Fran & I had nothing planned Monday the 29th until late afternoon. Casting about for things to do in Austin she told me she had never seen the Alamo. That decision made we left our hotel somewhere after 9 am to avoid some of the rush hour traffic and off we went to San Antonio over 80 miles away. We got there about 10:30 – 11:00 am. The day was clear and bright with not a cloud in the sky.
Following the signs from I-35 we suddenly found ourselves on the north side of the modern day Alamo Plaza. Making a right at the U.S. Courthouse building we immediately found a parking lot for $10.00.
At the parking lot on the sidewalk I found this reminiscence of old technology, a pay phone! I even think it was operational. I held the receiver to my ear and heard a dial tone!
A short block away is the Alamo Plaza in the center of town. At one point I shot 6 photos to make a 360 degree panorama. Here it is.
I am standing in the plaza, which was within the compound in 1836 and where a lot of the fighting took place. Into the photo at the left is a string of stores and commercial buildings. These are roughly along the western defensive wall of the fort.
The building at center way behind the tree is the U.S. Courthouse & Post Office building. The northern defensive wall ran through the property now occupied by this building, and through the hotel next to it at the right. Lt. Col. William B. Travis fell somewhere along the northern wall.
The low wall with the arched windows is part of the original Alamo structure, although it is probably rebuilt since. It encloses the old Convent Courtyard and part of the Cavalry Courtyard. The wall makes a 90 degree angle heading east where the famous façade of the Alamo is itself. A U.S. Flag flies to the left of the façade as we face it.
Not too far from the mission to the south a defensive wall ran east-west. Beyond that, and not too far away is the theme structure of the 1968 Hemisfair, the Tower of the Americas. The 1968 Hemisfair was officially designated a World’s Fair.
Fran is in this panorama somewhere. Can any of you find her?
Inside the plaza is the Texas Cenotaph, a cemetery memorial to a person or persons whose remains are elsewhere. This cenotaph is to the many defenders of the Alamo and bears the names of the Texans who are known to have fallen there. Mexican General Santa Ana had the bodies of the defenders burned so their graves do not exist. The Cenotaph was placed on the centenary of the uprising in 1936 and is named “The Spirit of Sacrifice”.
The 5th & 6th photos are with the Fish Eye lens. Photo 5 is especially interesting, at least to me. The electrical line at upper right is about 6 feet behind me and 15 feet in the air! It could have been cropped out, but at the risk of a less interesting story.
The Alamo is owned by the State of Texas and operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). Anyone wearing a hat upon entering is asked to remove it as a sign of respect to the shrine. This tradition dates to 1913 when the DRT first placed a sign at the entrance asking for hat removal.
The Alamo does not allow photographs on the inside. The site gets over 2.5 million visitors a year. Some statistics mention even more so the request is not strange. The old church is museum and a shrine, but photos seem to be allowed outside of the buildings.
A frequently asked question (FAQ) page is on the Alamo website at http://www.thealamo.org/visitors/faq.php. The page is very informative and useful.
Along the entry way wall to the north are two plaques commemorating Masons. The first plaque is really the second you see as you walk toward the mission, but it antedates the second plaque which memorializes those Masons who died defending the Alamo from the Mexican Army. I shot these for Sam and any other Masons reading this.
As you approach the mission photos are inevitable. Here are a couple.
Admission to the Alamo is free. Just outside they do rent an audio tape machine for those interested and shoot a photo a la a cruise boat to commemorate your visit. We declined both offers.
We walked through the chapel & at one point talked with a docent who was very informative. Then we walked outside to the garden area out back.
There are many places worldwide where extreme real life dramas have taken place. Long after the actual events have past many of these places have become popular tourist sites. Some of my earlier posts include places where these dramas took place either briefly or over time, or became otherwise memorialized. These include Flossenberg Concentration Camp, Ft. Pulaski, various military memorials, Ft. Macon, N.C., The U.S.S. Midway and others. The Alamo is no less interesting and no less compelling, although it tends to be more modest in its presentation and current form.
Much has been made in general of the sacrifice and slaughter at the Alamo. I feel a few things should additionally be said.
First – The Texian or Texican defenders were in rebellion against the existing national government. If you are interested in the roots of the rebellion there are thousands of written words elsewhere. I am not making any judgment here except to remind people it was a rebellion. The defenders are remembered both because the Texan Army was ultimately successful, and because their creation, Texas, became such an important part of the United States.
Second – It should not be forgotten that the fallen defenders were of many different European and American backgrounds. The list includes Tejanos or Texans of Spanish or Mexican blood, Americans, mostly from other southern states, and Europeans from the British Isles, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, parts of Scandinavia and Czechs from the old Austro-Hungarian empire. There were possibly descendants of the original native Americans of the area who died in the siege.
Third – It would not surprise me if most people are only familiar with the Alamo through Hollywood movies. This is not the way to learn history. Movies are brief from necessity to keep the viewers attention. A movie requires a solid conclusion, be it tragic, dramatic, uplifting, happy or otherwise. If not they won’t do well at the box office.
If movies whet your appetite for real history then that is great. If your idea of history is to learn it from a movie then you might as well look out of a window and drool into your shoe.
Enough of the soapbox. Once we had toured the interior of the shrine Fran & I walked out back. Along the north side against E. Houston St. is a memorial stone. It has an inscription that seems to be disappearing with time. I didn’t see a plaque nearby, but along the wall are the 6 flags of the powers that have claimed governmental rights to all or part of Texas over the last few hundred years. These are from right to left the flags of Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The Confederate States of America, and The United States of America.
There is now a gift shop building standing just north of the old mission. Part of the gift shop faces the old Convent Courtyard, the Long Barracks, & the Cavalry Courtyard. In this area are many great displays. This particular illustration caught my eye and is shown here. It is an artist’s rendition of the final battle of the Alamo, dawn on the morning of March 6, 1836.
My next post will be miscellaneous shots of Oklahoma & the panhandle of Texas from October 31, 2012.