Archaeologists working in Alamo Plaza may have found part of the south wall of the original Alamo complex, they said at the daily 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
“We have uncovered something we are tentatively identifying as an architectural feature. We’ve got stone that has been placed in what appears to be a trench that would have been excavated,” Pape-Dawson Engineers Senior Archaeologist Nesta Anderson said. “Stone would have been dumped in on top of the trench, and then there would have been an adobe slurry that would have been poured in on top of that stone as kind of a footer.
“This is very typical Spanish-colonial construction. I’m not saying that we’ve got something Spanish-colonial just yet. We’ve got a little more exploration to do, but things are looking very interesting for us.”
Anderson said that the team has wrapped up exploration of the west wall area excavations and the they are now mapping the area to ensure that the team knows exactly where the deposits are spatially located.
“We’re also tying our mapping work into a land survey so that not only can we locate in space, for us as archaeologists, but also for the future as the master plan moves forward so that (the City) can figure out how they want to tie that in with what’s already here,” Anderson said.
The team will soon expand their search in the south wall area in an attempt to find additional evidence of architectural structures.
“We’ve got five units open and we’re opening a sixth and probably a seventh within the next few days. We’re going to be looking at how the stones we found are related to one another, and trying to find another edge to see if we indeed have a wall,” Anderson said. “This deposit that we’ve got is about a foot and a half to two feet below where we’re currently standing. We’re not clear yet whether we’re at the top of this deposit or whether we’re at the bottom. ”
Anderson said that it is possible that the feature announced today could be a part of the original complex entrance.
“It is possible that we have something associated with the (main) gate,” Anderson said, but she is not yet ready to confirm this theory. The team will conduct additional archival research to determine how the adobe bricks found last week in the west wall area relate to these south wall features.
“We’re really trying to figure out the relationship of these two features to one another, as well as to identify what we’ve got. We’re going to continue to work here next week as well. We’ll keep you updated as we discover more information and confirm things. For now, it’s an architectural feature.”
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who serves as Chairman of the Alamo Endowment Board and co-chair of the Alamo Master Plan Executive Committee with Mayor Ivy Taylor, attended the briefing and thanked the parties involved for their work on the Alamo Plaza Master Plan.
“I wanted to thank the hard work of everybody that’s a part of this effort. We have our master planner here, George Skarmeas, we have Gene Powell, who’s a member of our endowment, and we have other key community stakeholders here this morning to be a part of this process,” he said.
The team is working to make the process open to citizen input, Bush said, and that the plan remains true to the site’s diverse history.
“We really want this to be a public process,” Bush said. “Gene Powell, who is chairman of the Endowment board, has done a great job of holding public meetings to make sure that, as Texans, we listen to all voices as part of this effort, to folks of all backgrounds: Native American, Tejano, Hispanic, Anglo, you name it, so that we’re telling the complete story of the Alamo, beyond just the Battle of 1836.”
Bush reiterated his commitment to the project and reminded the crowd that the world is paying attention to the redevelopment of the Alamo Plaza.
“Y’all may know that this is my priority as the newly elected land commissioner. I felt that it was important in my first legislative session to make sure that we took care of the immediate structural integrity needs on the grounds of the Alamo, but to also reimagine the visitor’s experience,” Bush said. “This is the most visited site in entire state of Texas with 1.7 million visitors. And as Texans, when I visit with folks throughout the state, the country and the world, they tell me we need to do a better job. So, this is one step, an important step, in a long process.
“I want to thank our archaeological team for the painstaking and methodical approach that they are taking to make sure that we are precise and that we’re doing this right. As George Skarmeas, our master planner says, the rest of the world is looking to make sure that we do it right.”
The dig is in preparation for a multi-million dollar master plan for the Alamo Plaza that the City of San Antonio, the Texas General Land Office, and the Alamo Endowment are developing together. Preservation Design Partnership, a firm based out of Philadelphia, is leading the master plan design.
The project team hosted its first public input meeting Tuesday at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Representatives from each of the three organizations explained the project, heard citizen concerns, and answered questions.
Top image: Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush speaks about the continued development at Alamo Plaza. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.