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History of the Alamo, Part X: “…disintegration of the church right before our eyes.”

During the night, when the Alamo was closed, technicians scan the church’s walls to determine the extent of the damage on the three century old structure. Photo courtesy of the Alamo CEO Facebook page.

“We are literally witnessing a disintegration of the church right before our eyes,” was the comment made by nationally known heritage consultant George Skarmeas to the San Antonio Express-News on the dire condition of the Alamo’s church.

Ron Current

As I wrote in my post, History of the Alamo, Part VII: The Era of Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the state had been informed of mismanagement of the Alamo properties by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) for years, but when it became evident that the disintegration of these historical structures was far worse than first thought, the state had to step in and act fast.

In 2011, the Alamo was placed under the control of the State’s General Land Office (GLO), and on May 12, 2015 the GLO took over the complete day to day operations and caretaking of the Alamo from DRT, ending a 107 year conservatorship. Although the DRT had helped to save the Alamo’s two remaining buildings, and to maintain them, they really didn’t have the expertise on what to do, or not do, to better preserve these century old structures.

In this, the tenth in my series on the history of the Alamo compound, I’ll tell how the GLO is assessing the conditions of the Alamo’s two remaining buildings, and how their putting to use the 5 million dollars of emergency funding to save them before their lost forever.  

The Long Barracks

The first, and most looming, peril to the structural conditions of the Alamo’s remaining buildings came when signs that the Long Barrack’s roof was beginning to fail.  

The unfinished, roof less and vine overgrown Long Barracks. It remained this way for over 50 years. Historical photo from Pinterest.

After almost being torn down in the early part of the 20th century the Long Barracks would only be partially rebuilt between 1913 and 1916, when funds to finish the project ran out. The ruins would stand roofless and overgrown by vines until 1968, when the DRT would finally roof it. The DRT then moved its museum from its first location, now the Alamo gift shop, to the Long Barracks.

When the roof’s failure was discovered the GLO quickly moved; Cram Roofing of San Antonio, who has worked on other historical buildings, was contracted to replace the failing roof and repair the water damage to the old walls before it was irreversible.

This project was one of the most difficult for Cram Roofing.  Normally they’d anchor their work platforms to the outer walls of the building; however, this couldn’t be done due to the fragile conditions of the barrack’s old stone walls. Instead the entire 5,500 sq. ft. of the Long Barrack’s exterior had to be completely enveloped in scaffolding.

The interior of the re-roofed Long Barracks. Today it holds the Alamo Museum. Photo by author

Add to that another issue, an average of 7,000 visitors a day tour the grounds of the Alamo, and the GLO didn’t want them contending with workers moving equipment and materials onto the site when it was open. So Cram needed to deliver all items needed for each days work before the Alamo opened at 9am, and wait until after 5:30pm before removing anything.

Over a ten week period the company removed the entire old roof, down to the stone, and completely replaced it with a new more efficient one, while still keeping the buildings historical integrity.

Only part of the current west wall of the Long Barracks is original. Photo by author

Also, a recent archaeological survey of the Long Barracks answered a long standing question; did the reconstructed walls of 1913-1916 have any historical accuracy? What was discovered was, yes. Those doing the reconstruction back then had indeed used the Barrack’s original foundations.

Although only its west wall is somewhat original the Alamo’s Long Barracks is still an important link in the Alamo story.

Saving the crumbing Alamo Shrine

The Alamo church is the most original of the two remaining structures, and also in the greatest danger. For over three centuries the Alamo church had suffered much, and there never was any real attempt to do an extensive assessment on its condition until 2015.

A restoration technician examines the interior walls of the Alamo church for damage. Photo courtesy of Alamo CEO Facebook page.

In 2015, the state commissioned two restoration experts to head the preservation efforts: Ivan Myjer, a stone conservator from Boston, who has worked on historical sites around the world, and master stone mason Miroslav Maler. These two men spent a month atop a crane going over the Alamo church inch by inch to determine the extent of the damage, and on how to repair it. 

Using radar and x-ray imagery it was discovered that the church’s walls had been poorly constructed by its original mission builders, who had not used proper reinforcement between its outer walls, only loose rubble.  

It was also discovered that over 2 feet of soil, and other debris, had built up over the centuries around base of the church. This allowed ground water to slowly creep up into the foundation, weakening it.

This 2015 photo shows damage done over time by the elements to the base of one of the façade’s pillars. Photo by Bob Owen/ San Antonio Express-News

Further testing also showed other factors having a devastating effect on the church were: vibrations from traffic, acid rain and the harsh Texas climate.

