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Locals protest relocation of Alamo cenotaph

By Bev Barr BCC Editor

Photo by Ray Carter
Several hundred people showed up to protest plans to move the Cenotaph from its current location at the Alamo. Above a speaker from Texas Freedom Force captivates the crowd. The relocation of the Cenotaph, or "empty tomb," is one detail of a master plan to "Reimagine the Alamo." Broad concepts of the master plan are available for the public to view online at www.thealamo.org/alamomasterplan/index.html.

At least six residents from Bandera joined hundreds of others at a peaceful rally at the Alamo on Oct. 14, to protest the proposed relocation of the Cenotaph. Several heritage organizations were represented at the event, including Texas Freedom Force and the Alamo Defenders Descendents Association (ADDA). Speakers included Rick Range from Save the Alamo, Lee White, the founder of ADDA, and Brandon Burkheart from Texas Freedom Force.
Relocating the Cenotaph is one of hundreds — if not thousands — of details being considered in a master plan to Reimagine Alamo Plaza. And it’s a detail that is causing a lot of confusion and anger, especially among direct descendents of those who fought in the Battle of the Alamo.
Alamo Plaza, which would have been part of the 1836 battlefield, is a little less than four acres now. The Reimagine Alamo Plaza proposal would create a public space of close to 10 acres. The plan is public record, but not posted online. According to public relations personnel at the Alamo, the full plan will approach 15,000 pages.
None of the details about the master plan are finalized at this stage in the plan, but the broad concepts about how the space could be used in the future can be seen online at www.thealamo.org/alamomasterplan/index.html.
Master Plan Priorities:
• Preserving the Alamo Church and Long Barrack
• Removing the entertainment attractions from the battlefield
• Closing Alamo Street
• Creating a 10,000-plus square-foot Alamo museum that will be home to the world’s largest exhibit on the Texas Revolution and include hundreds of Alamo artifacts
• Restoring and preserving the Alamo Cenotaph and possibly relocating it to another location
But for some, the possibility of moving the Cenotaph —which means empty tomb — is heresy.
“My family is buried there,” said Ray Carter, local research historian. “It’s like a tomb.
“My fourth great-grandfather, William Berry Smith, fought at San Jacinto and served under Col. Juan Seguin and Captain Flores, in Bexar, as a 3rd Sergeant,” he said. “And my fourth great-grandfather’s nephew, Jonathan Lindley, died in the Battle of the Alamo. This is war to me. I take it personally, because it is personal,” Carter said.
The City of San Antonio owns the Cenotaph and plans to repair and restore the monument, as well as add names of additional defenders who were unknown when the cenotaph was erected in 1939. Discussion is ongoing about where the Cenotaph will be located once restoration work is complete.
One idea is to relocate the Cenotaph to the location of one of the funeral pyres, which would serve to restore the 1836 battlefield footprint. According to the public relations department at the Alamo, there is evidence that indicates that two of the funeral pyres were located near St. Joseph Church on Commerce Street, and the third was some distance east of the Alamo Church.
The process of developing a master plan for Alamo Plaza officially began in 2015, when the City of San Antonio and the State of Texas announced they would be working on it together. The goal is to open the new museum and exhibits in 2024. Preservation of the Church and the Long Barrack remains the #1 priority, and that work will likely begin next year.