MAP OF SAN
Courtesy of National Park Service
REBIRTH, RENEWAL (continued from page 5)
to the Church structure, in which worship would continue. This would remain
as the basic tenet of all the subsequent efforts of restoration of the Missions.
Between 1947 and 1952, the great work of restoration at San Jos6 was
completed by Archbishop Robert E. Lucey. The mutilated statues on the
facade were repaired and replaced, two arches of the Convento were reconstructed,
an altar of hand-carved stone placed in the sanctuary, the Church
building was reinforced and the famous "Rose Window" rejointed and
waterproofed - all financed by the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
In 1956 Archbishop Lucey wanted to show off his Missions to some
visiting prelates but he got lost. He enlisted the aid of the Chamber of
Commerce and the Mission Road Committee. Acting as a catalyst, the
Chamber group rounded up Conservationists, City officials, officers of the
new San Antonio River Authority, the Texas Department of Parks and
Wildlife, architects, planners and engineers, and citizens conscious of the
importance of the Missions.
By 1962, a Mission Parkway Plan had been developed and in 1964 the
voters of San Antonio passed a $125,000 bond issue providing funds to
purchase land for a scenic route linking the Missions. That same year, the
National Park Service began a study of the Missions of San Antonio with the
idea of developing a National Parkway.
"A Proposal for a Parkway to Memorialize the Historical Significance
of the Missions of San Antonio" was published in 1966 by the Park Service
which determined too much deterioration had been allowed to occur in the
Mission neighborhoods to make a National Parkway feasible, but helpfully
suggested the City might get the job done under less stringent bureaucratic
requirements. This the City proceeded to do. Its Planning Department drew
up acceptable plans and secured a 50/50 matching grant from the Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Two bond issues totalling
$375,000 provided the local portion, one being the $125,000 authorized in
1964, the remaining $250,000 voted in 1970. The Parkway was developed to
run closer to the River, opening up new, more compatible vistas, and
creating a four-mile-long linear park along the river for the city's southside.
The tempo of restoration began to accelerate. Though still limited in
funds, the Church increased its commitment to preserve the historic chapels
and churches of the Missions while continuing to shoulder the full burden of
maintenance and repair at Concepci6n, Espada and San Juan. The Conservation
Society, the Chamber, the City and others began to push for public
awareness and support of the Missions.
Finally in 1975, with Congressional interest already aroused, the City of
San Antonio published its monumental study "Missiones de Tejas, A Proposal
for the Old Spanish Missions National Park." Later that same year, the
Park Service responded with its Feasibility Study, "Proposed San Antonio
Missions National Historical Park".
On May 27, 1976, United States Congressman Abraham Kazen introduced
H.R. 14064 in the House of Representatives, "A Bill to authorize the
establishment of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park."
The Bill was passed in 1978 with the aid of Senator Lloyd Bentsen and
signed into Law by President Carter and San Antonio had its National Park.
But there was no funding provided for restoration and the White House
specifically exempted all Church owned and operated property at the Missions
from any future Federal funding on the grounds of the doctrine of
Separation of Church and State. But this had been anticipated. Both the
Church and many of the others involved had feared that the ponderous
funding procedures of the Federal government would not make adequate
funds immediately available for the most pressing needs - routine repair and
maintenance and most important, emergency repair.
The Old Spanish Missions Advisory Board was established to work with
the National Parks Service, and the Bexar County Historical Foundation, a
non-sectarian State-chartered private corporation, was set up to provide funds
for restoration. Starting in 1981 with an initial grant of $250,000 from the
Moody Foundation, the Bexar County Historical Foundation has provided
$386,000 for repair and reconstruction of the Sacristry at San Jose, the Bell
Tower at Capistrano and other strictly Church operated portions of the
This need will continue. While Federal funding has been provided for
many valuable programs of the National Park Service and repair and maintenance
of those extensive portions of the various Missions now owned and
operated by the Park Service, the burden of restoration and repair of the
Churches still lies upon the Church itself, but it is a burden that for the best of
reasons should and can be shared by every citizen of Texas. For they are the
heritage of every Texan.
William Comer said it best: "There is nothing of the kind of equal
interest on the continent."
BEXAR COUNTY HISTORICAL FOUNDATION
San Antonio Bank & Trust Building, Suite 535 711 Navarro St. San Antonio, Texas 78205
_ . I I I
Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Fall 1983. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45449/. Accessed September 1, 2015.