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Frequently Asked Questions

WHEN AND WHY WAS THE ALAMO BUILT? add

The Alamo was built as one of five Spanish missions in what is today San Antonio, in 1718. It moved to its current site in 1724. Its original name was Mission San Antonio de Valero, but it has been called the Alamo since 1803. The Alamo and the other four San Antonio missions were established to extend Spain’s influence in the New World, to found a city, and to bring Christianity to the native populations.

WHERE DID THE ALAMO GET ITS NAME? add

When the Alamo was first built in 1718, it was called Mission San Antonio de Valero. The mission moved once and then again to its current site in 1724. It remained a mission until the Catholic Church secularized it in 1793. Historical research and records from 1718 to 1793 refer to the Alamo by that former name, Mission San Antonio de Valero. In 1803, a military unit from Alamo de Parras occupied the former mission compound and fortified it. That unit came to be known simply as the Alamo unit, and the former mission was then called the Alamo. The Alamo has kept that name since 1803. The heroic stand and battle on March 6, 1836 cemented the Alamo’s place in Texas, American and world history. Today the Alamo name and its iconic façade are recognized worldwide.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ALAMO AND ITS BATTLEFIELD AFTER THE BATTLE ON MARCH 6, 1836? add

The Battle of the Alamo began shortly before dawn on March 6 and lasted about 90 minutes. After the battle was over, Santa Anna ordered the bodies of the Defenders to be taken outside the fort and burned. Santa Anna took some of the units under his command to pursue Gen. Sam Houston’s forces to the south, leaving a sizeable force behind to occupy the Alamo. Gen. Houston led the Texians’ and Tejanos’ shocking victory at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, winning Texas’ independence from Mexico. Santa Anna was captured the next day, and as a condition of his surrender he ordered his forces to retreat from Texas. He also ordered the forces he had left behind at the Alamo to destroy its walls and fortifications. Though the Alamo was later used as a military depot, its 1836 fortifications were never rebuilt. Today, just two structures survive from the battle. They are the iconic Church and the Long Barrack. All other structures were added long after the battle. Today, the battlefield itself is under Alamo Plaza and Alamo Street, and several buildings also occupy parts of it.

ARE YOU RENAMING THE ALAMO? add

No. Not now, not ever. It will always be called the Alamo. No recommendation or proposal has ever been made to change the name. The Alamo will always be called “the Alamo.”

WHAT IS THE ALAMO MASTER PLAN? add

The Alamo master plan is actually two things. First, it is the deepest and most comprehensive study of the Alamo’s history that has ever been done. The master plan studied the Alamo from its first construction in 1718 to the present, noting the key events and many structural changes that have occurred on the site over that time. Second, the master plan establishes key concepts to preserve the Alamo and guide future efforts to recapture its 1836 Battlefield and tell its story better than ever before. Those key concepts are:

  1. Restoration of the Church and Long Barracks.
  2. Reestablishing clarity and order through the delineation of the historic footprint.
  3. Recapture the Historic Mission Plaza and create a sense of reverence and respect on the historic battlefield.
  4. Repurpose the Crockett, Woolworth and Palace buildings into a world-class visitor center and museum that tells the story of the Battle of the Alamo and over 300 years of layered history.
  5. Create a sense of arrival to the site and enhance connectivity between the site and other public spaces.
WHY DOES THE ALAMO NEED PRESERVATION? add

The Alamo and Long Barrack are the only two structures that survive from the battle in 1836. They are the most important artifacts on the most important historic site in Texas. They are irreplaceable. If we lose them, we lose them forever. Both structures are quite old, and suffer from the effects of their age, the elements and of course the battle itself. Previous studies show that rising damp and the effects of the traffic on Alamo Street are both major issues that must be addressed. The traffic on Alamo Street, for instance, sends vibrations through the ground that are literally causing the Alamo Church to crumble every day. The Alamo needs significant ongoing repair and preservation work to ensure that it stands not just 300 years, but 3,000 and more years from now. The Alamo master plan provides a path toward this vital preservation.

DO THE PRESERVATION AND RESTORATION PLANS DIMINISH THE 1836 BATTLE? add

Absolutely not. The 1836 Battle is central to future plans. It is the event that defines the Alamo’s role in history. It is, by far, the largest exhibit in the new museum and will always be the central story. The plan will tell the 1836 story through compelling exhibits and living history programs, and in the Alamo. We’ve grown our Living History program to more than a dozen staff and volunteers who bring 1836 to life at the Alamo every single day.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE ALAMO WALLS AND THE HISTORIC 1836 FOOTPRINT? add

The main goals of the Alamo master plan are to preserve and protect the Alamo Church and Long Barrack and recapture the 1836 Battlefield. Alamo staff and museum interpretation and exhibit specialists will make recommendations on options for a perimeter that honors the Alamo’s history and ensures the safety of the Alamo and her visitors. The proposed plan reclaims as much of the Battlefield footprint as possible so that visitors can better understand what the Alamo was like at the time of the Battle.

BUT I HEARD THE ALAMO WOULD BE SURROUNDED BY PLEXIGLASS! add

No. Plexiglas was never proposed and no wall design has been approved in the final Master Plan. Many people have expressed that they prefer no walls, and the structural glass wall concept was very unpopular.

DOES "REIMAGINE THE ALAMO" MEAN YOU'RE REWRITING HISTORY? add

No. That was never the purpose of “Reimagine the Alamo.” “Reimagine the Alamo” has been deliberately mischaracterized. “Reimagine” was about being able to see the Alamo of 1836 more clearly than we can see today. It’s about reimagining the experience of visiting the Alamo, taking your children and grandchildren there, people from around the world visiting this sacred site, and seeing and learning more. More living history. More exhibits and artifacts. More of the 1836 Alamo Battlefield itself.

