4th grade students from Gregorio Esparza Elementary School attended for a living history of the Battle of the Alamo and Texas' fight for independence. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
Fourth grade students from Gregorio Esparza Elementary School take a living history tour of the Battle of the Alamo. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

A local architecture firm and a Philadelphia-based agency will lead major preservation efforts of the Alamo Church and Long Barrack in downtown San Antonio, according to an announcement by the Texas General Land Office on Tuesday.

The efforts, which will begin in the fall, will be the “most extensive conservation in more than a century” for the two structures, according to a GLO news release.

San Antonio’s Ford Powell & Carson will be working with Preservation Design Partnership, which previously completed the Alamo Plaza’s conceptual master plan that was approved in May 2017, on the multimillion-dollar contract. Their work, guided by more scientific study, will focus on the slowly crumbling walls and mitigating the effects of moisture.

The GLO initiated the “black paper project” to measure the rate of the Alamo’s deterioration in 2016. Black pieces of paper were placed at the base of the church and long barrack walls for one year to see how much limestone and mortar was collected. The paper is “almost completely covered” by debris, according to the press release.

Meanwhile, master planning efforts continue under a funding and implementation agreement between GLO, City of San Antonio, and Alamo Endowment. Planners are in the “interpretive plan” stage of the process and suggest closing down several area streets, reducing direct public access to the plaza, demolishing historic buildings, and moving the Alamo Cenotaph, all of which have received strong criticism from various groups.

What has not been controversial is the need to protect the original Mission San Antonio de Valero and the 1836 fort. These efforts are in addition to further preservation efforts that will be part of the master plan.

“Rising damp is a condition in which Limestone soaks up moisture from below and the side, which can lead to internal damage and flaking,” according to the news release. “The traffic, which runs across the Alamo’s historic footprint, creates a noisy environment around the Alamo and has been a prime suspect of damaging the Alamo Church for about 30 years.”

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The Texas Legislature allocated $75 million towards Alamo restoration in 2017, according to a GLO spokesperson. Details about the contract were not immediately available, including the total cost.

The Texas Legislature gave the GLO a one-time $5 million allocation in 2015 to shore up the Alamo and Long Barrack, according to the release.

“Other states have history; Texas has legends,” Land Commissioner George P. Bush said in the statement. “Texas history speaks to everyone who wants to be free. As a son of Texas and a veteran, I can think of no higher honor than leading the Alamo’s reinforcement today.”

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at iris@sareport.org