-from-roadside-attraction-to-a-shrine/

History of the Alamo Part VII: The Era of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas: http://history-of-the-alamo-part-vii-the-era-of-the-daughters-of-the-republic-of-texas

Also checkout my other posts on this subject

The Alamo; Today and in History:http://the-history-of-the-alamo-mission-to-fort

What happened and where it happened, as it is today; a photo walking tour of the Alamo battlefield (2014):http://what-happened-and-where-it-happened-as-it-is-today-a-photo-walking-tour-around-the-alamo-battlefield

The Alamo and Thermopylae: a Comparison in History:
http://the-alamo-and-thermopylae-a-comparison-in-history

Some of the sources used in this post:

Thompson, Frank . The Alamo: A Cultural History, Taylor TradePublishing, 2001.

Nelson, George. The Alamo: An Illustrated History, third revisedEdition, Aldine Press, 2009, p. 98. Eaton, Jack D.

Excavations At The Alamo Shrine. Fourth Printing, Center forArchaeological Research, 1985.

“Alamo Mission in San Antonio .” Wikipedia,Wikipedia, 30 Nov. 2018,

“Alamo History Chronology.” The Daughters oftheRepublic of Texas, The Daughters of the Republic ofTexas,www.drtinfo.org/drt-library/research/alamo-history-chronology-2#wrap.

Wikipedia . “Alamo Cenotaph.” Wikipedia,Wikipedia, Sept. 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Cenotaph. \lsdsemihidd

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History of the Alamo Part VII: The Era of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas

The Alamo's church 8 X 10
The iconic Alamo façade as it is today. A far cry from historical accuracy, but this is the Alamo that we know
I love history shot
Ron Current

Throughout its long history the Alamo has suffered much by those who’ve owned her, even those who loved her deeply and raised her to the level of a shrine. They had unknowingly helped in her slow deterioration.

This posting, the seventh in my series on the history of the Alamo, is about the Alamo’s church during the early to mid-1900s. It was at this time that Clara Driscoll and the DRT had regained custodianship over the Alamo property; it was also when the DRT made major alterations to the church, even rivaling those made by the U.S. Army. Also during this period Clara Driscoll would continue to use her considerable influence and wealth to reshape the land surrounding the Alamo. 

I would also like to note that of all my posts in this series this one was by far the most difficult in researching. It was hard to find accounts and reporting on what exactly had been done and by whom, to the Alamo church from the time of the U.S. Army through the DRT’s control.

From various photos, and some sketchy accounts, I’ve tried to pieced together what may, or may not, have been done to the Alamo church through those early years of the 20th century. Saying this, please forgive this simple armchair researcher/ historian for any assumptions I’ve made when addressing work on the Alamo church, especially in regards to the windows and doors. However, if anyone can shed any light, or point me in the right direction, on this subject please do so in the comments. 

The Era of Clara Driscoll and the DRT begins

In 1917, Clara Driscoll and the Alamo Mission chapter of the DRT took stewardship of a

cropped Mrs._Clara_D._Sevier_LOC_3350948489 1911
Clara Driscoll 1881-1945

badly damaged and neglected Alamo church. And while not as bad as the Long Barracks, it was still a Swiss cheese of windows and doors that had been cut into its 3.5 ft. thick walls. Those changes to the historic building had completely erased the Alamo of the 1836 battle, and distorted the image people have of the Alamo, as it still does today.

To understand how these structural changes had impacted Driscoll and the DRT’s vision of the Alamo we need to go back and review in a little more detail how the Alamo church was altered by those that came before the DRT. I will compare the Alamo of 1836 to the Alamo of the post- Army period, the one the Driscoll knew.

Changing History

In my post, The History of the Alamo Part III: From Forgotten to Army Depot, I presented

The different facades of the Alamo
The history of the Alamo’s facades: a) how the Alamo church would have looked if finished by the Monks, b) how it was during the battle of 1836, c) as it is today

how the U.S. Army were the ones who made the most drastic alterations to the ruined Alamo church. Modifications made by the Army were: raise and level the top of the church’s walls in preparation for, and then adding a roof, building a second floor, and cutting windows and doors into its thick walls. We know that the Army made absolutely no effort for any historical preservation; their only goal was to make the old ruins useable as a warehouse. And, as I also stated in Part III, their original plan was to completely level the ruins.

The question I have, and couldn’t find the answer to, is concerning the windows and doors that are now on the church; what changes were made and by whom. To try and figure this out we need to go back to the ruined church as it was before the Army did their rebuilding, and then try to piece together what happed after.

Originally the Alamo church only had four windows: three located on the church’s façade, one on each side of the columned front door, and one over the main door to bring sunlight into its choir loft. The fourth window was located in a room off the Sacristy, opening out to the front church yard. During the 1836 siege these windows, except the upper choir window, were blocked off.

We know for sure that when rebuilding the church the Army had added two windows on each side of the church’s upper façade below its now famous hump, which they also installed. As for other windows, the only account I could find was an article stating that the Army had added windows to the upper portion of the Alamo church to provide sunlight to their new second floor. This article didn’t say how many windows had been added or their locations.

The really big mystery for me is that of the lost delivery doors on the Alamo church. Again, we know that originally the church only had two doors: the main door at the front and one called “the door of the dead,” a small arched opening that was located on the south side of the church’s transept. The purpose for this opening was to bring the deceased into the church for funeral masses. During the 1836 battle this door was partially closed, ether with stone or adobe bricks, with only a small opening at the top for sharpshooters or small cannon.

Now for the mystery of the delivery doors; photos showing the south wall of the Alamo

The Alamo church before restoration
This photo taken in the late 1800’s shows what looks to be two “doors” on the sought wall of the church. Also notice the stove pipe sticking out the lower front window.

church taken in the late 1800s and early 1900’s shows what seems to be large doors cut into the church between the baptistery and transept. Although they do look like large doors I’ve not been a able to find any information as if these are indeed doors. If they are doors who added them and then who removed them and when.

The only clue I have to this mystery came on one of my visits to the Alamo. One of the  guides mentioned a door that was used for deliveries when the Alamo was a warehouse, and that was later filled in. If this is correct, who filled it in? Was it the DRT when they took control? And if so what materials did they used to fill it? Another clue came from a member of one of the Alamo Facebook groups that I belong to; she posted that she saw an early newspaper article telling of the DRT conducting a drive to recover stones from the Alamo to be used for its repair, is this what was used? Hopefully I’ll come a cross an article that will put this window and door mystery to rest for me.

Today the Alamo Shrine has many windows and doors: windows on the upper and lower back wall of its chancel, upper and lower (where the “door of the dead had been located) windows on its south transept, upper and lower windows on the south wall next to the transept, and an upper window and a door (now used as the exit) on the north transept. There are also two doors and a small window on the north wall of the Sacristy, and a series of small windows, that look like vents, near the roof around the church. One of the most interesting doors is the small one near the top, on the east side of the baptistery

the Alamo church as it was a warehouse
Here’s a photo showing the Police Sub-Station that was attached to the Alamo’s south wall in around 1885

Another interesting attachment added onto the Alamo church was a police sub-station. This can be seen on the 1885, Sanborn Fire Insurance map of San Antonio, and also in

Sanborn map of San Antonio 1885
The 1885 Sanborn map showing the police station on the church

photos of that time. This police station was located along the church’s west wall, between its baptistery and transept. Who built this structure? And when and who removed it? None of the books or web-sites I used for this research had the answer these questions.

All we can be sure of is that when the City of San Antonio had custody of the church they’d removed the second floor installed by the U.S. Army, and if they had made other alterations to the church I couldn’t find any records. If they hadn’t made changes was due to a lack of funding, that the damage was too extensive to correct, or just a lack of historical interest or knowledge, I don’t know.

doc-14408-postcard003wtmk1
An early 1900 photo showing the interior of the Alamo church after the second floor had been removed. Notice the two windows on the back wall, and the large opening behind the man of the right, could this be one of the doors?

However, it does seem that at the time the city didn’t truly appreciated this hallowed site. It’s recorded that when the city had control they allowed outside organizations to use the Alamo church for a meeting hall, where vandalism took place. This could have been one of the reasons that the state only allowed San Antonio to have oversite of the Alamo very briefly before returning it to the DRT.

The DRT takes over

What were the DRT’s original plans for the Alamo? Was there any thought of restoring the Alamo to historically accuracy? It doesn’t seem so. However we shouldn’t be too hard on Driscoll and the DRT, because at that time historical restoration wasn’t much thought of. And if they had any thoughts toward historical restoration, what time period should it be: the mission period, battle of 1836 Alamo, or the post U.S. Army Alamo?

Also, another stumbling block for them doing any accurate historical restoration was the fact that there weren’t many witnesses still alive that could give a correct description of how the Alamo looked as a mission or even after the battle. The only Alamo Driscoll and  others knew was the Alamo created by the U.S. Army.

