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A recent rendering of the completed Alamo Plaza shows visitors strolling an open square where vehicles have been replaced with interpretive features conveying the layout at the time of the 1836 battle.
In the image, the Cenotaph has been moved 500 feet to the south, to a plaza of pavement and trees in front of the Menger Hotel. The debate over moving the 1930s-era monument has become the obstacle blocking the rest of the image from becoming reality.
“This is some of the most important history in the state of Texas and the most important history in the City of San Antonio,” Douglass McDonald, CEO of Alamo Trust, said in a Tuesday interview. “We can do better than we have done in the past to tell the history of the Alamo, and the moment to make the decision to do better is today.”
Moving the Cenotaph was originally supposed to be part of the first phase of the redevelopment, which began late last year with an archaeological investigation to help protect the Alamo’s Church and Long Barrack.
Restoring and moving the Cenotaph are key pieces of the $450 million redevelopment, along with closing the streets of Alamo Plaza and creating a museum focused on the site’s history. McDonald said that the six-member Alamo Management Committee, a driving force behind the plan, “has been committed to a world-class project, and they are unwilling to compromise on that project.”
“Lots of people have different ideas, but they’re committed to their vision of what constitutes world-class, and that includes all of the elements of the plan,” McDonald said.
The Cenotaph’s relocation has ignited opposition from grassroots conservative activists and been a source of conflict between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
The City, which owns the Cenotaph, filed its application to restore and move the monument to the Texas Historical Commission in December. Alamo Trust is managing that process on the City’s behalf.
“It’s a long time to leave the Alamo Plan suspended without a decision,” said McDonald, a museum leader who began running Alamo Trust, the site’s nonprofit steward, in 2017. McDonald announced in June that he won’t renew his contract, which expires Sept. 30.
Chris Florance, THC spokesman, said commission members had discussed a Sept. 22 meeting on the Cenotaph, but no official date has been set, with commission members still “monitoring” the pandemic and the availability of a site for an in-person meeting.
Now, Alamo Trust is urging residents to express support for the plan in social media posts and email campaigns. Alamo Trust posted the plaza rendering Friday on Facebook with a link to a website asking people to contact top Texas officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Patrick.
Alamo officials also have been fighting off multiple lawsuits from groups, such as the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association and Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, regarding the treatment of human remains found during digs in the Church and Long Barrack. A federal judge will decide whether to allow a Tap Pilam case to proceed in Western District court in San Antonio. A state district court judge in Travis County dismissed the Defenders case in April, though the organization is appealing the decision.
McDonald said the recent rendering reflects how visitors will actually experience the interpretation of the site, if the Alamo Plan moves ahead.
The image shows a structure marking the long-gone Low Barrack on the plaza’s southern edge, along with replicas of fortifications Alamo defenders built between the Church and the Low Barrack. In the southwest corner, it envisions a ramp and platform with a replica of the 18-pounder, the largest cannon the garrison used in the siege by the invading Mexican Army.
The vision of the still-standing Long Barrack restores that building’s second story. The formerly 20-foot-tall structure once served as offices and quarters for 18th-century Spanish missionaries, before later being repurposed as a granary.
On Thursday, Alamo Trust announced it would begin adding replicas of cannons, placed where historians say they sat during the defense of the Alamo. Two replicas of iron 4-pounder cannons will be the first to arrive, with plans to display them in the center of Alamo Plaza in September.
The cannons will be capable of firing and were cast using measurements from the Alamo battle cannon currently displayed outside the Alamo Arcade. Alamo Trust officials plan to add more replica cannons to their historic positions through 2021.
The rendering does not include the museum or a view of the State-owned Woolworth and Crockett buildings on the plaza’s west side. Historic preservationists are among those calling for both to be saved, particularly because of a history of Civil Rights-era racial integration at the Woolworth’s former lunch counter. Plans for the museum and the fate of both buildings are still in development, McDonald said.