The United Nations appears on track to reach into Texas and complicate efforts to honor the Alamo.
While portions of the plan to renovate and restore the Alamo, such as the movement of the cenotaph, are a hot debate among conservatives, one issue of agreement is the effort to install a battle-focused museum to tell the story of the heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice at what has come to be known as the “Cradle of Texas Liberty.”
Now, however, the United Nations and Texas Historical Commission are throwing up roadblocks to prevent that from happening.
At issue is the fate of the Woolworth building, which was constructed in 1921 within the fortifications of the original Alamo mission. Alamo renovators may remove or renovate the building as part of the construction of a museum, but now the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization is moving towards designating the location as a world heritage site.
The building, currently home to a Jimmy John’s and Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, previously contained a lunch counter that was ostensibly one of the first Southern restaurants to desegregate.
However, the evidence on that issue is shaky and the amount of remaining original infrastructure is in dispute by historical experts who argue there is nothing left to preserve and that doing so would complicate efforts to renovate and further honor the site.
Currently, Alamo restoration plans involve either removing the building altogether or incorporating it into a museum concerning the 1836 battle where an estimated 185 Texians gave their lives in the 13-day siege to help secure Texas’ independence.
But opponents of that battle-focused plan have been looking to throw up roadblocks to its initiation, including bolstering the claimed importance of the Woolworth building as a way to prevent the process from moving forward.
Earlier this month, the Texas Historical Commission, which is chaired by Gov. Greg Abbott campaign treasurer John Nau, voted to designate the Woolworth building with a state antiquities landmark—a move that places further roadblocks in the way of installing a battle museum on the site by adding additional levels of protection under the Texas Antiquities Code.
And now, just one week later, UNSECO has added the Woolworth building to its “World Heritage Watch” list, a decision that could further complicate efforts to honor the Alamo.
Sources close to the situation say the move is motivated by UNESCO’s belief that current Alamo renovation/restoration efforts are “too 1836-focused” and that there are political motivations behind the nomination of the Woolworth building as a world heritage site.
In a statement published in the San Antonio Current last week, Alamo CEO Doug McDonald said the Battle of the Alamo is what the site is known for and that it’s the only place in the world where that history can be told.
“We are committed to honor all the history of this site,” McDonald said. “However, the story of the Texas Revolution is what the world comes expecting to learn here and what Texans expect to be honored.”
Both the General Land Office and the Alamo Trust appear on track to continue their efforts to further renovate and restore the Alamo site in spite of UNESCO and the THC’s actions.
“We plan on moving forward with telling the uncompromised story of the historic 1836 Battle. There are many places in the city of San Antonio to tell the history of the city, however, there is only one place in the world that we can tell the story of the Alamo. The Battle of 1836 is the heart and soul of what it means to be a Texan. We look forward to finalizing our contract negotiations with the museum design firms and look forward to announcing the finalist soon.”