There has been lots of discussion to date about redeveloping the site of the Alamo. This is my personal input, and not the views of The Sons of the Republic of Texas (SRT), of which I am the immediate past president of the Alamo Chapter. The SRT is rightly adamant about members not speaking for the SRT, but the SRT encourages individuals to make their opinions known.
I suggest that the Long Barrack should be rebuilt. My thought is to rebuild the walls and the Long Barrack using tinted material that closely resembles or matches the existing material. The only difference, I recommend, would be a slight tint (rust red, for example) to distinguish between the old and the new. Then, the visitor would know what has been rebuilt versus the “old” construction. Do away with the glass walls altogether.
I believe a very important piece to rebuild is the lunette on the south side of the Alamo. This distinctive structure would greatly enhance the feeling of the original Alamo grounds.
The Cenotaph is another lightning rod; I say leave it where it is unless there’s some historical reason to move it. The proposed new location has not even been 100% verified as one of the two “pyre” sites. Some say yes, others say no. Further, it’s going to cost a bundle to move it, so don’t move it unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.
Move the gift shop to wherever the visitor center ends up. When you leave SeaWorld, you still have to get the grandkids past the gift shop. When you leave Fiesta Texas, you still have to get the grandkids past the gift shop. If we’re going to wall off the Alamo and charge admission, why not have the gift shop as you’re leaving, wherever the exit turns out to be. The gift shop doesn’t need to be right next to the church, where it currently is.
And I’ve submitted this numerous times: We have an Alamodome in San Antonio, so why not have a domed Alamo? We know the walls of the church and other parts are crumbling, so why not protect them from the weather and elements? They will still need to be worked on, given new supports, and whatever else needs to be done, but if we have a dome, they’ll be protected from future deterioration. The first phase could be kind of open air, like Bob Hope’s house in Palm Springs. And plan for subsequent phases, like a fully enclosed, air-conditioned dome. Maybe even start with something like Fremont Street, in Las Vegas, where the streets and walkways are totally covered. But we have to maintain reverence at the Alamo.
We could have solar panels on top to help pay the electric bill; misters to cool off the customers, using rainwater collected and stored; and small amphitheaters at historically significant areas of the Alamo, such as where Travis fell, where Crockett fell, the Immortal 32, the Trevino House, the 13 days of the seige, and others. Last time I checked, it’s hot in San Antonio in the summer, which is, I believe, when most of the tourists show up at the Alamo.
And the inside ceiling of the dome could be used for laser light shows, holography, projection to show the 13 days of siege and cannon fire that started on Feb. 23, 1836, and any other depiction that is conducive to using the inside dome. All of this needs to maintain the integrity of reverence and not turn it into a circus-like atmosphere.
Mark Lemon’s The Illustrated Alamo 1836, which reflects hours of painstaking research and collection of data, presents the most accurate look and feel of the Alamo that I’ve ever seen. The Alamo Master Plan consultants, Preservation Design Partnership, didn’t even refer to Lemon’s book, I’m told, although I haven’t verified that. The book is available on Amazon, and my wife bought one for me for my birthday last year. It’s really good, in my opinion.
Lemon had his model of the Alamo at The History Shop, which has since closed, just across from the Alamo. This model, which seemed to be accurate, was described and narrated by musician and Alamo history buff Phil Collins. It was a worthy historical experience.
As for the three buildings that the General Land Office purchased, they might be historical, but they’re not aesthetically pleasing. But they might be worth saving, so my thought is that rather than spend an estimated $90 million to $110 million to do something with them, use a fraction of that to relocate the front walls backward about 30 feet to clear room for the restored Alamo wall to be rebuilt. Then use the three buildings as the entry to the Alamo and use the Fremont Street-like covering over the entire entry area. If you walk to the southwest corner, where the 18-pounder was, you can easily tell where the wall should extend towards the Hotel Gibbs and the Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building. That will determine how far back to move the store fronts.
Lobby for the the Federal Building to be “donated” to the Alamo Endowment. Then use the building for the best purpose. Part of the Hotel Gibbs might still pose a problem, since the wall comes very close there.
We have many memorials and plaques around the Alamo, including ones to the Immortal 32 and to Susanna Dickinson, the Japanese Memorial, the Toribio Losoya bust and plaque, and others. I recommend placing them in an area where they can be highlighted – maybe another amphitheater with a video about each one.
When rebuilding the walls, there should be several locations where parts of the wall – for instance, 10-16 feet long – could be rolled back a few feet, then rolled to the side, thereby creating an entryway that wouldn’t be noticeable unless the wall was “open.” This would allow access by service vehicles and also might be a future entry location into the Alamo.
The decision time is coming on how to do the next step in redeveloping the Alamo site. Future decisions include whether to close South Alamo Street, and whether the City will give that land to the Alamo Endowment. But the “big stuff” comes later. I’m betting that logic will prevail, and when it comes time to fund this critically important project, we’ll end up with something like I’ve described above, except the domed part hasn’t caught on – yet.
So pay the consultants and thank them for their sincere efforts. Then take what they’ve done and do the “Texas” thing – make it right!