Historical hostility

Another battle over the Alamo erupts between Texas heavyweights

Another battle over the Alamo erupts between Texas heavyweights

The Emily Morgan Hotel and the Alamo san antonio
The Alamo is the site of a political row between two Texas politicos.  Photo courtesy of The Emily Morgan Hotel

Another battle is brewing at the Alamo — this time pitting two high-profile state officials against each other over the iconic San Antonio site.

On March 5, one day before the 184th anniversary of the end of the momentous Battle of the Alamo, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick attacked Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush (a member of the Bush political dynasty) over the Alamo restoration project. Bush’s office is overseeing the $450 million renovation, which aims to revitalize one of San Antonio’s top tourist attractions.

Patrick’s latest jab adds fuel to a simmering feud between Bush and his critics (most notably the lieutenant governor) over the project.

In a news release, Patrick says “the design, planning, and execution of the project is badly off track.” Highlights of the restoration include restoring the site's church and long barracks, and establishing a visitor center. 

“I have seen two architectural renderings so far, including the latest one a few weeks ago, and neither are anything close to what the people of Texas are expecting,” the lieutenant governor says. “The latest looks like a massive urban park with hundreds of trees — more like Central Park in New York City than Alamo Plaza. We have wasted significant public dollars on designs which most Texans would immediately reject.”

Patrick says that if the Bush-led Texas General Land Office can’t handle the Alamo restoration project — “and to date it does not appear it can” — he’ll recommend that another entity oversee it.

“We simply must get the Alamo preservation project right, because what we do now will be with us forever,” the lieutenant governor says.

Patrick says he expects the 15-member Texas Historical Commission to address “several Alamo issues” at its March 24-25 meeting in Houston. During the meeting, commissioners are expected to discuss the controversial proposed move of the Alamo Cenotaph, a monument that honors the Alamo’s 189 known defenders. The lieutenant governor is not a member of the commission.

Among the issues Patrick has with the project, as it’s laid out now, are that it fails to adequately:

  • Highlight the Battle of the Alamo. The primary focus of the project should be the battle, he says, not the history of Spanish settlement in Texas.
  • Depict the fort as it looked in 1836, when the Battle of the Alamo took place.
  • Incorporate a visitor center. Patrick says the center “must complement the Alamo in design and not overwhelm it.”
  • Spotlight the Alamo Cenotaph. The monument shouldn’t be moved from its current location, Patrick says, but the current restoration plan calls for it to be shifted to a spot several hundred feet away.

“Nothing defines the independent and the courageous spirit of Texas more than our iconic Alamo and, like most Texans, I treasure it,” Patrick says. “The history of the Alamo is a personal passion of mine. I do not intend to sit quietly and see this project fail.”

In a statement, Karina Erickson, communications director for the General Land Office, says that the agency appreciates Patrick’s input and notes that the Alamo master plan already includes the lieutenant governor’s “many great ideas.” Ultimately, she says, the plan strives to replicate the Alamo church’s and battleground’s appearance in the 1830s.

As the first phase of the plan moves ahead, “Commissioner Bush will continue to demand that the focal point” of the project be the Battle of the Alamo and the role of the Alamo’s defenders, Erickson says.

“Our mission is simple — work to ensure that the Alamo is remembered by Texans and students of liberty across the world as a sacred ground where the ultimate price was paid for a single idea: liberty over tyranny,” she says.