So ingrained was this image of the Alamo’s façade, with its “hump,” that even artists at the time when painting the 1836 Battle of the Alamo often show it with the hump. In 1975, when a group from the University of Texas suggested that the roof and hump be removed to make the Alamo historically accurate there was a tremendous outcry against it. Still today what is recognized as “the Alamo” is what the U.S. Army had built in 1850. That famous façade, with the bell shaped stone capping, is “our” iconic image of the Alamo. And because of this restorers need to be extremely mindful of the full history of the Alamo when doing restorations.

Clara Driscoll Creates a Shrine to Texas Liberty

There were few records that I could find as to what the first projects of the DRT were for the Alamo church, but there was one that clearly stood out. To Driscoll the first, and most important, for her was the removal of all the buildings that surrounded the Alamo church. Driscoll’s vision was for the Alamo “shrine” to be separated, a focal point onto itself.

She was quite clear about this in her 1900 letter to the San Antonio Express. “We leave it (the Alamo church) hemmed in… one side by a hideous barracks-like (the Long Barracks) looking building, and the other by two saloons…Today the Alamo should stand out free and clear. All the unsightly obstructions that hid it away should be torn down and the space utilized for a park.”

To accomplish this she would over time acquire all the property around the Alamo. One of her first objectives was the Hugo and Schmeltzer/Long Barracks. It was this that started the so called “Second Battle of the Alamo.” Driscoll wanted its complete removal, but as I pointed out in my last post she didn’t get her wish in having the entire Long Barracks leveled, just its second floor.

Over the next decades Driscoll and the DRT would purchase the lands on the south,

fe93c3d6b017ee8ad20b998e6cd2a13c
This photo taken in 1930’s shows the demolition of buildings behind the Alamo Church

north, and behind the church. Tearing down the buildings that “hemmed” it in. One of the largest projects came in 1931, when Driscoll once again opened up her pocket book and wrote a check for $70,000 to help the state in purchasing two parcels of land between the Alamo church and Crockett Street.

Four years later in 1935, she fought with city engineers, and won, when they tried to use eminent domain over Alamo property to widen Houston Street. She also talked the City of San Antonio out converting a building adjacent to the Alamo to a fire station. Later this building was purchased and is now Alamo hall, and used as a meeting room .

During the Great Depression the DRT utilized the Work Progress Administration (WPA) and the National Youth Administration (NYA) to remove the last remaining non-historical buildings left around the Alamo. They also built the first museum building(now the Alamo gift shop), the stone arcade that runs off the south corner of the church, and the walls that circle the property.

By the time Clara Driscoll had passed away in 1945 she was able to see her dream

The Alamo grounds
Clara’s vision fulfilled, the Alamo Shrine stands separated, the focal point of Alamo Plaza

fulfilled, the Alamo Shrine now stood alone. She had her shrine to honor those Texan’s who had given their lives for Texas liberty. It was Driscoll who coined the name for the Alamo church as “the Shine to Texas Liberty,” or now just “the Shine.” The Alamo became a place to gather and to remember. It didn’t matter how historically accurate her shrine was, and this attitude continued on into the 21st century.

The historical importance of the Alamo was finally recognized beginning in 1960, when the Alamo was designated a National Historical Landmark, then in 1961 it was documented by the National American Building Survey, in 1966 it was one of the inaugural listing on the National Register of Historical Places, and in 2015 the Alamo was named a World Heritage Site.

Not all the work on the Alamo was to the good

The Alamo was badly in need of repair when taken over by the DRT, however by not seeking qualified architects and contractors versed in historical restoration they put the Alamo in grave danger.

Alamo gets a new roof
Construction equipment at the Alamo during the adding of the new concert roof

One of the most extensive projects undertaken by the DRT on the Alamo church was the replacement of its roof. In 1921, they removed its old wooden roof and replaced it with a concert barrel vaulted one, this is the roof the Alamo church has today. This roof has a rough stone pebble surface along the top of the walls forming a parapet. Although this concrete roof offers more protection from the outside elements it is causing concerns due to its weight bearing down on the old walls. Also the concert doesn’t expand and contract as the much as the church’s original walls, causing more strain on the entire structure.

In the 1930s, when making repairs to the cracks in the Alamo’s façade workers used  contemporary concert mortar. This eventual turned a pinkish hue instead of  its original gray-white.

Perhaps one of the most unknowingly destructive projects untaken by the DRT was in the 1960s.  To make the inside of the Alamo more comfortable for visitors air conditioning was installed. Although this did make the interior more comfortable during those hot and humid Texas summers it began a slow, and hardly noticed, deterioration of the Alamo church.

The limestone walls of the Alamo would naturally breathe with the changing temperatures and humidity, allowing for a balance. However, modern air conditioning creates a major imbalance between the inside and outside causing moisture to develop within the church’s walls. This moisture would eventually leak out the interior walls. Adding insult to injury, on my 2011 visit one of the guides I talked to told me how contractors trying to fix this leakage used waterproof sealant for basements. This did stop the leaks, but it also trapped the water in the walls causing the limestone to dissolve.

DSC_0067
The saw cut into the Alamo church’s south wall. You can also see the strange small door in the corner

Also on that 2011 visit I noticed what looked like a long cut into the Alamo’s south wall near the top. I asked that same guide as to what that was about. She told me that it was done by one of the directors, and they have no idea what he was trying to do. He was fired.

Over the years all of these misunderstandings by the DRT on how to keep and preserve the Alamo has added to its slow destruction. You can see this happening when you visit the Alamo today. In its rooms preservationist have placed black traps along the floor around the walls. On these traps you can see white flacks; this is the Alamo slowly crumbling away.

The End of an Era

Concerns for how the DRT managed the Alamo began to surface in the late 1980’s. Many members of the Texas State Legislature proposed that custodianship of the Alamo Shrine and property be moved to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. This effort was stopped when the Mayor of San Antonio supported the DRT.

In the early part of the 1990’s the San Antonio Express-News began running a series of articles stating how the DRT was mishandling the Alamo shrine. One article stated that the DRT was keeping the temperature in the Alamo to low, causing even more water vapor to form, and this mixed with auto exhaust were severely damaging the historic structure. These articles again caused the state to take up the issue of taking over control from the DRT in 1993. These efforts were again stopped when then Governor George W. Bush vowed to veto any legislation to dislodge the DRT.

Finally, in 2010, the Texas Attorney General received a complaint on the DRT’s mismanagement of the Alamo, as well as misusage of state funds; this opened an investigation. Two years later, the investigation did find that the DRT had failed to keep the Alamo in good order and repair, misused state funds, and caused a breach of their fiduciary responsibilities.

In 2011, the State transferred control of the Alamo from the DRT to the Texas General Land Office. And on March 12, 2015, the General Land Office assumed the daily operations of the Alamo from the DRT, thus ending a major era in Alamo history.

Even though Driscoll and the DRT hadn’t seemed concerned in historical representation when creating their “shrine,” or that in the years of their custodianship they weren’t the best of stewards, there’s is however one thing we can thank them for; that at a time when the attitude concerning old buildings, historic or not, was to tear them down and rebuild with new, Driscoll and the DRT had fought, and saved what remained of the Alamo. This was a major accomplishment.

My next post will address the changing face of Alamo Plaza.

If you’ve enjoyed this post please read my others in this series:

The History of the Alamo: Mission to Fort

The History of the Alamo, Part II: From Fort to Forgotten

The History of the Alamo, Part III: From Forgotten to Army Depot


The History of the Alamo, Part IV: From Warehouse to Roadside Attraction

The History of the Alamo, Part V: Two Angels, Two Different Visions

The History of the Alamo, Part VI: From Roadside Attraction to a Shrine

Also checkout my other posts on this subject:

The Alamo; Today and in History

What happened and where it happened, as it is today; a photo walking tour of the Alamo battlefield (2014)

Also, my still unfinished series relating to the Alamo:

Texas and the Alamo: Conflict between Mexico and the Untied States (Part I)

Texas and the Alamo: Conflict between Mexico and the Untied States (Part II)

Texas and the Alamo: Conflict between Mexico and the Untied States (Part III)

Texas and the Alamo: Conflict between Mexico and the Untied States (Part IV)

Texas and the Alamo: Conflict between Mexico and the Untied States (Part V)

Some of the sources used in this post:

Thompson, Frank . “The Second Battle of the Alamo.” The Alamo: A Cultural History, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2001.

Nelson, George. “Feuds Over Preservation of the Convento.” The Alamo: An Illustrated History, third Revised Edition, Aldine Press, 2009, p. 98.

Lemon, Mark. “Swivel Gun.” The Illustrated Alamo 1836: A Photographic Journey, State House Press, 2008, p. 100.

Guerra, Mary Ann Noonan. The Alamo. Fourth Printing , The Alamo Press, 1983.

