Texans sure like reading about Texas

Above: 2021 brought new ghost lore for Brackenridge Park.

In the end of the year push to publish An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and Yes She Shot Him Dead, I almost forgot the all-important round-up of your favorite posts from 2021. Most readers appear to favor stories about their hometowns, whether it is San Antonio (still Alamobsessive as ever) or Austin. Or maybe this represents a two-year confinement blip, where you are looking for comfort close to home and aren’t fully prepared to play boulevardier yet.

Continue reading “Texans sure like reading about Texas”

Biannual Roundup: Kind of like beating a dead horse

taxidermy horse nonvecento maurizio cattelan castello di rivoli

All one needs to do to drive up readership in San Antonio is mention the Alamo. The top three posts attracting attention to this blog during the past 12 months were all Alamobsessive.

Unfortunately, the main concern drawing you in, the fencing in of Alamo Plaza, is a horse already out of the barn. The city agreed to turn over San Antonio’s management to the State of Texas and allow them to corral it.

The next two were complaints about the Texas GLO’s non-reverential management of their new acquisition with its addition of a shiny red faux Alamo. Even those images have failed to spur any action; powers that be must be wearing blinders.

Welcome to the faux red Alamo plopped down in the middle of Alamo Plaza.

Sometimes it feels as though sharing concerns for Alamo Plaza is like beating a dead horse, but you apparently are interested in dead horses as well because fifth on the list of most-read posts this year was a postcard “to” San Antonio from Italy featuring an embalmed horse hung by artist Maurizio Cattelan in the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Rivoli.

Without further horsing around, the following list represents the posts you clicked most, with the numbers in parentheses representing rankings from six months ago:

  1. Alamo CEO applying armtwisting pressure to secure gated plaza, 2018 (1)
  2. Has Alamo Plaza fallen in the hands of ‘reverential’ caretakers, 2019
  3. How’s the GLO managing Alamo Plaza? Welcome to the faux Alamo, 2019
  4. King William Home Tour: Historic houses whisper stories of early residents, 2018 (4)
  5. Postcard from Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy: History with a horse hanging overhead (2019)
  6. Please put this song on Tony’s pony, and make it ride away, 2010 (6)
  7. The Madarasz murder mystery: Might Helen haunt Brackenridge Park?, 2012 (5)
  8. Street art entices venturing under the overpass, 2018 (7)

    detail of Marilyn Lanfear’s buttonwork, “Uncle Clarence’s Three Wives”
  9. Marilyn Lanfear buttons up a collection of family stories, 2018 (8)
  10. Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: ‘I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ 2019
  11. Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: Foods steeped in tradition, 2019
  12. Postcard from Genoa, Italy: Hey, don’t knock peanuts, 2018 (12)

street art in Oaxaca, Mexico

Thanks for putting up with my horse feathers, and please feel free to comment anytime.

The Alamo: I’ve never been much of a fan of crewcuts

In light of current discussions focusing on the fate of Alamo Plaza (read Express-News article), thought this Alamobsessive blogger would take a shortcut to an earlier “crewcut” post. Based on the article, sure am a fan of President Sue Ann’s stand on behalf of the San Antonio Conservation Society.

“How would you feel about the Alamo with a crewcut?’ was posted in August of 2011:

The treatment of the Alamo on the frontispiece of San Antonio, a 1913 “Descriptive View Book in Colors” – a birthday present from a friend – caught my eye with its unusually frank acknowledgement of the major alteration of the facade of the former Mission San Antonio de Valero.

The frontispiece of this booklet showed the Alamo with the added architectural frontispiece removed.

The distinguished curving outline of the facade has become a symbol not only of the battle that took place there in 1836, but of the city itself. The widely replicated outline, commercialized into many a business logo, is recognized worldwide.

But the distinctive parapet was not part of the original church built nearly 300 years ago; nor was it there during the famous battle in 1836.

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, the curvilinear addition is thought to have been the brainchild of an architect and builder by the name of John M. Friese, who designed the Menger Hotel next door to the Alamo a few years later. Friese’s client was the United States Army, which was renting the former mission from the Catholic Church. The project fell under the supervision of Major Edwin Burr Babbitt, assistant quartermaster for the post. According to the Handbook, Major Babbitt actually wanted to tear the Alamo down and erect a completely new building. General Thomas S. Jesup vetoed that idea, fortunately for today’s tourism industry, and the parapet was added in 1850 as part of the adaptation of the building for the Army’s needs.

Through the years, many changes have taken place on the plaza in front of the Alamo, the plaza that was enclosed by crumbling mission walls at the time of the battle.

A group has emerged with plans to recapture those grounds from the city that has encroached upon them. The Texas History Center at Alamo Plaza, Inc., has developed elaborate presentations for what it calls the Alamo Restoration Project.

The stated goal of this proposed project is:

to enhance the visitor’s pilgrimage to the “Cradle of Texas Liberty” by providing a historic atmosphere for personal reflection, inspiration, and learning. We encourage people to seek out their heritage, explore the rich and diverse history of the region, and immerse themselves with the texture of the past.

While this sounds noble on the surface, there are some who think the part of this site’s “heritage” and “diverse history” that is more important than a lost battle might be its much earlier role as a mission outpost.

Another major issue is the problem of a historic landmark built atop of the original western wall of the mission compound. The handsome Crockett Block, designed by architect Alfred Giles, was built only 30 years after the Army added the parapet to the Alamo. The project’s plan is to simply move the massive building, as The Fairmount was relocated in 1985.

What would be left would be a huge open footprint of the grounds at the time of the 1836 battle, but what I see is hot. There are just not many days of the year where people are going to want to stand in the middle of a treeless, shadeless plaza contemplating the battle. Five minutes in the middle of the plaza on a day like today would be more than enough to make one pray for the return of the raspa vendors.

To accomplish this restoration project would mean major battles with not just the Daughters of the Republic of Texas but also with the yellow-hatted ladies of the Battle of Flowers Association, whose parade has a strong historical connection to Alamo Plaza.

While there are pictures on the group’s website showing the Alamo without the added parapet, there is nothing written online that I see calling for its removal. But, to be true to the group’s goals, it obviously should be.

Calling attention to the need for better treatment and interpretation of our most famous tourist site is worthwhile, but stripping the area back to the battle era seems extreme.

And, would San Antonians ever be willing to let go of that distinctive frontispiece for an Alamo with a crewcut? If nothing else above were, those seem like fighting words to me.