To help reduce some of the traffic vibration, as part of the “reimagining” of Alamo Plaza, the City of San Antonio will be closing the streets that surround the Alamo.

To help stem the effects from the rising ground water, the GLO will be clearing away the accumulated soil and other materials down to the church’s original foundation.

Another concern, that’s hardly noticed by visitors, is that the famous Alamo façade is dotted with mold. This mold is slowly eating away at the limestone, further weakening it. In addition large sections of the church’s façade has been lost due to weathering and vandalism. All of these areas needed to be addressed in a proper restoration process, and this is what Myjer and Maler specialize in.

Where the deterioration is extremely bad the restores use a process that’s used throughout the world on other historical structures, such as the Parthenon in Athens and the Colosseum in Rome. Reconstructions are made of the effected areas that mirror the original. These reconstructions are made out of crushed limestone and other materials which is consistent with materials used in the 18th century, when the Alamo was first constructed. These new pieces are then carefully reinserted into the damaged areas giving it the look of the original.

Stone conservator Ivan Myjer makes repairs to the iconic Alamo façade, part of the 5 million dollar emergency restoration effort. Photo by Eric Gay/ AP

Another task for the restorers is to correct some of the earlier faulty repairs. While some of these corrections can be done, using the process I described above, other alterations that had been made through the years, such as non-original windows and doors, will remain for fear of harming the surrounding stone.

Still the greatest threat to the integrity of the Alamo church remains what the DRT had unknowingly done: the Alamo church’s cement roof and air-conditioning.

Deteriorating right before our eyes. Black paper catching stone fall from the walls. Photo by William Luther/San Antonio Express-News

Again as I tell in Part VII, the moisture imbalance caused by the Alamo’s air-conditioning is causing the church’s walls to literally crumble away. I saw this for myself during my 2018 visit. In the side rooms of the church black butcher paper has been laid along the walls where they are collecting the chunks that fall off. The restorers are using this to gauge the rate of deterioration.

One of the ideas to help reduce the moisture imbalance created by the air-conditioning is to dial up the temperature and let the natural process of the thick limestone walls do their natural work. As for the heavy roof, that is still to be decided.

Not taking the Alamo for granted any longer

Since the GLO has been in charge the work of saving and restoring these last two remaining buildings has been their top, and urgent, priority. And after the decades of neglect their work is just beginning.

If the Alamo is to be preserved for future generations these historic and famous buildings can no longer be taken for granted, and for us to think that they’ll always be there.

My next posting will cover the “reimagining” of Alamo Plaza. Will it be a rediscovery, or another battle of the Alamo?

Some of my sources:

Weissert, Will. “Restoring the Alamo-experts’ delicate mission.” Military Times, Sightline Mrdia Group, 11 Nov. 2015,

Blische, Kevin. “Re-Roofing The Alamo.” Facility Executive, Facility Executive, 28 2016,

Dobson, Courtney. “Re-Roofing the Alamo.” Roofing Contractor , Roofing Contractor Magazine, 4 Apr. 2016,

Huddleston, Scott. “Alamo’s AC may be causing harm.” San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio Express-News, 26 Nov. 2016,

Associated Press. “Roof being replaced at the Alamo’s Long Barrack.” Washington Examiner, Washington Examiner, 19 Aug. 2014,

Hardy, Michael . “My Grandfather Air-Conditioned the Alamo. Now the Building Is Crumbling, and It’s All His Fault.” TexasMonthly, Texas Monthly, 5 Dec. 2016,

Gay, Eric. Ivan Myjer, stone conservator repairing the Alamo’s facade. 2015. “Restoring the Alamo-experts’ delicate mission,” by Will Weissert. Military Times, 11 Nov. 2015,

Technicians scan the Alamo church for damage. “Alamo CEO,” by Douglass McDonald. Alamo CEO, Facebook. Accessed 7 Apr. 2019.

Luther, William. Black butcher paper collecting Alamo wall chips. 2016. “Alamo’s AC may be causing harm,” by Scott Huddleston. San Antonio Express-News, 26 Nov. 201,

Owen, Bob. Weather-damaged base of piller. 2015. “Alamo’s AC may be causing harm,” by Scott Huddleston. San Antonio Express-News, 26 Nov. 2016,

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The History of the Alamo, Part IX: Chili Queens, Street Preachers and Tomb Raiders

The stores running along the boundary line of the Alamo compound’s lost west wall. (L to R) the Crockett Building, Palace Theater and the Woolworth Building. Photo taken by Author in April, 2018. 