Eaton, Jack D. Excuvations At The Alamo Shrine. Fourth Printing, Center for Archaeological Research, 1985.

“Alamo Mission in San Antonio .” Wikipedia , Wikipedia, 30 Nov. 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Mission_San_Antonio.

Weissert , Will. “Restoring the Alamo-experts’ delicate mission.” Military Times, Military Times, 11 Nov. 2015, http://www.militarytimes.com/off-duty/2015/11/restoring-the-alamo-experts-delicate-mission.

“Buildings.” The Alamo, The Alamo, http://www.thealamo.org/remember/structures/buildings/index.html.

“Alamo History Chronology.” The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, http://www.drtinfo.org/drt-library/research/alamo-history-chronology-2#wrap.

“Clara Driscoll (philanthropist) .” Wikipedia , Wikipedia, Sept. 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Driscoll_(philanthropist).

“Alamo.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historial Association, tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/uqa01.

Hardy, Michael. “My Grandfather Air-Conditioned the Alamo. Now the Building Is Crumbling, and It’s All His Fault.” TexasMonthly, TexasMonthly, 5 Dec. 2016, http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/grandfather-air-conditioned-alamo-now-building-crumbling-fault.

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The History of the Alamo, Part VI: from Roadside Attraction to a Shrine

 

800px-1907_postcard_Save_the_Alamo

This 1907 postcard shows a float in the Battle of the Flowers parade proclaiming the feelings of the people of San Antonio and Texas. But what vision were they proclaiming? This postcard was featured in the Frank Thompson book “The Alamo.”

I love history shot

Ron Current

My last post told of the developing division between the de Zavala and Driscoll DRT groups over the Alamo. Adina de Zavala knew the history and layout of the Alamo’s grounds. She had talked to old San Antonio residences who told her how the Long Barracks and Church buildings had been changed over the years. From these accounts she knew that there were two surviving Alamo buildings, with one hidden under the façade of a grocery store.

Clara Driscoll, being away in Europe until 1898, had the common belief of the time that only the Alamo’s church was left of the original mission complex, all the others having been torn down and built over.

If only the two ladies had sat down together, and talked, they may have come to a consensus. Instead, each drew their own “line in the sand,” creating a war that could have destroyed all that was left of the Alamo.

Another Battle of the Alamo

After the State of Texas made the Daughters of the Republic of Texas custodians of the Alamo the DRT executive committee gave control over to Driscoll and her followers. However, the City of San Antonio had given control to de Zavala. This confusion of who had rightful control over the properties became the epicenter for the growing division between the two women, and how the barracks property was to be developed.

The long barracks with the Hugo & Schmeltzer exterior off

The Hugo & Schmeltzer building in the first stages of its demolition. The balcony had been removed, ca 1910.

As I stated before, de Zavala saw the hidden Long Barracks as being of greater importance in Alamo history than the its church, and needed to be preserved even more. Driscoll only saw the Hugo & Schmeltzer building, over shadowing “the Alamo” with no connection at all to the original mission.

Trying to keep control from de Zavala, the Driscoll faction tried to have the locks changed; hearing this de Zavala’s followers rushed in and stopped it. This caused the two groups to split apart, with Driscoll breaking from de Zavala’s chapter and forming their own Alamo Mission Chapter of the DRT in April of 1906.

In 1907 the Vanderventer Hotel Company began buying up land east of the Alamo to construct a luxury hotel. Their plan was to build their hotel far back behind the Alamo’s church. To help give their hotel more visibility on Alamo Plaza they made a proposal to the DRT; let them tear down the old Hugo & Schmeltzer (Long Barracks) building and they’d create a large park in front of the hotel and alongside Alamo church. This would open up the northside of the Alamo as Driscoll wanted. The hotel group also offered to pay the salary of a custodian for five years. Driscoll and the DRT saw this as a win, win; not only would it remove the ugly grocery store building, it would also help to defray some of the operational cost of the “Alamo.”

Hearing that the DRT was in favor of the hotel’s plans de Zavala flew into a rage! De Zavala wrote to the hotel’s representative, Charlies M. Reeves. She told him the history of the Long Barracks and of her plans to restore it, and to have it house a Texas Hall of Fame museum.

Reeves was also one of those who didn’t believe that any part to the original Alamo stood on the Hugo & Schmeltzer property. He rudely wrote back to her, “… (Your) position is historically incorrect. At the time of the battle of the Alamo only the south wall of the Mission was standing. Texas patriots wish to preserve only that which has to do with her history… What you propose to do in the perpetuation of the walls of this old building would simply result in preserving indefinitely an eye-sore which would be a source of humiliation and regret to the people of San Antonio for all time.”

It was Reeves, being from St. Louis, who was totally incorrect historically, but his response fit very well into what Clara Driscoll had been saying, and believed.

Reeves’ letter had really fired up de Zavala. She went around the city and was able to rally enough support from businessmen and residents to kill the hotel’s plans. For Driscoll, the Hugo building had to go, and she would use every bit of the influence she could muster to get it done.

On February 10, 1908 Driscoll had an injunction placed on de Zavala barring her from the Hugo building, but before the doors could be padlocked de Zavala ran inside locking the doors. De Zavala remained holed up in the building for three days, generating national headlines.

It was only after Texas Governor Thomas Campbell ordered the State to retake control of the situation that de Zavala finally came out. But Adina’s victory was short lived; the DRT was able to get a judge to rule in favor of granting back custodianship of all the Alamo properties to Driscoll and her chapter. After which the DRT expelled de Zavala and her followers from the organization and the grounds.

Even though it seemed that Driscoll had won, it was only the battle, not the war. The State of Texas still owned the property, Driscoll was only its custodian. There were hot feelings on the Long Barrack issue in all parts of Texas, and the State wasn’t ready to tear the building down yet. The Legislators took the political way out, and waited until after the 1810 election.

Texas Governor, Oscar Branch Colquitt

Newly elected Gov. Oscar Colquitt visited San Antonio, where he toured the Alamo church and the Hugo & Schmeltzer building. Gov. Colquitt then called a meeting with both de Zavala and Driscoll, so that each could plead their cases.

Oscar_Branch_Colquitt December 16, 1861 – March 8, 1940

Gov.Oscar Branch Colquitt (1861-1940)

Driscoll again stated that to her knowledge the Hugo & Schmeltzer building was never part of the original mission complex. She also offered to use her own money to pay for its removal, and to have a park and a wall built surrounding the Alamo. This she said would allow the only original fort building left to be honored.

De Zavala was also adamant in her opinion, that beneath the stores exterior lay the stone walls of the mission’s convento, and the Alamo fort’s Long Barracks. It was there, she said, were the most horrific fighting of the March 6th, 1836 battle took place. De Zavala also provided testimonies from San Antonio residences and the families of Alamo defenders that remember what the Alamo had looked like.

Three months later Gov. Colquitt came to his decision; the Long Barracks was to be completely restored. Gov. Colquitt also went on to remove the DRT as the official custodians of the Alamo. His reasoning, that the DRT hadn’t done their job in restoring the property since it was turned over to them.

De Zavala was ecstatic, her dream was coming true. Soon the two remaining Alamo building would be restored and the Texas Hall of Fame would open. Driscoll was outraged, not only would the eyesore remain, but her DRT was kicked out. Clara would now bring her full political and influential power to bear on Gov. Colquitt.

Excitement turns to disappointment

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De Zavala’s concept drawing of the restored Long Barracks, looking nothing like the historic original.

Gov. Colquitt put through legislation to fund the removal of the Hugo & Schmeltzer covering, and another $5,000 to restore the historic Long Barracks.

In anticipation de Zavala had drawings made showing how she envisioned the restored Long Barracks should look. What she came up with looked nothing like the original  building, in fact it was very similar to Honore Grenet’s building. Her drawing showed a massive two-story building with a Spanish styled arcade and two bell towers at each end.

Ruins of the Long Barracks

Only the badly damaged west and south walls of original Long Barracks remained, as it was around 1912.

Work on the demolition of the stores superstructure began in 1910. But soon after the outer covering was removed it became evident that the damage and destruction done by the U.S. Army and the department store owners was too extensive. When all the coverings were swept away it revealed that all that was left of the original stone building was only its outer west and south walls.

De Zavala was heartbroken. She had hoped to find all of the original walls still intact, but that was not the case. The Long Barrack’s second floor had suffered the most from all the previous renovations. What remained of the second floor’s stone wall was pockmarked with windows and doors that had been cut out of the old stone by its previous owners. The now exposed ruins looked worse than when it was the Hugo & Schmeltzer store.

However, there was one bright spot that the demolition had revealed, the original mission foundations; proving that de Zavala was correct in her belief that the building had been part of the Alamo mission complex.

