Restoration efforts are underway at one of San Antonio’s most prominent monuments: the Alamo. The project is led by Ivan Myjer, senior conservator of building and monument conservation, and Miroslav Maler, master stone conservation specialist.
Myjer spoke to an audience at Trinity regarding their restoration work at the Alamo and their previous projects for the San Antonio missions on Thursday, October 29. The talk was hosted by the Urban Studies Society.
Myjer and Maler are working on a restoration project for the Texas General Land Office. The Texas Legislature has allocated $31.5 million for the project, including five million in emergency upgrades.
After an intensive application process that began in 2006, the Alamo and the missions that make up the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site last July. In 2015, the Alamo shifted management from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to the state of Texas overseen by the Texas General Land Office.
There has been debate as to the future appearance of the Alamo, which Myjer elaborated on.
“The larger question is: what should it look like? We know it shouldn’t look like what it looks like now. There are people who want to return it to the day of the battle in 1836. There are people who would like to take the entire plaza downtown back to 1836. There are people who would like to see the colonial portion restored to 1740, but to still retain the 1850 appearance,” said Myjer.
While the Texas General Land Office plans for the future of the Alamo’s appearance, Myjer and Maler have been busy doing emergency repairs on the building.
“We’ve been closing up areas where water has been getting in. We’re trying to stabilize the faà§ade in order to buy time while a much larger deliberative process takes place about what’s going to happen to this building and how it’s going to be restored,” Myjer said.
The Alamo is in need of numerous conservation fixes to stabilize the building.
“I have told the General Land Office that we could easily spend $1 million and you wouldn’t see anything different. We could do a lot of conservation, a lot of stabilization and the appearance of the Alamo wouldn’t change. That’s how great the need is,” Myjer. said
Myjer noted that there are many “zones of deterioration” outside of the Alamo due to weather conditions.
“The terrain in front of the Alamo has changed dramatically over the years. During the 1950’s or 1970’s, someone added a hardscape up against the stone. What happens is the water lands on it and has nowhere to go. So it lands up against the building, capillaries up in the stone, brings salt with it and causes a lot of deterioration,” Myjer said. “The most heavily deteriorated areas are at the base of the building and the top of the building and on the sides.”
Some of the most critical work for Myjer and Maler is research, receiving mortar samples from inside the wall to assess the previous conditions of the Alamo throughout time.
The Alamo had previously been painted pink, according to Myjer, who added, “This is macho Texas, but the Alamo used to be pink.”
Nick Santulli, sophomore and political science major, was surprised that the Alamo had previously been painted pink.
“I’ve never thought much about the appearance of the Alamo. I just assumed that it looked the way that it should look. It’s interesting to see how past attempts at conservation have distorted its appearance. It’ll be interesting to see what they do from here on out to fix that.”
Myjer and Maler have been removing the pink mortar and replacing it with historically correct stone. Myjer has been peering into the inside of the Alamo’s wall to see the different layers of stone that have been altered throughout time.
The differences in the Alamo’s appearance over time stood out to Cole Murray, sophomore political science and urban studies major.
“I knew that there were different time periods of the building but I didn’t realize how much they differ. And really, the time periods don’t connect with each other in any way, except that they’re [present] in the same building,” Murray said.
The role of conservators is to restore the building while also maintaining them for future generations, according to Myjer.
“Future generations of conservationists can remove what we’ve added. We don’t use epoxy or strong anchors; we generally use weak adhesives and mechanical anchors,” Myjer said. “Our work can be twisted or removed.”
Once the Texas General Land Office reaches a decision regarding the future appearance of the Alamo, Myjer and Maler will be able to move forward with more intensive conservation efforts.