Ron Current

By the time the 150th anniversary of the 1836 battle arrived all but two of the Alamo’s original buildings had been erased from public sight.  And sadly, it wasn’t just physically gone; the historic Alamo was also gone from the very consciousness of most people. To citizens of the city, and visitors alike, “The Alamo” became just one of its two remaining structures; Its Church, the Shrine.

What if the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and the State of Texas, had purchased the Alamo Plaza instead of the grounds behind and to the north of the church?

The decades of focusing on just the church has caused damage to the reverence of the battlefield. The battlefield had become just another city park leading to “The Alamo,” and the site of the forts west wall, a collection of stores that promote themselves as being, “across the street from the Alamo.”

In this posting, the ninth in my series on the History of the Alamo, I’ll explore the good and the bad commercial development on the site of the west wall, and the many uses made of the Alamo Plaza through the years.

The Alamo Plaza: a great public gathering place

Being one of the largest open public spaces within San Antonio, the Alamo and de Valero Plazas became a draw for all those who wanted to sell their wares or to hold special events, especially with the backdrop of the famous “Alamo.”

Chili Queens

In the 1860s, these two plazas were one of the many locations throughout San Antonio to have the famous “Chili Queens.” These Chili Queens were mostly Mexican women who’d set up their cooking pots, boiling with tasty chili con carne and other Tex-Mex delights. Tables and benches were set up nearby to seat the many casual diners that these stands attracted. Soon strolling musicians joined in, circulating amongst the crowds, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Postcard showing the Chili Queen tables on Alamo Plaza

So famous were the San Antonio Chili Queens that writer O. Henry, after visiting the city made reference to them in his short story, ‘The Enchanted Kiss.” He wrote:

“The nightly encampment upon the historic Alamo Plaza, in the heart of the city, had been a carnival, a saturnalia that was renowned throughout the land.” 

Postcard of Chili Queen tables on the plaza with the Alamo church in the background

By the late 1800s, Alamo Plaza would be home to hundreds of competing cooks and thousands of hungry visitors, filling all its open space.

As more convenient locations became available for the vendors, and concerns for the public’s health, the number of Chili Queens began to shrink. Finally in the 1940s the San Antonio Health Department permanently closed all the food stands due to unsanitary conditions.  

The Chili Queen’s legacy would be the beginnings of our love for Tex-Mex dishes, Mexican Street food, and indirectly, the Taco Truck craze.

A showplace for a new kind of fencing

It was on Alamo Plaza that a product was first showcased that changed ranching and the open range forever. In 1876, Illinois entrepreneur John Warne “Bet a Million” Gates used Alamo Plaza to introduce his new fencing called, “barbed wire.” Gates built corrals on the plazas holding Texas Longhorn cattle to show the effectiveness of this new fencing.

Battle of Flowers Parade

In April of 1891, Alamo Plaza and the Alamo was the end of the first “Battle of Flowers” Parade. This event, inspired by such parades in Spain and Europe, began as a way to honor the fallen of the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. Each year colorful floats, bands and military units march down the streets of San Antonio to the Alamo.

Postcard of one of the Battle of Flowers floats in front of the Alamo church.

The first parade drew around 15,000, and by 2014 attendance had grown to an estimated 350,000 parade enthusiast. The Battle of Flowers Parade also helped to start San Antonio’s annual Fiesta, and this parade is still one of the major events of Fiesta.

Alamo Plaza plays host to Presidents and others

Postcard showing the Alamo Plaza filled with an enthusiastic crowd gathered to hear President Theodore Roosevelt

Over the years Alamo Plaza has been the site used by U.S. Presidents and other speakers., taking advantage of the large open ground, and to have the Alamo church in the background.

Today most of these larger events have since moved to other locations within the city. This is partially due to much of the Alamo Plaza’s former open space being now taken up by flowerbeds, the Cenotaph, and the expansion of the area in front of the Alamo church.

Today, because of the sheer volume of visitors coming to see the historic Alamo, the plaza now attracts many who have little respect for the hollowed ground that their standing on. They only see the plaza as a platform to present their views.

From social protesters, to street preachers, to panhandlers; on any given day you’ll see them there, demanding attention from those who came to learn and to feel the history.

Development of the west wall

Samuel Maverick was one of the first, and most influential developers of the Alamo grounds. He built his home on what is now the northwest corner of E. Houston and N. Alamo Streets. His house sat were one of the old mission Indian houses was located, known as the Castaneda House. During the 1836 battle this was the location of one the fort’s northern cannon postern, called Fortin De Condelle. Today this spot is occupied by the Hotel Gibbs.

Just south, across E. Houston Street from the Hotel Gibbs, begins a line of three commercial buildings which run south along Alamo Plaza Street. These buildings sit along what was the Alamo’s west wall.