The battle continued

Even in its horrible state both de Zavala and Gov. Colquitt fought to keep and to restore the Long Barracks, even its second floor. Meanwhile Driscoll was politicking hard, to again gain control of the Alamo, and to tear down those ugly ruined walls. For two years a very public battle went on between Gov. Colquitt and Clara Driscoll, each holding their ground.

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The ruined west wall of the original Convento/Long Barracks

In 1912 Driscoll was successful in getting an injunction to keep the State from doing any reconstruction work on the Long Barracks. Driscoll, and the DRT, also brought suit against the State and Gov. Colquitt to regain custodianship of the Alamo. Their case was upheld, and in 1913 the DRT once again had control of the Alamo.

When Gov. Colquitt left the State on a business trip, Lt. Gov. Will May ordered that the second floor wall to be removed. There had been a compromise reached between de Zavala and Driscoll to let the first floor remain. Also in the compromise, it was agreed that they’d try and restore what was left of the Long Barracks’ first floor and the mission’s arcade.

In the Long Barracks restoration they used the stone that had been salvaged from the second floor wall. It would be in this reconstructed building that would eventually house the museum de Zavala had so long dreamed of.

Sadly, lack of funding kept the reconstruction of the Long Barracks from being completed. It stood roofless, and full of weeds, until 1968. Today the Long Barrack does house the Alamo’s museum, but not as the “Hall of Fame” pictured by Adina de Zavala.

The Alamo's Long Barracks ruins 1918

The partially rebuilt roofless Long Barracks ca. 1918

Every time that I’ve visited the Alamo and gone through the Long Barracks, I’d tell everyone, ”It was in this building that more Alamo defenders and attackers had died than anywhere else.” It wasn’t until doing research for this post that I came to realize what had actual been done to this building. As Frank Thompson points out in his book, The Alamo, A Cultural History, “…visitors who believe they are standing in an original Alamo structure are mistaken. It is almost a total reconstruction.” So I was one of those, however it still sits on hallowed ground, and there is still its original west wall, more about that in a later post.

The aftermath of the battle of the Angels

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Clara Driscoll ca. 1913

Clara Driscoll did get total control of the Alamo, and because of what she had done to rescue the Alamo she is remembered as, “The Savior of the Alamo.”

Throughout the rest of her life she and her DRT continued to repair and restore the Alamo church. It is her vision that became what the Alamo is today, the”Shrine” that she wanted it to be.
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Clara Driscoll also did many philanthropic outreaches in her life. Using her money and influence she helped the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Texas Fine Arts Association and the Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi Texas.

Clara Driscoll died on July 17, 1945, at the age of 64. As a tribute to her work on the Alamo she lay in state in the Alamo church. She was laid to rest in the Driscoll family tomb at the Alamo Masonic Cemetery, San Antonio.

 

Adina de Zavala, although barred from the DRT, continued to help identify and mark historical sites around San Antonio, including the site of the Spanish Governor’s Palace and the location of the Alamo defenders funeral pyres.

De Zavala with memebers of her DRT at the Spanish Goveners House

De Zavala, and her followers at the Spanish Governors Palace.

Adina de Zavala died on March 1, 1955, at the age of 93. She had never married, and so she willed her estate to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, establishing a vocational school for girls and a boy’s town.

On April 27, 1955, in her honor the Texas State Legislature passed a resolution stating that she was, “a major role in preserving the Alamo and the Spanish Governor’s Place” and for placing, “permanent markers on some 40 historical sites in Texas, many of which might have been forgotten.” Also the Bexar County Historical Commission placed a bronze maker honoring her on Alamo Plaza.

After her funeral service at St. Joseph Church in San Antonio her Texas flag draped coffin was taken past the Alamo. De Zavala did not lie in state inside as Driscoll had, because the DRT had denied it.Adina de Zavala's grave

De Zavala is buried in a simple grave in her family plot in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

In 1994, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas finally honored Adina de Zavala by placing a maker at her gravesite. They also installed makers at the Alamo commemorating both de Zavala and Driscoll.

Two strong angels, each with a different vision of what the Alamo was. One was historical, and one based on conjecture. But both where needed at a time when the Alamo was all but forgotten, and on the verge of being lost forever.

My next post will go on to tell of how the DRT worked to restore and preserve the Alamo. But again, their focus was on the Alamo’s church, not the historic battlefield it was part of.

 

Some of the Sources Used:
Thompson , Frank. “The Second Battle of the Alamo.” The Alamo: A Cultural History, Taylor Publishing, 2001.
“Alamo Low Barracks and Main Gateway.” Texas Historical Markers on Waymarking.com, Waymarking.com, 2018, waymarking.com/waymarks/WM3DJ6_Alamo_Low_Barracks_Main_Gateway.
“Alamo History Chronology.” The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, drtinfo.org.
“Warehouse to Shrine: 1878-1905.” CHRONOLOGY, The Alamo, thealamo.org.
“Historic Photos of the Alamo.” Search: Historic Photos of the Alamo, Google, http://www.google.com/search?q=historic+photos+of+the+Alamo&rlz=1C9BKJA_enUS69:
“Clara Driscoll (philanthropist).” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Aug. 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Driscoll_(philanthropist).
“Adina Emilia De Zavala.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 13 Oct. 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adina_Emilia_De_Zavala.
“Adina Emilia De Zavala.” Find A Grave, Find A Grave, http://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10365039/adina-emilia-de_zavala. Accessed 14 Oct. 2018.
“Alamo Mission in San Antonio .” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 11 Oct. 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Mission_San_Antonio.
“Buildings .” The Alamo, The Alamo, http://www.thealamo.org/remember/buildings/index.html. Accessed 14 Oct. 2018.
Nelson, George. “Feuds Over Preservation of the Convento.” The Alamo, An Illustrated History, third Revised , Aldine Press, 2009, p. 98.

 

 

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American history, Davy Crockett, Great American Battlefields, history and travel, History in Time, Jim Bowie, Lost and Found, Lost Battlefields, Myths and Legends, Nationa Memorials, Remember the Alamo, Sites to see in the world, Still Current, Texas history, The Alamo, The History of the Alamo, The History of the Alamo mission, Travel, Uncategorized

The History of the Alamo, Part V: Two Angels, Two Different Visions

 

Alamo church with ruins of Long Barracks

The Alamo church and the walls of the Long Barrack, exposed after the exterior of the Hugo & Schmeltzer store were removed, ca. 1912-13

 

I love history shot

Ron Current

At the end of Part IV of the History of the Alamo I wrote that the San Antonio Express newspaper,in an editorial, called for a historic and patriotic society be formed to save what was left of the Alamo. Such a society was formed by two “angles” of the Alamo. However, even their leadership and guidance would further cloud and distract from what was the true Alamo battlefield.

Adina de Zavala (1861-1955), The Alamo’s first Angel 

Adina_Emilia_De_Zavala,_1910

Adina de Zavala

Adina de Zavala was the granddaughter of Lorenzo de Zavala, one of the signers of Texas’s Declaration of Independence and the first Vice-President of the Republic of Texas.

Lorenzo de Zavala (1788-1836), was an extremely important person in Texas history. Born in Mexico’s Yucatan in 1788, de Zavala was a successful physician and politician.  De Zavala would severe as Mexico’s ambassador to France and Spain. After Mexico had won its independence from Spain he would help to write Mexico’s first constitution in 1824.

During the Mexican revolution of 1829, de Zavala was forced into exile in the United States, were due to his foreign diplomatic skills he was welcomed. Two years later de Zavala returned to his Mexico, only to cross paths with the raising dictator, Santa Anna. Not liking what Santa Anna was doing to his country de Zavala moved as far away from the political turmoil of Mexico City as he could, to the Mexican State of Texas.

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Lorenzo de Zavala

As Santa Anna’s policies toward Texas grow more outrageous de Zavala was one of the first to became involved in the Texas revolution. As I mentioned before, de Zavala was one of the signers of Texas’s Declaration of Independent, as well as helping to write the Texas Constitution, and became the Republic of Texas’s first Vice-President.

Shortly after the end of the Texas Revolution de Zavala’s health began to fail, and on November 15, 1836 he died of pneumonia, at age 48. In Mexico, de Zavala is considered by some as a traitor, in Texas he is one of its revered founding fathers.

You can imagine the young Adina hearing the stories about her grandfather, Texas’s fight for independence, and the battle of the Alamo. Texas history, and its pride, was deep in her soul. So much so that in 1889 she gathered a group of women together to discuss ways to save the quickly vanishing historical sites before they were lost forever, she called her group the De Zavala Daughters.

Two years later, in 1891, another woman’s organization formed, composed entirely of female descendants of the first families who had settled Texas before it became a State. This organization called itself, Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). In 1893, de Zavala joined her organization with the DRT, becoming the De Zavala Chapter.

Even before joining with the DRT de Zavala had already been working hard to save the missions along the San Antonio River. These historic buildings had badly fallen into disrepair, and became the targets for vandals. One of the missions de Zavala had a very special interest in preserving was the Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo.

