The Church, or “Shrine”
Although originally a Spanish mission era church (1755-1793), the building has become the most recognizable structureon the grounds. While some traces of its role in the epic 1836 Battle of the Alamo still exist, changes to the structure reflect its later role as a U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot warehouse and eventually a memorial to Alamo defenders.
The area directly in front of the Shrine, was originally bordered to the north by the south wall of the convento and to the west by a portion of the compound walls, and served as a cemetery or “campo santo” during the mission period. During General Cos's fortification of the Alamo site in 1835, this area was completely enclosed by the addition of the cedar palisade (Crockett's palisade) and fosse that stretched from the southwest corner of the church to the south wall of the compound.
After the U.S. Army occupation of the Alamo, this area was incorporated into Alamo Plaza, and later used as street space in front of the Shrine. In 1935, as part of the beautification project of Alamo Park, it was paved with flagstone and the rectangular lawn created. As mentioned before, the old street bed was filled and a new street in front of the Shrine was paved with asphalt.
During its original construction, the walls of the church were never completed, however, the 1772 inventory describes them as being at least as high as the spring line of the stone vault ribs, which were described as being in place. The 1849 Captain Seth Eastman drawing depicts the east, apse wall of the building as somewhat lower than the other walls. A ramp of earth was piled against the inside of this wall in order to place a cannon at that location.
When the U.S. Army occupied the site as a quartermaster's depot, the walls were made level all around in order to accommodate the installation of a roof. At this time, stones were added to the façade to bring the walls on each side of the center section up to level, and to raise the height of the center section to receive the gable end of the roof. Since the west end of the roof was hipped, not requiring this treatment, one must assume that there was more than a practical reason for this modification. The profile of the building, as a result of this rounded cresting, has become an iconic symbol of the quest of freedom. The Army also added windows along the north, east, and south walls.
When the Army occupation roof was replaced with a concrete barrel vault in 1921, sections of concrete with a rough pebble surface were added to the tops of the walls to create parapets.
In 1772, the Inventory of the Mission San Antonio de Valero, in the description of the progress of construction, noted that the roof had not yet been constructed and only the stone ribs for the barrel vault were in place. An 1847 drawing of the nave of the church by Edward Everett depicts only the spring lines of the ribs remaining.
When the building was occupied by the U.S. Army Quartermasters Corps as a depot, its first roof, wood framed, gabled, with a hip at the apse, was installed, prompting the famous silhouette of the upper facade of the church to be installed to terminate the west end of the gable.
In 1921, the present concrete barrel-vaulted roof was installed by the DRT. The architect for this construction was Alfred Giles.
In 1996, the existing flat seamed lead-coated copper roof over the north rooms was replaced with a similar roof, attached directly to the concrete deck.
Originally constructed as a two story convento, this building served as the quarters and offices of the Spanish missionaries. In the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, many members of the Alamo's garrison withdrew into this building where they made a last stand against Santa Anna's soldiers. Over the years, the building's limestone walls have undergone many changes. The U.S. Army installed a gable roof on the building during the occupation, starting in the late 1840s, as well as adding exterior stairways to the upper floors.
In the 1880s, when the walls of the convento were incorporated into the Grenet Store, which later became the Hugo Schmeltzer Store, they were apparently modified. Most of the store was constructed of wood, and a historic photograph shows the interior walls were wood. No stone arches are visible in the photo of the courtyard, except the flattened arch over the main gate, which is part of the outside wall, so it is possible that some of the convento was demolished at the time of the construction of the store.
The upper portion of the remaining exterior wall was torn down in 1913, during a debate over the interpretation of the Alamo. The existing walls are rubble masonry, approximately 2 inches thick, one story high. There are arched and rectangular openings on the west facade, some with scored mortar joints indicating that the openings, now windows, were once doorways.
Because the west wall is original and the two inner walls were reconstructed between 1913 and 1916, it can be assumed that the walls all bear directly on the ground. A recent archaeological investigation at the southwest corner of the building confirmed that the inner wall is constructed on the historic foundation.
The stones in the north end of the building include some large, square-cut stones that appear consistent with masonry of the 19th century. These stones are similar to those in a 1912 photo of this section of the wall after the store was demolished. The precise tooling of the stones in this area seems to indicate they framed a large window or raised opening associated with the store.
The tops of the walls are capped with a cement wash. Courtyard walls inside the portico have wooden lintels over the doorways.
Gift Shop (Centennial Museum)
Often mistaken as part of the original Alamo compound, the building housing the Alamo Gift Shop was built in 1937 as one of nine Texas Centennial Museums honoring the hundredth anniversary of Texas independence. Dedicated in 1938, the Alamo Museum held historic artifacts until the Daughters of the Republic of Texas decided to also use the space to sell souvenirs in order to raise money for care of the mission.
Today, the building houses the Alamo Gift Shop and was entirely renovated in 2012.
Built in 1922 as Fire Station #2, the city deeded this building to the State of Texas on November 4, 1937. The building’s second floor was removed and further modified to accommodate the needs of the DRT at the time.
Currently, Alamo Hall is available to rent as an event venue.
This structure appeared on the Alamo grounds in the early 1930s during the era of the Works Projects Administration. The WPA was a federal program charged with two tasks: (1) promoting construction projects as a mean of putting people back to work, and (2) beautifying parks, fair grounds, and historic sites. The work of the WPA can still be seen all over Texas.
Alamo Research Center
This 1950 structure, formerly known as the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, houses and exhibits the Alamo’s collection of artifacts, documents, books and photographs pertaining to Alamo history as well as the history of early San Antonio and Texas. The ARC is currently closed pending repairs and improvements.