Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Alamo is under attack, again. This time by us!

The next time you're traveling in Texas, take a trip to San Antonio. And, by all means take a stroll along the River Walk and see the many sights that San Antonio...that old but modern south west city...has to offer. But, to make your trip extra special...see the Alamo and make it a pilgrimage!

Known the world over as an icon of both the State of Texas and the United States, San Antonio's historic Alamo is once again facing attack. However, this time it's not from an opposing foreign army. This time the attackers are contemporary domestic commercial interests.

The Nature of the Attack

This is the result an attempt to use the precious urban space that now surrounds what modern day visitors know as the Alamo. The original site included not only the mission church but also a number of other structures that surrounded what is now Alamo Plaza. This would have consisted of barracks for the soldiers, a convent for the nuns who helped the padres attend to the faithful and a granary among others.

While today's plaza basically outlines the original mission grounds, the majority of the buildings and walls that ringed the site have all disappeared over time. In their place has sprung a number of restaurants and curio shops that rely on tourism to pay their way. The plaza itself is a park-like setting which allows people to walk to and around the old mission.

The Alamo after the Battle

After the battle of 1836, where the legends of Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Colonel William Travis were made, the Alamo was abandoned as a site for religious practice and fell under the purview of the U.S. Army. It was during this period (i.e. 1850) that the distinctive rounded hump was added to the front top of the church. Prior to this (and, at the time of the battle) the entire roof line was straight.

In 1883, the Catholic Church sold the Alamo mission building to the State of Texas. By 1905, the State also acquired the adjacent Convento (aka Long Barrack) and granted the Daughters of the Republic of Texas custody of of both structures. In addition to its role as an American icon and tourist beacon, various Alamo buildings served as a warehouse, hotel, general store and eventually the site of a government post office.

The Alamo's Future?

The good news is that various groups have an interest in the fate of the Alamo. These range from the federal and state government to officials of the City of San Antonio, local businesses, various historians and preservationist and certainly the original custodians the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT).

All of these groups have a vision of how best to preserve the Alamo. Unfortunately, they don't all share the same vision. Some believe there are adequate measures in place to protect the key icons of the site...the mission and the convent. Others would like to see some level of historic reconstruction that would restore more of the original site.

These issues will probably be debated for some time to come. For now, the history traveler should make this trip as soon as possible.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Are You A History Traveler?

Here's a quick way to find out.

When traveling, do you ever wonder how and why the people living in a given area moved there? How the characteristic architecture of a community was determined? What economic forces determined the types of work found in the area? What is the dominant culture of the people of the region? Is it native to the area or the result of migration? What arts and crafts are to be found? What language is predominantly spoken and are there regional variations of the language?

Simply put, if you are at all curious about the who, what, why, when, where and how of a region or travel destination...then, my friend, you are a history traveler!

A History Traveler Defined

A history traveler is not the person who wants to only lay in the sun on the beach or poolside, shop til they drop, eat solely at the trendiest restaurants and return home with the standard tourist pictures...enjoyable as that kind of trip can be.

The history traveler wants a bit more. They want to not only enjoy the destination but also learn how it came into existence. Who the people are and what their culture considers important. In other words, the history traveler wants to look beneath the surface of a destination and understand more about the locale through it's people, culture and history.

This Journal is for You

So, welcome to a journal dedicated to delving into the historical aspects of travel destinations around the world. It's also a place where you can share those interesting facts that you have learned that other history travelers would love to learn.

So, please become a subscriber and join the history traveler community!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mountain Men: America's Early Long Distance Travelers

The American mountain man defined the idea of long distance, long-term travel for their generation. While many mountain men went unknown in history, there were several who gained a level of renown that continues until today.

Men like John Coulter, Joseph Walker, Kit Carson and Jedediah Smith are examples of early western travelers whose reputations are imprinted on the American psyche. One of the better examples of these trail blazers is James P. (Jim) Beckwourth. Lesser known today, he was a legend in his own time.

Jim Beckwourth's Story

Beckwourth's tales were recounted by many in the middle 1800's and often considered merely outlandish boasts. However, he was credible enough to have found an alternative route for travelers from the east to reach California through the Sierra Nevada. His trail proved to be an easier path than the one further south taken by the ill-fated Donner party.

The Donner's wagon train followed today's I-80 over some of the highest elevations in the Sierra. Beckwourth's path is closely followed by Hwy-70 where it intersects with the Hallelujah Junction on I-395 and heads west through Portola and on to Chico in California's central valley.