As I stated in my last post, the State of Texas now owned the Alamo church, and had turned custody of it over to the City of San Antonio. The entire time that the city had control of the Alamo church they had done nothing to restore or improve this historic building. It stood as it had, with all of the alterations made by the U.S. Army, Hugo Grenet and Gustav Schmeltzer.

Adina de Zavala saw more than just the Alamo church that needed to be saved, its Long Barracks also needed saving. Even though the city had condemned the grocery store building de Zavala was confident that the original strong stone walls of the mission’s Convento, which lay beneath, could be saved.

In 1902, her DRT chapter formed the Congress of Patriotism, whose plan was to buy the Long Barracks and then create a “Texas Hall of Fame” museum, which would be housed in that restored building. De Zavala and her chapter used all their influence to convince the Long Barrack’s owner, Charlies Hugo, to give them first rights to purchase if he were going to sell the building.

One year later Hugo notified de Zavala that he had received an offer from a hotel group to purchase the building and property. It was now time for her DRT chapter to act. Even though Hugo would accept $10,000 less than what he was offered, as a gift to the DRT, the $75,000 he did require was beyond what they had.

De Zavala and the DRT needed someone who could personally, and quickly, cover the purchase amount. In the entertainment industry such a person is called, “an angel.” There was one DRT member who could personally write a check for the $75,000 they needed; she was the daughter of an extremely wealthy rancher, her name, Clara Driscoll.

Clara Driscoll (1881-1945), the Alamo’s second Angel

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Clara Driscoll

Clara Driscoll also had deep connections with Texas history. Clara’s grandfather, Daniel O’Driscoll, had immigrated to the United States from Ireland. In 1829, he settled in Texas as part of the McMullen and McGloin Colony. O’Driscoll had fought in the Texas Revolution at the battles of Nueces Crossing and San Jacinto. For his service he was given 1,200 acres, plus another one-third league of land in Victoria County Texas.

O’Driscoll moved his family to the town of Refugio, where he opened a tavern, and also began raising cattle. He served as the towns Justice of the Peace, until he was killed in a carriage accident in 1849.

It was Clara’s father, Robert Driscoll Sr., who changed the family’s name from O’Driscoll to just Driscoll. By 1890, Robert Driscoll Sr. had amassed an amazing multi-million dollar empire in ranching, banking and commercial land development.

Clara Driscoll’s interest in historical preservation came about while she was living in Europe, and with her family’s history, she also had a deep love for Texas history. When she arrived back in Texas she was appalled at the state of neglect of its historic buildings, especially the Alamo church.

Driscoll heard of the new women’s group forming, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and quickly became one of its first members. Clara became the star of the DRT, not only because both of her grandfathers had fought at San Jacinto, but also because her father was extremely wealthy. And it was because of this that de Zavala and her group came to Clara for help.

Two different visons on saving the Alamo
Clara Driscoll wrote a personal check for $500 to Charlies Hugo as a goodwill down payment  while the DRT began fundraising projects to pay off the balance. However, the DRT’s fundraising efforts fell way short of the needed amount, and so again Driscoll personally covered the balance. In August of 1905 Clara Driscoll became the new owner of the Hugo & Schmeltzer building.

With Clara now owning the Long Barracks the DRT began petitioning the State of Texas for custodianship of both Alamo buildings. Driscoll, de Zavala and their DRT chapter didn’t believe that the state or the City of San Antonio fully recognized the historical significance in restoring the Alamo.

From all the pressure placed on them by the DRT the Texas State Legislature passed an appropriation bill authorizing a $65,000 payment to Clara Driscoll for the Long Barracks property. On October 4, 1905 Driscoll conveyed the title of the Long Barracks to the State of Texas, and the state then named the DRT as custodians for both the Alamo church and Long Barracks.

Even as the property transfers were taking place it became apparent that de Zavala and Driscoll had extremely different views on what “was” the Alamo. De Zavala saw the Long Barracks as being equally as important as the church in the history of the Alamo, while Driscoll saw only the church as being “the Alamo.”

The long barracks with the Hugo & Schmeltzer exterior off

The Long Barracks as seen in 1910, after the porches from second level of the Hugo & Schmeltzer store had been removed

Driscoll’s view of the Alamo should have been known to de Zavala and her group from the very beginning by her writings. In 1900 Clara wrote to the San Antonio Express, “Our Alamo…how do we treat it? We leave it hemmed in on one side by a hideous barracks-like looking building, and on the other by two saloons…Today the Alamo should stand out free and clear. All unsightly obstructions that hide it away should be torn down and the space utilized for a park. I am sure that if this matter were taken up by some enterprising, patriotic Texan, a sufficient amount could be raised that would enable something of this kind to be done.” Driscoll’s reference of the, “hideous barracks-like looking building,” was the Alamo’s Long Barracks, still covered by the Hugo & Schmeltzer stores exterior walls.

Clara Driscoll had fallen to the same belief that started back during the time of Sam Maverick, that nothing of the original mission complex remained except for the church. This is again shown in Driscoll’s 1905 letter to the Fort Worth Record, “The monastery fell to pieces long ago, and on the ground it occupied a grocery store stands today.”

Driscoll didn’t seem to realize, as Adina de Zavala did, that beneath the covering façade of Hugo & Schmeltzer’s store still lay the walls of the Alamo’s historic Convento/Long Barracks.

And while de Zavala’s vision was to protect, preserve and restore all of what remained of the Alamo, Driscoll was looking to raise the fallen defenders of the Alamo to godlike status by creating, not a historical site, but a shrine. And to do that she needed to remove a large eyesore.

My next post will tell of the escalating fight between these two women to fulfill each of their visions, in what has been termed, “the Second Battle of the Alamo.”

Some of the Sources Used:
Thompson , Frank. “The Second Battle of the Alamo.” The Alamo: A Cultural History, Taylor Publishing, 2001.
Nelson, George. “The Alamo at the Time of Civil War.” The Alamo: An Illustrated History,
“Alamo Low Barracks and Main Gateway.” Texas Historical Markers on Waymarking.com, Waymarking.com, 2018, waymarking.com/waymarks/WM3DJ6_Alamo_Low_Barracks_Main_Gateway.
Wikipedia . “Alamo Mission in San Antonio.” Wikipedia , Wikipedia, 28 July 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Mission_in_San_Antonio.
“Alamo History Chronology.” The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, drtinfo.org.
“Warehouse to Shrine: 1878-1905.” CHRONOLOGY, The Alamo, thealamo.org.
“Historic Photos of the Alamo.” Search: Historic Photos of the Alamo, Google, http://www.google.com/search?q=historic+photos+of+the+Alamo&rlz=1C9BKJA_enUS69:

 

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American Heroes, American history, D-Day, Great American Battlefields, history and travel, Lost and Found, Normandy, Sites to see in the world, Still Current, The Normanday American Cemetery and Memorial, Travel, Uncategorized, What to See in France, World history, World War II

Three Stories of Heroes of Normandy

 

So many of our young gave so much for many others two

The long rows of markers at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Photo by Author

I love history shot

Ron Current

On our recent trip to France we did as most Americans do and visited Normandy, the site of the World War II D-Day invasion.

Besides the beaches where the landings took place the most moving stop we made was the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Although the cemetery and memorial are a peaceful and a reverent tribute to those that had made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, not much is told about those resting there.

In this post I’ll tell three stories of heroes that rest there: one of the Sons of a famous American President, one of two brothers whose story inspired an Academy Award winning movie, and the story of a wife’s unending love, and her search for the love of her life.

But first here’s a little information about the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Thousands of visitors come each year to walk among the rows to shining white markers,  but what most visitors don’t know is that this beautiful cemetery on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach is actually the second resting place for those soldiers killed in the D-Day invasion.

The location of the first cemetery of those American’s killed during D-Day.

 As you drive along the Omaha Beach road you’ll see sandwiched among the rows of summer cottages is a small white memorial that reads, “THIS MARKS THE SITE OF THE FIRST AMERICAN CEMETERY IN FRANCE WORLD WAR II SINCE MOVED TO AMERICAN CEMETERY N.”I.”

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Site of the first American D-Day cemetery. Photo by Chris Coffin

 

It was here on June 8, 1944, two days after the invasion, that those killed were laid to rest. After the war ended their remains were moved to the current cemetery and memorial.

 

 

 

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

The Memorial to those American's who that fell during D-Day

The Memorial at the Normandy Cemetery. Photo by Author

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial occupies 172 acres on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel. From different areas within the cemetery you can clearly see the English Channel and Omaha Beach below. There was once a path you could take down to the beach, but that’s been closed.

The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves by Donald De Lue.

