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Alamo Church & Long Barrack

In early 2019, the Alamo Long Barrack was temporarily closed so that much-needed preservation work could be conducted.

A few aspects of this preservation work include assessing the condition of the structure’s walls and the ground beneath it through archeological excavations. In addition, the preservationists and archaeologists worked to locate the foundation of the Alamo Long Barrack and discovered many artifacts and surprising revelations about the history of the building along the way.

One of the most fascinating discoveries in the Long Barrack was the 20-layer flooring sequence. This, along with the sediment captured between the flooring, provided new information to the archaeologists as to how the rooms were once used and insight into the various time periods in which the Long Barrack served several purposes.

The first example of a mission period surface appears 3 feet below the current surface. This information helps archaeologists better understand how much build-up occurred within the interior of the structure since it was first constructed in 1727. 

Interestingly, 20th century disturbances were also documented, including a concrete air conditioning pad and a pipe in the Long Barrack’s north wall. When these utilities were installed, crucial foundation stones were removed which compromised the structural integrity of the wall. Our team conducted emergency stabilization efforts. This new knowledge of disturbance is essential in understanding the changes that occurred at the Alamo over the years. These disturbances previously had very little, if any documentation. 

Just like every other building, the Alamo is subject to the toll of time, and time is not always friendly. Harsh weather, changing groundwater levels, moisture in the underlying soils, and manmade factors such as the installation of utility lines beneath the entire Alamo Complex, have slowly chipped at the structural integrity of the iconic structure.

Long Barrack:

Archaeologist taking elevation measurements from a datum string-line
Archaeologist taking elevation measurements from a datum string-line.
Archaeologists mapping the stones of the foundation.
Archaeologists mapping the stones of the foundation.
Photograph of the profile of the north wall.
Photograph of the profile of the north wall. Note floor layers on right and builder’s trench on left.
Project Archaeologist, Rhiana Ward, inspecting stones at 1.7 meters below the surface.
Project Archaeologist, Rhiana Ward, inspecting stones at 1.7 meters below the surface.

Prior to recent excavations, very little was known about the Church foundation. 

Archaeologists have since been able to locate the base of the foundation and began to document the entire span of construction in the Alamo Church, from the Spanish Colonial foundation to the modern concrete roof. In the process, many exciting and important artifacts were uncovered.

Eight different strategically chosen sites were excavated in and around the Alamo Church. One site, located on the exterior of the south wall of the Church, revealed the presence of previously unknown utilities that may date to the 1930s to 1960s. This new information is vital information for archaeologists to document so that they can ensure proper preservation.

Archaeologists also uncovered two prepared surfaces, both of compacted caliche, rock, which could represent foundations for additional structures. These are interesting finds, as they may date to the use of the site as a fort, or as far back the late mission period. 

In 1995, archaeologists from the Center for Archaeological Research at UTSA excavated approximately 50 to 60 cm below the surface at the south wall of the Church so historic architects could install a metal plate with the goal of reducing moisture. In 2019, our preservation team specifically chose to place excavation units on the exterior of the south transept of the Church to examine the moisture conditions below ground that are affected by the metal plate. Excavations revealed that the plate may have unknowingly done more damage than good. Archaeologists also encountered remnants of a possible prepared surface of caliche in this location.  Archaeologists also uncovered additional artifacts consisting of the early colonial materials dating from 1724 to the mid-1700s.

Alamo Church:

Completed excavation of Unit 19, located in the doorway of the Church. Foundation stones exposed.
Completed excavation of Unit 19, located in the doorway of the Church. Foundation stones exposed.
Completed excavation of Unit 19, located in the doorway of the Church. Foundation stones exposed.
Excavations in Unit 8 have further exposed the perpendicular stone alignments as well as a caliche surface.
Documentation of the north wall of the Church in Unit 7. The one archaeologist is sitting on top of the bedrock that underlays the foundation.
Documentation of the north wall of the Church in Unit 7. The one archaeologist is sitting on top of the bedrock that underlays the foundation.