Today, the city has grown up around and even into the Battlefield. Several modern buildings stand where the walls once stood. The Alamo’s 1836 Battlefield has been paved over with streets and Alamo Plaza. Buses and trucks now drive over and desecrate the very places where Texians and Tejanos bled and died for freedom. It is the site of disrespectful protests, and operations that are not consistent with telling the story of the 1836 Battle. Some day, Alamo Street will be closed to vehicular traffic and as much of the Battlefield as possible – which is all but invisible today – will be visible again. The protests and inappropriate businesses will be relocated. Reverence and respect will be restored to the Alamo Battlefield.

Today we can only imagine what that will be like. In a few years, we will see it with our eyes..

WILL THE MASTER PLAN TURN THE ALAMO INTO A THEME PARK? add

No! It will become MORE respectful and dignified. The current “carnival-like” and “commercial” atmosphere in front of the Alamo will become a place of reverence, dignity, and respect to commemorate the Battle of 1836 and those who died fighting for Texas’ Independence. To make this possible, the General Land Office purchased the buildings across the street from the Alamo, and the plan calls for closing the streets so the 1836 Battlefield can be recaptured and used for Living History exhibits and to allow visitors to Remember the Alamo. Most visitors don’t realize they’re driving on top of the 1836 Battlefield when they drive in front of the Alamo. We’re working to recapture the sacred Battlefield, and restore it to more closely resemble what it would have looked like at the time of the Battle.

WHAT IS THE CENOTAPH? add

Cenotaph means “empty tomb.” It is the 60-foot high granite and marble structure that stands on Alamo Plaza just west of the Long Barrack. The Cenotaph was built as a monument to the Alamo Defenders, whose bodies were burned south and east of the fort after the battle. It was commissioned in 1936 for the Texas Centennial and finished in 1940. The Cenotaph was placed on the 1836 Battlefield, but its placement there does not mark any specific event or moment of the battle.

WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR THE CENOTAPH? add

The Cenotaph will always stand to honor the Alamo Defenders, as it has since 1940. The City of San Antonio owns the Cenotaph (which means “empty tomb”) and plans to repair and restore the monument, as well as add the names of additional Defenders who were unknown when the Cenotaph was erected. Discussion is ongoing regarding where the Cenotaph will be located once restoration work is complete. One proposal is to leave it in its current place, on the 1836 Battlefield. Another is to relocate it to just outside where the Alamo’s south gate once stood. This would increase its prominence and help create the sense of arrival that the Alamo currently lacks, while also restoring more of the 1836 Battlefield. Another idea is to relocate the Cenotaph to the location of one of the funeral pyres, which would properly honor the location where the Defenders’ bodies were burned. Evidence indicates that two of the funeral pyres were located near the Riverwalk and Saint Joseph Catholic Church on Commerce Street, and the third was some distance east of the Alamo’s church. While the City of San Antonio has made no final decision on the Cenotaph’s future location, what is certain is the monument will be repaired, and it will always stand to honor the Alamo Defenders.

WHERE DID THE STATE AND NATIONAL FLAGS, BATTLE ARTIFACTS, PLAQUES GO? add

They are where they have been for decades. Some items were temporarily moved to allow historic preservation work to be done on the walls. As work is completed, the items have been returned.

WILL BATTLE ARTIFACTS BE CONFINED TO A BASEMENT? add

No. The Master Plan proposes a 100,000+ square foot museum that will be home to hundreds of Alamo artifacts including the spectacular Phil Collins collection featuring David Crockett’s rifle and James Bowie’s knife. It will also include a theatre featuring a film about this beloved Texas site, the 13 Day Siege, and the Battle of 1836. The Battle of the Alamo is and will always be the heart of the story, as that moment defines the Alamo and Texas itself.

AREN’T YOU CREATING A “FREE SPEECH ZONE” TO RESTRICT WHERE CITIZENS CAN EXERCISE THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS add

No. The plan removes the current “free speech zone” from Alamo Plaza — in the heart of the 1836 Battlefield — to an area outside of where the walls once stood, further restoring dignity and reverence to this sacred ground.

Alamo Plaza Free Speech Zone

DOES THE UNITED NATIONS HAVE ANY ROLE IN THE MANAGEMENT OF THE ALAMO? add

No! Not now, not ever. The Alamo, along with four other Spanish-era missions in San Antonio, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. The effort to earn the designation spanned nine years, and was approved and supported by former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Download the letter signed by Commissioner Jerry Patterson. The UNESCO designation has nothing to do with management of the Alamo.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT THE ALAMO AND THE LONG BARRACK? add

The Alamo Church and Long Barrack are the only structures that survive from the 1836 battle. This year we will begin the process to preserve and protect them so that future generations can learn about the history of the Alamo, the 1836 Battle, and the history of Texas independence. The Alamo Church and Long Barrack are in desperate need of structural repair. More than 300 years of heat, rain, and elements have taken a toll.

WHO MANAGES THE ALAMO? WHAT ABOUT TRANSPARENCY? add

The Texas Legislature and then-Gov. Rick Perry designated the Texas General Land Office the custodian of the Alamo in 2011. The GLO owns and manages the Alamo on behalf of the people of Texas. The GLO is a leader in abiding by all applicable laws concerning government transparency. All of the Alamo planning and preservation contracts have been with the GLO, and are posted on the agency’s website. The Alamo Endowment Board, first constituted in 2009 by then-Commissioner Patterson and then reconstituted in 2015 by Commissioner Bush, operates as a private 501(c)(3) and posts its financial records with GuideStar.com. GuideStar rates the Alamo Endowment Board as “Transparent.” Anyone can download GuideStar’s report at any time.