“The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.” Photo by the Author

There are 9,387 American soldiers buried there, and although most are from the D-Day invasion there are also those from other World War II engagements as well. Not all those resting there are men; three American service women are interred there. There’s also one World War I hero buried there, which I’ll cover later.

The center piece of the memorial is the statue by Donald De Lue entitled, “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.”

Along the inside walls of the monument are maps depicting the D-Day invasion, and behind the memorial is a wall that’s engraved with the names of those who are still missing in action. Some of these names now have a bronze star next to them; this denotes that the soldier’s remains have been found and identified.

Among the notables buried at the Normandy American Cemetery are three Medal of Honor recipients, and two sons of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt Jr.

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Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt Jr. Photo from Wikipedia, public domain

My first story is of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Eventhough his father was one of the most a famous American presidents not much is said about Theodore Roosevelt Jr. But in doing the research for this post I found that in some ways “Ted” Roosevelt was more heroic than his famous father.

Ted Roosevelt already had an outstanding career, not only in the military but also politically, by the time World War II broke out. He had served in World War I and after he had served as the Governor of Puerto Rico and the Philippines. When America entered World War II Ted was one of the first to step up again in helping to defend his country, even though he now suffered with a heart condition, which he kept secret from the Army.

At the time of the D-Day invasion Roosevelt was a Brigadier General. On that terrible morning of June 6, 1944, Roosevelt commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment on its assault on Utah Beach. Roosevelt was the only general to take part in the landings, and at 56 years old he was also the oldest person.

Roosevelt was one of the first off the landing craft, wadding to the beach leading his men. Once on the beach he discovered that they had landed at the wrong position, and that’s when made his famous comment, “We’ll start the war from right here!”

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Theodore Roosevelt Jr. grave. Photo from Wikipedia, public domain

Another interesting fact about the D-Day invasion and the Roosevelts is that just down the coast at Omaha Beach another Roosevelt was also leading his men ashore. Captain Quentin Roosevelt II, Ted’s son and Teddy’s Grandson, was among the first wave to hit Omaha Beach.

Ted’s heart condition, and other health problems caused by his WW I injuries, along with the stress from the D-Day assault, finally took their toll on the warrior. On July 12, one month after the invasion, he suffered a heart attack and died. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and a promotion to a two-star, Major General.

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Quentin Roosevelt’s grave, next to his brother Ted. Photo from Wikipedia, public domain

I mentioned that there is also one World War I soldier buried at the Normandy Cemetery, and that’s Ted Roosevelt’s younger brother, Second Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt. Quentin was a fighter pilot in World War I, and was shot down over France. The Roosevelt family had his body moved next to his brothers.

 

 

 

The Niland Brothers: Preston Niland and Robert “Bob” Niland

Niland brothers

In the foreground the graves of the two Niland brothers, Preston and Robert, side by side. Photo by Author.

Preston Niland

2nd Lt. Preston Niland. Photo from Wikipedia, public domain

Preston Niland was a Second Lieutenant in the 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Preston was killed on June 7, 1944, during the second day of fighting, near Utah Beach.

Niland

Sergeant  Robert Niland. Photo from Wikipedia, public domain

Robert “Bob” Niland was a Technical Sergeant with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. On June 6th, 1944, while his company retreated from Neuvilli-au-Plain during a major counterattack by the Germans; Bob, with two other men, volunteered to stay back and hold off the Germans with machinegun fire. Although the other two men survived, Bob Niland was killed in action.

Both brothers are buried side by side, and their graves are one of the most visited at the cemetery; the reason is because their story was the inspiration for an Academy Award winning film about World War II.

Bob and Preston were two of four brothers from Tonawanda, New York. All four brothers: Bob, Preston, Edward and Fred “Fritz” had joined the service to fight in World War II.

After both Bob and Preston had been killed, and it was believed that their brother Edward had also been killed by the Japanese in Burma, the Army pulled the last brother, Fritz, from the fighting. They did this so that at least one brother would survive. Fritz would spend the rest of the war as an MP in New York City.

The story of the Niland Brothers would loosely be used by Director Steven Spielberg’s in his 1998 film, “Saving Private Ryan.”

The story does ends somewhat happily when it was found that Edward had only been captured by the Japanese. He was released on May 4, 1945.

Fritz died on November 1st 1983, and his Brother Edward in February of 1984.

A Wife’s Unending Love

From love story to mystery to discovery, WWII widow remains devoted

Peggy and Billie Harris on their wedding day. Photo from DoDLive, public domain.

Peggy Seale had finally met the love of her life, 1st Lt. Billie D. Harris, while she worked at Altus AFB Oklahoma. They had been exchanging letters for some time, but that meeting in the base hanger was their first face-to- face. It was love at first sight.
In 1943 Peggy and Billie married in Florida, where Billie was finishing his fighter pilot training. However, their honeymoon was short lived; six weeks later Billie was shipped off to England, and the war.

Lt. Harris was assigned to the 355th Fighter Squadron/354th Fighter Group, whose missions were to fly as escorts for bombers supporting the Allied retaking of France.

Because of the high secrecy needed during the war Peggy only heard from Billie very sparingly, and when she did it was only in short notes. Peggy knew that she would have to wait for Billie to finish his tour of duty before she could see him.

Lt. Harris had completed from 60 to 100 missions, and was eligible to be sent home. However he took one more mission. On July 17, 1944, Harris was again flying his P-51 fighter as an escort when his plane was hit by German anti-aircraft fire.

As his plane was going down Billie had more than enough time to bailout, but ahead, directly in the path of his plane, he saw the French Village of Les Ventes. Billie then made the choice to use his time instead of bailing out, to steer his plane away from the town.

The people of Les Ventes were outside, after hearing the anti-aircraft fire, standing in the town’s main square, when out of the black night sky they saw an Allied plane on fire heading directly towards them. As they watched, knowing that sure death was coming, the plane slowly banked away, crashing in a nearby woods.

Some men from the village ran out to the crash site were the found the pilot dead. After the Germans released Harris’s body the villagers buried him in the town cemetery’s war heroes section. The whole village attended his funeral, and the flowers that covered his

The Grave of Billie D Harris

1st Lt. Billie D. Harris’s grave. Photo by Author

grave were said to have been knee deep. In 1946 Harris’s body was moved to another cemetery, and then finally to the new Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mar.

Believing that Billie was on his way home Peggy sat in excited anticipation, but he didn’t arrived. Peggy contacted the Army and was first told he was already back, and then on his way home, and then missing in action. These changing stories would continue throughout the war. Even after the war Peggy couldn’t get a direct answer as to what had happened to her husband.

For 60 years Peggy would try every avenue to find out what had happened to her Billie, and all she ever got was the same bureaucratic run around. But still she persisted. Someone had to know something on what had happened to Billie. She searched and waited, but never remarried.

Each year, for 60 years, the Village of Les Ventes had honored the pilot who had sacrificed his life to save theirs. They even named the village main street after him, “Place Billie D. Harris.” And each year they’d hold a parade to celebrate his sacrifice.

Even though Harris was no longer buried in the village cemetery, the town continued to visit and decorate his grave at the Normandy American Cemetery, thinking that he had no family to remember him.

As the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of France drew near, the town wanted to do something really special for their hero; the problem was, they really didn’t know anything about him, except his name. What was his family like, and what part of Canada was he from. Yes, they thought Billie was Canadian.

It was an article about the towns 60th Anniversary celebration for their Canadian hero that caught the attention of Mr. Huard, president of the Normandy Association of the Remembrance of Aerial, who contacted Les Ventes Village Councilwomen Valerie Quesnel to inform her that Billie D. Harris wasn’t Canadian, but rather American.
Quesnel then visited the Normandy American Cemetery to talk to Huard and confirmed what he had told her.

Now knowing that Harris was an American Quesnel knew what country to go to get the correct information they were looking for. Quesnel wrote to the United States National Archives were she was sent copies of 1st Lt. Billie D. Harris’s military file.

Meanwhile, Billie’s Cousin, Alton Harvey, had come to Peggy’s rescue to help her find Billie. Instead of making more useless calls Alton decided to personally go to the National Archives himself to see if they had anything on Billie. When he requested information on his cousin he thought it would take months to get anything, instead it only took a few minutes. The secretary was able to find Harris’s file quickly because someone else had recently requested those records, Valerie Quesnel.

This was unbelievable! Alton contacted Valerie, who then contacted Peggy. Finally after 60 years of searching, wondering, and praying Peggy knew what had happened to her Billie, and where he rested.

Peggy Harris, after so many years of not knowing, finally visited her husband’s grave. While in France Peggy also visited Les Ventes, where the citizens welcomed her with

From love story to mystery to discovery, WWII widow remains devoted

Peggy Harris at her Billie’s grave. Photo from DoDLive, public domain.

open arms, the wife of their hero.

Peggy was taken to the site where Billie had crashed, by the last living member of the village who had witnessed it.

