Update on September 3: Oh my gosh! Some of the window-covering signage in the Crockett Block has disappeared. Is there some powerful new enforcer at work? Is there hope Shamu will be chased back to SeaWorld soon?
Originally, I added that optimistic update to the bottom of an older post, “Slip-Sliding Backwards on Alamo Plaza Signage.” I need no longer be Alamobsessive about the plaza, I thought. Other people care and are enforcing the regulations spelled out in the Unified Development Code.
Unfortunately, the Express-News’ Scott Huddleston quickly jerked the rug out from under me, suggesting I go back for a closer look.
Encountered the usual irritating distractions on the way, such as the banners and goods spilling out of the basement on the Commerce Street side of the Dullnig Building. One shop in the Dullnig still had sandwich boards outside on Alamo Street, but Best of Texas removed its sandwich boards, actually advertising sandwiches, from the sidewalk – only to suspend them illegally overhead now. Some of the “everything changes color in the sun” banners have indeed been removed from the Crockett Block, unfortunately leaving Alfred Giles name carved in stone next to a window full of boxes.
But what I really came to see was the replacement for the pop-up tent the Daughters of the Republic of Texas previously used to hawk their audio tours of the Alamo. Like the other hundred or so people on the plaza disappointed to find the grounds closed at 5:30, I had to be content to peer through the barred gateways. (An aside, but wouldn’t the Daughters be able to rake in more dollars from the sale of coonskin caps and snow globes if they kept the Alamo open later than 5 p.m. while the days are so long?)
A beautiful arcade leads from the Alamo to the library on the grounds. But… there it is. A tacky banner suspended from a cedar beam (the flag still waving “proudly from the walls” referenced by William Barrett Travis?) guides you right to the new tour store. A wall painted a depressing shade of brown now fills one the arches. A window permits rental of the audio tours with a shelf attached by some cheap metal hinges.
No one could accuse the Daughters of over-spending on this fine architectural addition to the hallowed grounds. The budget was extremely frugal according to their reports:
Estimated start up cost is $8,000 to be covered by Allies of the Alamo. The start up costs are: portable building to house equipment and sales, part-time, no benefits staff, four credit card machines, signage, cash register, air conditioner, and miscellaneous items such as stickers and printing.
The investment apparently is paying off:
…Tour Mates is now up and running. They had 201 customers on their second day of operation. It is in a good location and customers have had good comments. They are pleased with the charge. There is a sign that reads “Admission to The Alamo is FREE. Enhance your visit with a $6 audio tour.”
At this rate, the Daughters’ initial investment will be paid off in about a month.
Huddleston questioned the architectural merits of this low-budget addition in his online blog:
Since it’s on state property, the booth and the banner didn’t have to be presented for approval by the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission. If it did, I would hazard to speculate that the commission would allow the banner. But I think commissioners might say putting the wooden booth right up against the outside edge of the 1937 Arcade was “not respectful” to the historic structure.
It’s time for the Historic Design and Review Commission to call for reenforcements. Send a messenger to Austin to alert the Texas Historical Commission:
in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch.
February 24, 1836
Note Added on September 11:
“I don’t claim to be a historian, I’m just an English drummer who loves the Alamo.”
If only Phil Collins would rally the Texas Historical Commission. The commission devoted two full pages in The Medallion to Collins’ presentation on “his notable Alamo Collection.”
But where did he make his presentation? Dallas. How about a walking tour around the plaza?
I’ve issued a pitiful blog-plea before, Phil, but, please, “come to our aid, with all dispatch.”
Note Added on October 28: Please join me in submitting the audio rental booth addition to the Centennial Arcade at the Alamo to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Yikes’ postings of inartistic alterations to historic structures.
Note Added on December 20: News from London is that Phil Collins himself might try to broker peace at the Alamo. Sounds dangerous for someone Rolling Stone describes as having suicidal thoughts. But maybe he can summon up the heroism from whoever he was at the Alamo in a former life:
Collins has noticed glowing, semitransparent light orbs in a series of photos he took at the Alamo. “It’s paranormal energy,” he explains, noting that a psychic recently told him he fought at the fort in a previous lifetime. “I don’t want to sound like a weirdo. I’m not Shirley MacLaine, but I’m prepared to believe. You’ve seen the pictures. You can’t deny them, so therefore it’s possible that I was there in another life.”