The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988 Page: 404
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
sciousness by the media of popular culture. Visual evidence is particu-
larly important in studying the divergence of these three landscapes,
which began almost immediately after the conclusion of the famous
battle. In 1836 the physical landscape of the Alamo covered an ap-
proximately three-acre tract on the outskirts of San Antonio de Bexar.
Today that same site lies in the heart of downtown, with the Alamo
Plaza, Cenotaph, and part of the Federal Building occupying what was
once the main compound, where much of the hand-to-hand fighting
took place. The storefronts of Alamo Street mark the site of the old
west wall and its attached Indian dwellings. Most of the present-day
grounds, extending to the east of the church, were not part of the origi-
nal mission compound.
The metamorphosis of the physical landscape from the historic to
the modern began with the damage inflicted by the battle itself and ac-
celerated only a few weeks later, when retreating Mexican forces set
fires to destroy any remaining defenses. The following decade, U.S.
Army troops occupied the partially abandoned ruins and renovated
several buildings, including the church and the two-story main build-
ing, or convento. The most memorable of the army's renovations was
the addition, about 1850, of a roof and curved parapet to the old
church, thus transforming the unfinished and half-ruined citadel of
the Revolution. Functionally, the old church became a secular building,
engulfed by the army's bustling supply depot. As one visitor lamented,
"Its wall is overthrown and removed, its dormitories are piled with mili-
tary stores, its battle-scarred front has been revamped and repainted,
and market carts roll to and fro on the spot where the flames ascended
... over the funeral pyre of heroes."'
Although design sources, contractors, and other aspects of the para-
pet's construction remain tantalizingly obscure, there can be no ques-
tion that this addition had important symbolic effects, visually trans-
forming the old church into a distinctive architectural composition.
Significantly, the army's mid-nineteenth-century parapet was quickly
adopted into popular imagery of the Alamo, appearing after the 187os
in many illustrations of the battle. The parapet, quickly and easily rec-
ognizable, served to identify the fighting without the need for addi-
tional visual cues, such as uniforms or flags. By 1905, when the Daugh-
ters of the Republic of Texas acquired permanent custody of both
'Harriet P. Spoflord, "San Antonio de Bexar," Harper's New Monthly Magazmne, LV (Nov.,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988, periodical, 1987/1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/m1/476/: accessed November 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.