The Woolworth Building

The Woolworth Building

The first building on the corner is the old Woolworth Building. Opened in 1921, it housed the Woolworth department store for years. This building has a historical aspect of its own. In the early 1960’s its lunch counter was the site of one of the first peaceful integrations to take place in the south.

The Palace Theater

The Palace Theater

Next to the Woolworth building was the Palace Theater. Opened in 1923, this building also has an architectural history. The Palace Theater was designed by architect George Willis, a trainee of Frank Lloyd Wright. Another historical tidbit is that the Palace was the first completely air-conditioned building in the United States

In this general area stood the old mission house known as the Trevino House. During the 1836 siege it’s believed that this was William Travis’s headquarters. And it’s here where he wrote this famous letter.

The Crockett Building

The Crockett Building

The last building in this line, and the last sitting on Alamo compound ground, is the Crockett Building (not to be confused with the close by Crockett Hotel).

In 1882, the year before the State of Texas purchased the Alamo church for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the sons of Samuel Maverick constructed what they named the Crockett Building. It was designed to house several stores on the street level and multiple offices on its upper floors. At the time the Crockett was the best example of “Gilded Age” architecture in the city. Today the Crockett’s street level renters are the apparel shop, Del Sol, and Grand Trolley Tours.

Lost to Time

By the time these buildings were constructed all remanence of the mission/fort on that ground was already gone. And as the decades past the businesses that occupied the Woolworth, Palace and Crockett buildings were an accepted part of the community, and the memory of the Alamo compound and battlefield became lost to time. Those businesses along Alamo Plaza Street would promote themselves as being, “across the street from the Alamo,” because it was commonly viewed that the church was “the Alamo.”

Then, more and more people became interested in the Alamo, especially after the Davy Crockett craze of the 1950s, and they began looking at the total historical Alamo, not just its church.

Walt Disney publicity photo for their Davy Crockett TV series. This scene is Davy (Fess Parker) being presented with his “Old Betsy” rifle.

They also began to realize the importance of honoring this hollowed ground, all the hollowed ground that was the Alamo. And just about the time that a group of businesses opened in those buildings along the lost Alamo west wall that shocked and angered them for their lack of reverence.

Phillips Entertainment

Phillips’ Aquarena Springs was one of the biggest tourist attractions in Texas, second only to the Alamo. The park is now closed.

Phillips Entertainment began as a small Texas family owned attraction/ entertainment company in 1964, with Gene Phillips opening his first attraction, a small theme park called Aquarena Springs, in San Marco, Texas. Over the next 20 years their operations grew to four more tourist attractions located throughout Texas.

When Bill Phillips joined his father in the business he created Phillips Entertainment, Inc. (PEI) in 2000, as a separate entity with the sole purpose of operating attractions in the City of San Antonio.

Phillips searched all over San Antonio for the right location to open his new attractions. What he needed was a building with lots of space, affordable rent, and if possible, something else that was nearby that was already drawing large numbers of tourists. What he found was the Woolworth and Palace buildings, and across the street from those buildings, the Alamo.

PEI signed a long term lease with the building’s owner,  Service Life and Casualty Insurance Company, for both the Woolworth and Palace. In 2002, PEI opened their first attraction, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure. This attraction did so well that they followed it with the Guinness World Records Museum in 2003 and then Davy Crockett’s Tall Tales Ride in 2005. In 2008, PEI made a major investment and redesigned one of their main attractions, and in doing so cutting any references they had to the Alamo. They converted the Davy Crockett ride into the Tomb Raider 3D Adventure Ride and Arcade.

PEI’s attractions that occupy the Crockett and Woolworth buildings. Photo by author, 2018

PEI continued to expand their interest in San Antonio: managing the Mirror Maze and River Sweet Candy Shop just down Alamo Plaza from their main attractions. A little further beyond the Alamo’s footprint, they also manage the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, and the Texas Ranger Museum.

Bill’s son, Davis Phillips, and grandson of founder Gene Phillips, is the current President and CEO of PEI. Davis is one of the most successful tourist attraction operators in the country. Phillips, and PEI, are active in San Antonio tourism and members of the Texas Travel Industry Association, and is very vocal in protecting his interests on the Alamo Plaza. This is understandable, considering PEI investments in their entertainment venues.

Davis, who also sits on the City’s Alamo Plaza Committee, made the statement that he, and the other tourist attractions/ businesses that line the Alamo Plaza, are not against change. And he’d be willing to consider a master plan that may require moving some of PEI’s businesses, but only:

if its focused on our (PEI) future success as it is the Alamo’s

Shortly after this statement Phillips learned that PEI had a new landlord; The Texas General Land Office, the owners of the Alamo.