Every year that she was able Peggy would return to visit her Billie’s grave. And when she wasn’t there she would have flowers sent on their wedding anniversary, Billie’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, and other occasions.

On November 12, 2012, at a special assembly honoring Veterans, the Altus AFB Blue Knights Honor Guard performed a flag folding ceremony in honor of 1st Lt. Billie D. Harris. The flag was presented to Peggy Harris by Col. Ted Detwiler, 97th Operations Group commander.

Also for his service, 1st Lt. Billie D Harris was awarded two Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross and 11 oak leaf clusters.

When asked why she hadn’t remarried Peggy would answer, “Billie was married to me all of his life, and I choose to be married to him all of my life.”

Just three stories of many

What seems to be endless rows of shining white markers, also holds thousands of stories of the heroes lying there. These are only three of the many.

If you’d like to visit these graves from my post you’ll need to ask at the cemetery office for their location, because there is no special identification on them.

Sources:

Gorstein, Ethan. “The story if the vanishing husband.” kiwi report, kiwi report, 23 July 2017, http://www.kiwireport.com/story-vanishing-husband.
Wittkop, Erin. “WWII Widow Finds Husband’s Resting Place 60-Years Later.” DoDLive, DOD Social Media, 20 Nov. 2012, http://www.dodlive.mil/2012/11/20/wwii-widow-finds-husbands-resting-place-60-years-later.
“Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.” WIKIPEDIA , Wikipedia , July 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normandy_Amereican_Cemetery_and_Memorial.
“Niland brothers .” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, July 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niland_brothers.
“Theodore Rossevelt Jr.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 16 July 2018.
“Theodore Rossevelt Jr.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 16 July 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt_Jr.

 

 

 

 

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American history, Davy Crockett, Great American Battlefields, history and travel, History in Time, Jim Bowie, Myths and Legends, Sites to see in the world, Still Current, Texas history, The Alamo, The History of the Alamo, The History of the Alamo mission, Travel, Uncategorized

The History of the Alamo, Part IV: From Warehouse to Roadside Attraction

PostcardTheodoreRooseveltSpeechAtTheAlamo

This 1904 postcard shows the crowd filled Alamo Plaza during a visit by President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt spoke from the second floor balcony of the Hugo & Schmeltzer store, which was build over the Long Barracks. It was on this ground that men died, and it also shows the lack of respect  for this hollowed ground.

I love history shot

Ron Current

By the late 1800’s the urban sprawl of San Antonio, created by Samuel Maverick and other developers, had all but strangled the hallowed ground of the Alamo battlefield. The mission/fort compound was soon forgotten, where so many brave men had fought and died, their blood baptizing its very earth, was nothing more than just another city plaza. All that was left of the famous fort were three building, and even those would become lost to commercial development. 
In this post I’ll cover the Alamo’s post-army period when the buildings that remained continued to fall victim to further degradation, as developers, the City, and the State saw the Alamo’s grounds as little more than for commercial use.

Where Jim Bowie died
The Alamo’s main gate building was no longer called the Low Barracks, but the Galera. It was there in a room to the right of the gate that James Bowie was killed in his sick bed during the 1836 battle. Now, without its connecting walls, it sat alone, in the middle of the vastness between the de Valero and Alamo Plazas.

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James Bowie (1796-1836)

To City officials the Galera was nothing more than an eyesore. Besides sitting in the middle of two large plazas a large pond would form when it rained, where the main gate’s entrance had been. This was likely caused by the depression left by the fort’s defensive Lunette, which the Mexican Army had filled in after the 1836 battle. The City Council didn’t care about the buildings historical significance; it was in the way and had to go.

In 1866 the city began demolishing the Galera, which was abruptly halted by the Catholic Church. The Church claimed that the building belonged to them, and the City had no right in tearing it down. As the City and Church squabbled over who had the rights to the building it sat in partial ruin, becoming a real eyesore. On March 7, 1869, on what was the 33rd, plus a day, anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo, the San Antonio Daily Express newspaper began a campaign, not to save the building where Jim Bowie had died, but to force its demolition.
Two years later the City paid the Catholic Church $2,500 for the Galera, with the stipulation they’d tear it down. Even though the “eyesore” Galera was gone it didn’t stop the City from later granting a permit for another commercial building to be constructed on its site.
With the demolition of the Low Barracks only two of the Alamo’s original buildings remained. But these too would continue to be degraded, with a total lack of their historical importance.

Honore Grenet (1823-1882)
After the U.S. Army left the Catholic Church received an offer of $20,000 for the purchase of the Long Barracks from local merchant Honore Grenet. Grenet had a grand idea to convert the building into a large, two story shopping center. And with the wide Alamo Plaza at its front everyone would be able to see his store unhindered.

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Honore Grenet’s grave at San Fernando Cemetery #1

As soon as the Church accepted Grenet’s offer he began ripping up what the Army had built over the Long Barracks, adding his own outlandish design over what little was left of its original walls. Grenet’s thought was to capture the idea of the Alamo battle by making his store look like a fort, complete with turrets and wooden cannons. Although it was horrendous in what he did to this historic structure, these types of extravagant designs were very common for commercial buildings at the time. But it also showed the total disregard by Grenet and the City in preserving what was left of the Alamo. And it gets worse!
Adding further insult to the Alamo Grenet took out a lease on the Alamo’s church, which he used as a warehouse for his store. Tourists coming to San Antonio to see the famous Alamo were allowed, for a fee, to tour the inside the church. One visitor in 1882 complained of the smell of cabbage and Limburger cheese inside the historic building. And it just wasn’t cheese and vegetables that were kept in the church, the carcasses of beef, pigs and sheep were hung in the church’s cool, dark side rooms. At times the blood stains from these animals were mistaken by the ill-informed visitor as being those of the fallen heroes.

The Alamo church and Hugo-Schmeltez

The Alamo Church after Hugo & Schmeltzer’s purchased Grenet’s building. Notice the extensive windows and doors cut into the side of the church by the U.S. Army

When Grenet died in 1882, the shopping center/Long Barracks was sold to another mercantile company, Hugo and Schmeltzer. However, the new owner couldn’t use the Alamo church as a warehouse any longer; the Catholic Church had sold the building to the State of Texas three years earlier, also for $20,000, rescuing it from commercial hands.
A new era was about to begin for the Alamo’s church, but not it’s Long Barracks.

Restoring some dignity to the Alamo

Interior_of_the_Alamo,_San_Antonio,_Texas

Postcard showing the interior of the Alamo church after the State of Texas removed the second floor. Notice the windows still cut into the church’s side.

With the State now owning the Alamo’s church, and with public pressure mounting to preserve what was left, the City of San Antonio began to start feeling patriotic, or at least somewhat historically responsible. They petitioned the State for custody of the Alamo church, which was granted.
The City didn’t have much funding, so any attempt to completely restore the church to its original look was out of the question. They were able to remove the second floor, but the other changes made by the U.S. Army were much too extensive.

Interior_Alamo,_San_Antonio,_Texas two

This postcard shows the first museum by the City of San Antonio and the State of Texas inside the Alamo church.

Besides the two windows cut into the top of the church’s front (which I wrote about in Part III) the Army had also cut larger windows and doors throughout the rest of building. Removing those would have to wait.
The City did create the beginnings of a museum, and they hired a local historian by the name Tom Rife to watch over the church. Rife also gave tours to the ever growing numbers of Alamo pilgrims. To those that came from all over the United State, and the world, to see where Travis had written his inspiring letter and where Davy Crockett had fought and died, were greatly disappointed, and some were even horrified, at what they saw.

Hugo&Schmeltzer

The Alamo church with the Hugo & Schmeltzer building in the background

What they saw was this historic building hemmed in on all sides, with a ghastly two story mega-store overshadowing it on the left, and a row of saloons and small shops lined up on its right, and there sitting in the middle was the Alamo; looking much like a roadside tourist trap.
When March 6, 1886, the 50th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo, came and was hardly noticed by those having custody of the Alamo it caused an outrage amongst the patriotic faithful , one being the San Antonio Express newspaper (the same paper that demanded the removal of the Low Barracks years before) who wrote an editorial demanding that a more historic and patriotic society be formed to save Texas history, and the Alamo.

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The Alamo church, hemmed in by Saloons, stores and Hugo & Schmeltzer

This cry was heard by two Angels, with a strong Texas history, who would first join forces to save the Alamo, but then battle over their differing visons.

