Restoring respect for battleground on Alamo Plaza

Building facing the Alamo Plaza were sold to the Texas General Land Office in October.
Building facing the Alamo Plaza were sold to the Texas General Land Office in October. For the Express-News

Believe it or not, Ripley’s was not always across the street from the Alamo.

The cheesy tourist attractions facing the state’s most historic shrine will not be moving anytime soon, but their days may be numbered.

After years of debate in San Antonio over whether the Alamo’s cramped downtown setting of bus stops and street vendors is itself part of the site’s cultural history, the state of Texas has bought three buildings across Alamo Plaza to eventually complete a plaza master plan.

Nothing has been decided yet about the future of the Woolworth, Palace and Crockett buildings on the west side of Alamo Plaza. Current leases remain in place for Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Guinness World Records, 3D Tomb Raider and various gift shops and tour stops.

But someday — depending what the people of San Antonio want — the buildings might be restricted or even moved as part of a master plan that will revere, if not restore, the original boundaries of the Alamo and the Mission San Antonio de Valero.

By the time Texas and the Alamo mark 200 years on March 6, 2036, the idea is to better preserve the original Alamo battleground and present the history of a Spanish colonial mission that became the flashpoint for a revolution.

The Texas Legislature has approved $31.5 million to start the project, including $25 million for the master plan. San Antonio has proposed $17 million in capital improvements.

The General Land Office announced the purchase of the buildings this week from Service Life and Casualty Insurance Co. of Austin, covering 98,557 square feet of space inside the original Alamo grounds.

Visitors today may not know that Lt. Col. William Barret Travis wrote his famous “victory or death” letter not inside the Alamo but across what has been a city street.

All three buildings are partly inside the original Alamo boundaries, along with several others surrounding the plaza. The Alamo and other Spanish missions in San Antonio have become UNESCO World Heritage sites, further setting the stage for restoration.

One of the new state buildings may eventually become the home for the Alamo memorabilia collection of rock musician Phil Collins. Collins agreed to donate more than 200 items to the state for a permanent museum and visitor center that must be underway by 2021.

Current Land Commissioner George P. Bush has promised to make the Alamo experience both more engaging and more educational.

This battleground should be hallowed ground for all Texans.