The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959 Page: 50
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50 Southwestern Historical Quarterly
According to local folklore, while the walls of San Jos6 chapel
were built the interior was filled with dirt so that the stones could
be placed and the dome poured over the mound of dirt. When
the masonry was dry the Indians removed the dirt by hand and
with hand-shovels.1e Harvey P. Smith, the architect in charge of
the restoration of San Jose in the twentieth century, confirmed
the legend, although he admits there is no written evidence in
the records. He contends that the missions owned few tools and
that churches in Mexico were built in this manner.7 Another
student of architecture, Charles Mattoon Brooks, Jr., called the
tale hogwash, but he did so in a more refined manner. Brooks
thought that wooden sub-forms, like those used today in poured
concrete buildings, were probably used. He reminds the reader
that there was a similar story about the dome of Hadrian's tomb
in 135 A.D. At any rate, mission inventory lists show no dearth
of building tools as Architect Smith would suggest.'8
San Antonio proved to be a fortunate site for mission build-
ing as there was abundant rock for construction. Many of the
mission buildings were composed of tufa, a grey rock with cel-
lular structure which was found along the San Antonio River.
Most pieces were rough boulders which the builders often used
in their original form by chinking the cracks with splinters of rock
and coating the whole with plaster. Such structures can be seen
today at San Juan Capistrano. A limestone, called "Concepci6n
stone" was quarried near Concepci6n Mission. Concepci6n stone
possessed the remarkable quality of remaining soft after it was
removed from the ground so that sculptors could work it. The
stone did not split under a chisel and it was so soft that it could
take deep undercutting. After it was exposed to air for some hours,
it gradually hardened. Examples of limestone sculpture may be
found at Concepci6n and San Jos.x9
Other building materials included lime, metal, and wood. Most
1eSam and Bess Woolford, The San Antonio Story (San Antonio, 1950), 25.
'17bid., 25n; Ethel Wilson Harris, San Josd: Queen of the Missions (San Antonio,
18Brooks, Texas Missions, 143; see also "Texas Collection," Southwestern Historical
Quarterly, LXI, 308-3o9.
19Juan Agustin Morfi (Carlos E. Castafieda, trans.), History of Texas, 1673-r779
(2 vols.; Albuquerque, 1935), I, 96; Frederick C. Chabot (trans.), Excerpts from the
Memorias for the History of the Province of Texas (San Antonio, 1932), 59, 63-.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959, periodical, 1959; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101173/m1/68/: accessed August 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.