Davis Phillips made a statement awhile ago that I strongly disagree with. He said that his businesses helps to bring people to the Alamo. The Alamo has been a destination for history pilgrims and tourists since shortly after the 1836 battle. Visitors to the Shrine has increased each decade, especially after the aforementioned Davy Crockett craze.

Phillips is a exceptional entrepreneur in the tourist attraction business, and he knows that business very well, and what helps to bring him customers, and that’s being close to something where people are already coming too; it’s the Alamo that brings him customers, not the other way around.

My next post will be the last in this series; I’ll start by reflecting on my feelings during my first visit to the Alamo in 1986: what were my expectations, what did I find when I got there and what was the reactions of others that were there around me. I’ll then tell of my visits in 2011 and 2018, and the changes I saw each time.

I’ll finish with a look at some of the possible changes proposed for the Alamo, the Plaza and the west wall buildings.

Some of my resources:

“About Us.” Battle of FLOWERS , The Battle of Flowers Association, Accessed 6 Jan. 2018.

Jennings, Frank W. “Popular Chili Queens Graced San Antonio Plazas.” Journal of the life and culture of San Antonio, University of the Incarnate word, Accessed 8 Jan. 2018.

MySA. “History of the Fiesta Battle of Flowers.” mySA, San Antonio Express-News archives, 8 Apr. 2015,

Cinema Treasures . “Palace Theater .” Cinema Treasures, Cinema Treasures, Accessed 8 Jan. 2019.

Phillips Entertainment Inc. “About Us.” Phillips Entertainment Inc., Phillips Entertainment, Accessed 8 Jan. 2019.

Huddleston, Scott. “State is buying historic buildings facing the Alamo.” San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio Express-News, 5 Oct. 2015,

Dietel, Janet, and Adam Reed. “Also conserve interiors of Alamo Plaza buildings.” mySA, mySA, 26 Mar. 2017,

Dimmick, Iris. “State Purchases Three Buildings Across From Alamo Plaza.” Rivard Report, Rivard Report, 2 Dec. 2015,

Nelson, George. “1876-A demonstration of the new barbed wire.” The Alamo: An Illustrated History, third Revised, Aldine Press, 2009, p. 95.

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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:

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:

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,

Wikipedia . “Alamo Cenotaph.” Wikipedia,Wikipedia, Sept. 2018, \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.

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,

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.

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,

Weissert , Will. “Restoring the Alamo-experts’ delicate mission.” Military Times, Military Times, 11 Nov. 2015,

“Buildings.” The Alamo, The Alamo,

“Alamo History Chronology.” The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas,

“Clara Driscoll (philanthropist) .” Wikipedia , Wikipedia, Sept. 2018,

“Alamo.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historial Association,

Hardy, Michael. “My Grandfather Air-Conditioned the Alamo. Now the Building Is Crumbling, and It’s All His Fault.” TexasMonthly, TexasMonthly, 5 Dec. 2016,

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



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


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.


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

cropped Mrs._Clara_D._Sevier_LOC_3350948489 1911

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.

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,, 2018,
“Alamo History Chronology.” The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas,
“Warehouse to Shrine: 1878-1905.” CHRONOLOGY, The Alamo,
“Historic Photos of the Alamo.” Search: Historic Photos of the Alamo, Google,
“Clara Driscoll (philanthropist).” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Aug. 2018,
“Adina Emilia De Zavala.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 13 Oct. 2018,
“Adina Emilia De Zavala.” Find A Grave, Find A Grave, Accessed 14 Oct. 2018.
“Alamo Mission in San Antonio .” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 11 Oct. 2018,
“Buildings .” The Alamo, The Alamo, Accessed 14 Oct. 2018.
Nelson, George. “Feuds Over Preservation of the Convento.” The Alamo, An Illustrated History, third Revised , Aldine Press, 2009, p. 98.



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 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.


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


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,, 2018,
Wikipedia . “Alamo Mission in San Antonio.” Wikipedia , Wikipedia, 28 July 2018,
“Alamo History Chronology.” The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas,
“Warehouse to Shrine: 1878-1905.” CHRONOLOGY, The Alamo,
“Historic Photos of the Alamo.” Search: Historic Photos of the Alamo, Google,


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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,, 2018,
Wikipedia . “Alamo Mission in San Antonio.” Wikipedia , Wikipedia, 28 July 2018,
“Honore Grenet.” Billion Graves, Billion Graves,
“Historic Photos of the Alamo.” Search: Historic Photos of the Alamo, Google,