Oft-criticized for its failure to curb commercialism on Alamo Plaza, the City of San Antonio turned management of the historic city park over to the Texas General Land Office.
Millions of people presumably have passed through there since then, and the first thing most see is a caboose red, shiny metal, faux Alamo Welcome Center – there in the middle of the plaza where there used to be a small table stand with an umbrella shading a vendor of icy cold raspas. It was 99 degrees when I was there, and I definitely would have found a snow cone more welcoming.
Anyway, visitors’ first glimpse of the distinctive Alamo-shaped parapet is on this booth. Why? Well, that’s obvious. It’s shiny red, and the Alamo, with its ancient limestone walls pales by comparison. The Alamo might be free, but the Alamo prefers you to pay for headsets or tours. It requires the bold red to make sure you do not miss the opportunity.
While the General Land Office deems the stately Cenotaph nearby as inappropriate for the battlefield site, the powers that be evidently consider this carnivalesque booth a perfect fit.
In case you somehow manage to miss the warm welcome this booth extends to you, there are other signs strategically placed around the plaza. And there is the opportunity to purchase a photo taken right up close by the Alamo door.
But the appropriateness of the tenant mix and their appearance on the west side of Alamo Plaza was top among the complaints aired by many, and supposedly the state solved that with the General Land Office’s purchase of a row of historical buildings there. A new Alamo Museum is envisioned for the area.
In the meantime, millions of visitors pass by. Strangely, among the most flagrant violators of the sign ordinance governing the Alamo Plaza Historic District is the Official San Antonio Visitor Center, with flamboyant advertisements completely covering one of its windows, and the Del Sol Color Change shop located next door to the Official The Alamo Store. The GLO evidently is not able to request its tenants abide by tasteful signage regulations.
But, hey, one can never have too many signs addressing Alamo Plaza. So both the San Antonio Visitor Information Center and the Official The Alamo Store plop illegal signage boards right in the middle of the sidewalk.
As a final update to how the Texas General Land Office is managing one of San Antonio’s most treasured plazas, there is a mysterious Christo-like treatment between the Alamo Chapel and the Menger. I peeked in and could determine no function, but it does arouse one’s curiosity.
Welcome to the improved (?) version of Alamo Plaza.