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How the Alamo Came to Be Described as a Peaceful Mission

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The Alamo began in 1718 as a peaceful mission. 1718 is a year that the City of San Antonio calls it’s founding date. The Alamo was originally called Mission San Antonio de Valero. The Alamo was in the center of The El Camino Real. In 1691 officials, solders, and friars went on a Spanish expedition who were first to stumble on the area. They named the land and the local river San Antonio de Padua because they made their discovery on that saint’s dayMission San Antonio de Valero was sectioned off 1793. It functioned as a mission and a place of worship. The buildings were ideal headquarters for the Spanish troops assigned to defend the people in San Antonio. One of the troops put at the old Mission San Antonio de Valero came from a town in Mexico named The Flying Company of San Jos y Santiago del Alamo de Parras. The old mission now had a new nickname, the Alamo, which means “cottonwood tree” in Spanish. The Alamo had excellent housing and water supply thanks to an acequia. The Alamo wasn’t designed to be a fortress, it had many flaws. It didn’t have a roof in some places. It only had a roof in such places as where they kept their ammunition or where they slept. Mexican General Mart Perfecto de C s used the Alamo as his headquarters all through 1835.Colonel Jos Juan Andrade and a thousand of Santa Anna’s force had been left in charge of the Alamo. Andrade destroyed single standing walls, and defenses. This included the palisade wall between the church and low barracks, and the curtain walls on the south, west, and northeastern portions of the compound. These efforts, and the damage received during the battle, left the entire complex little more than ruins. As long as ten years after The Battle of 1836, the Alamo church lay strangled with debris of stones, mortar and dirt, causing an embankment from the base to the top. In 1841 Samuel A. Maverick had bought both of the Losoya suertes from their King, Mariano Romano, and divided the area into town lots as “Alamo City.” Maverick relocated his residence from Main Plaza to the northwest corner of the compound some years later. In 1849, the army, under command of Brevet Major E. B. Babbitt, leased the Alamo church and convent from the Catholic Church to use as storehouses, offices, etc. The church walls were repaired and the distinctive drawings, designed by local architect John Fries, was added to create the image that has become recognized as “the Alamo” to cover up the old triangular roof that was looked upon as “ugly.” The question of ownership of the building prompted the counsel to let Major Babbitt know that, said property is, and of right might be, the property of said city of San Antonio and all rents and dues for the use of said building and property will be required to be paid by the acting Quartermaster into the treasury of the city.

Bishop Odin leased the church to the army at the rate of $150.00 per month, based upon the Act of the Republic of Texas of 1841, which stated that former church property should belong to the church. Army personnel began extensive repairs to the old structures, installing a second floor deck for storage of supplies. The convent was not renovated until after 1850, but by 1853, the entire convent and church complex were in use as workshops, stables, storehouses, rooms, and offices. The plaza was now the center of military commerce and the sole shipment point for the Western chain of frontier forts. Few remnants of the compound had been converted into jackals and thatched-roof huts, which retained little indication of their origin. Early on during The Confederacy’s possession of the Alamo, two young boys smoking in church set fire to loose straw, resulting in a fire which gutted the interior. The fire destroyed the wooden roof and the second floor, a portion of the front wall collapsed, and the entire building had to be repaired.Wilhelm Carl August Thielepape, appointed mayor in 1867, had his house on the present grounds of the Alamo, directly behind the library and Alamo Hall. Efforts to improve the condition of the city were to move the galera building, which originally formed the structure at the south wall. Efforts to clear the ruins were halted by the Catholic Church who still owned the property. The issue was decided in 1871, when the city purchased the galera property from the church for $2,500. The warranty deed carried this restriction, “… it being understood that the property hereby conveyed is so conveyed on condition that it shall be dedicated to the public use as an open space and to be made a part of and one with the plazas above and below it, now known as the Alamo Plaza and the Plaza de Valero.”

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