Some of the Sources Used:

Thompson , Frank. “From Army Headquarters to Department Store.” The Alamo: A Cultural History, Taylor Publishing, 2001.
Nelson, George. “The Alamo at the Time of Civil War.” The Alamo: An Illustrated History, third Revised Edition, Aldine Press, 2009, p. 95 and 98.
Lemon, Mark. “Lunette, Low Barracks.” The Illustrated Alamo 1836: A Photographic Journey, State House Press, 2008, pp. 22,24,28,30.
“Alamo Low Barracks and Main Gateway.” Texas Historical Markers on Waymarking.com, Waymarking.com, 2018, waymarking.com/waymarks/WM3DJ6_Alamo_Low_Barracks_Main_Gateway.
Wikipedia . “Alamo Mission in San Antonio.” Wikipedia , Wikipedia, 28 July 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Mission_in_San_Antonio.
“Honore Grenet.” Billion Graves, Billion Graves, billiongraves.com/grave/Honore-Grenet/12052402.
“Historic Photos of the Alamo.” Search: Historic Photos of the Alamo, Google, http://www.google.com/search?q=historic+photos+of+the+Alamo&rlz=1C9BKJA_enUS69:.

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American history, history and travel, Lost Battlefields, Myths and Legends, Nationa Memorials, Remember the Alamo, Sites to see in the world, Still Current, Texas history, The Alamo, Travel, Uncategorized

The History of the Alamo, Part III: From Forgotten to Army Depot

 

The three ruined Alamo buildings

Drawing by John A. Beckmann of the three ruined Alamo buildings stated as being in 1845, before reconstruction. However, please note that the church has the two upper windows in this drawing , which weren’t added until the roof was in 1849.   

I love history shot

Ron Current

In this post I’ll continue the story on how the almost forgotten Alamo battlefield was slowly erased by the City of San Antonio as it grew and expanded. Sadly, one of the main contributors to this urban sprawl was a man who had a direct connection with the Alamo and its fallen defenders.

I’ll also tell how the Alamo’s main buildings survived, and how the ruined Alamo church became how it looks today.

First, I’ll start with the Alamo defender who, for his personal gain, almost single handed destroyed the hollowed grounds. 

Samuel A. Maverick (July 23, 1803- September 2, 1870)
In Texas history Samuel Maverick is best known as a mayor, land speculator and developer of San Antonio in the mid-1800’s, and its also said that his name was the source for the term, “being a maverick, “ a person of independent thinking. But beyond this Samuel Maverick also had a direct connection to the Texas Revolution, the Battle of the Alamo, and was a major influence on what became of the Alamo battlefield.

Samuel_Maverick

Samuel A. Maverick 

Samuel A. Maverick came to San Antonio from South Carolina in 1835, at the very start of the Texas Revolution. He took part in the Siege of Bexar and afterwards became a member of the Texan garrison at the Alamo. During the Alamo’s siege Maverick left the fort on March 2, as a courier for Travis and also as a representative for the garrison at the convention for Texas Independence, thus escaping the final battle.

In 1838, Maverick began buying up land grants around San Antonio, believing that the city would explode with new settlers from the United States now that Texas was a republic. That same year he moved his family into one of the remaining houses that had been part the forts west wall. While living there he continued purchasing the remaining lands on and around the Alamo compound, including the rest of the old west wall. In his development of that area he demolished what traces of the west wall that remained.

Maverick claimed a deep attachment to the Alamo, and wanted to live close to where his friends had fallen. He built himself a grand two-story home which sat where the Alamo’s west and north walls had met. This area would have been the location of one of the Alamo’s cannon platforms, and most likely where Travis had met his death.

Ten years later Maverick subdivided the lands on the west, north and northeast sides of the Alamo battlefield, including where the main body of the Mexican army had attacked the north wall. Maverick’s “Alamo Village” would cover the north wall battlefield completely.

Maverick laid out all the lots, streets and the Alamo Plaza itself, giving it the look we see today. Maverick may have felt close to his fallen hero friends, but his developments were one of the main contributors the demise of  the Alamo battlefield.

Thanks to Maverick what had been the Alamo’s west wall was now a row of commercial buildings, and its north wall would be taken over by a massive Federal building. By the 1840’s all that remained of the Alamo fort was its three large buildings: the Long Barracks (the old Convento), the Low Barracks (what had been the forts main gate), and its Church.

These historic buildings where in an advance stage of deterioration: the roofs of the Long Barracks and Low Barracks had collapsed, weeds were growing out of the building’s walls, and animals, bats, and birds made their homes there. What remained of the Alamo sat vandalized, slowly decaying, and mostly forgotten.

The Alamo under the Army (1847-1878)

In 1847, during the Mexican-American War, a 29 year old American soldier named Edward Everett, who was unable to join his command in Mexico because of an injury, was assigned by his commander, Col. John Hardin, to collect information on the local history and customs of San Antonio. Everett, who was also an accomplished artist, began sketching the different sites and missions around the town, including the Alamo ruins. Many of the images we have today of the Alamo during this period comes from Everett’s work.

alamo-storage in the 1860's

Wagons delivering supplies to the reconstructed Alamo church, now a warehouse for the U.S. Army depot, circa 1860

In 1849 the U.S. Army leased the church and Long Barracks from the Catholic Church to be used as a quartermaster depot. To save cost Captain James Ralston proposed using the Alamo’s buildings as foundations. However, Everett, who had become the Captain’s clerk, convinced Ralston to use only the Long Barracks and Low Barracks, leaving the church as a historic relic. It’s interesting to note that Everett considered the Alamo’s church as a historic relic, but not its other two buildings. It could have been a lack of the locals not knowing the true history of the Alamo battle, or was it again the allure of the church’s façade that drew Everett away from the historical fact that it was in the Long Barracks where so many defenders and Mexican soldiers had fought to the death, and the Low Barracks where Jim Bowie had died.

Ralston put Everett in charge of turning the Alamo’s two buildings into offices, living quarters, workshops, and storage rooms. Under Everett’s direction the Low Barracks was re-plastered and a new roof added. However his reconstruction of the Long Barracks was the most drastic to the original building. Most of the Long Barrack’s interior and some of its walls were removed. The second floor was in bad shape, but Everett used what he could, and even extended the length of the second floor by adding new walls. Further changes were made by cutting additional windows and doors into the buildings thick stone walls.

Although Everett left the ruined church intact he did order for the rubble that littered its interior be cleaned out. It was reported that during this a few skeletons and artifacts attributed to the 1836 battle were found.

Although Everett and Ralston wished to keep the church as it was the new assistant quartermaster had a different idea, not only for the Alamo’s church but its other two buildings as well.

Major Edwin Babbitt was placed in charge of making the site ready as an Army depot. Babbitt wanted to tear down all of the Alamo’s buildings; even those that had been rebuilt by Everett, and construct all new structures on the site. If Babbitt had gotten his way it would have been the complete loss of the Alamo.

But General Thomas Jesup strongly disagreed with Babbitt. Gen. Jesup saw that the reconstructed Long and Low barracks were more than adequate, and that the church’s thick, high walls would make a strong foundation for a third building. Although Gen. Jesup over ruled Babbitt he also had over ruled Everett’s vision of keeping the Alamo church as it was. Jesup’s order would bring about the way Alamo church looks today.

The reconstruction of the Alamo church was a major undertaking. The first thing that the engineers needed to do to make it useable was to add a roof. But before they could do that they needed to raise the walls of the church with new stone and make it even. Once that was done they were able to add a wooden gabled roof that ran from the front to the back of the building, using a hip design on its eastern end. However the roofs western peak couldn’t be finished that same way, it would made it look unsightly. That problem was solved by architect and stonemason John Fries.

It was Fries who came up with the design for the Alamo’s now famous “hump.” Where Fries actually got this idea is lost to time. Although we can’t picture the Alamo today without its hump it wasn’t much appreciated at the time.

Originally the church only had windows on each side of its main door and one over it, but when the army added the roof they also added a second floor. To help get sunlight into this room they needed to add more windows. Those two windows you now see near  the top on both sides are what were cut into the building by the army; and if you look closely you’ll see they don’t line up.

The Alamo

The Alamo Church as it looked in the late 1800’s 

The United States Army continued to use of the Alamo buildings up until the Civil War. After Texas seceded from the Union the Confederate Army used the buildings from 1861 until the wars end. After the Civil War the U.S. Army again occupied the Alamo until its depot was moved to Fort Sam Houston in 1878. After the Army left the three Alamo buildings once again came under the control of the Catholic Church.

By that time the Catholic Church had little use or need for the buildings. It was then that a local merchant approached the Church, making them an offer they couldn’t refuse. An offer that would once again change the look, and history, of the Alamo, and not for the better.

Some of the resources used:

Thompson, Frank. “From Army Headquarters to Department Store.” The Alamo, A Cultural History, Taylor Publishing , 2001.
Nelson, George. The Alamo, An Illustrated History. Cenveo Printing, 2009.
“Samuel Maverick .” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, May 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Maverick.
“Alamo Mission in San Antonio.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 2 July 2018, en.m.wikipedia/wiki/Alamo_Mission_in_San_Antonio.
Selcraig, Bruce. “Remembering the Alamo.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian.com, 1 Apr. 2004, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/remembering_the_alamo-101880149/.

 

 

 

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