Now that cranes have been moved in front of the Alamo, and areas are being blocked off to tourists, the long awaited inspection and structural renovation of the church and the Alamo grounds is underway, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

  One thing that is catching the interest of Alamo Conservator Pam Rosser is some 200 year old graffiti which is showing up high on the walls of the Sanctuary.

  One is a name and the date: 1808.

  "That was a time before the battle and it was after the building was secularized," she said.  "It is kind of a lost period in the history of the Alamo."

  She says the graffiti was found in a place near the familiar window over the main door of the Alamo church, where Texians and Mexican regulars would fight to the death 28 years later.

  "In this window above the main door, there is a ledge, where maybe a ladder was left," she said.  "Somehow he had to get up there and sit there and carve his name."

  The graffiti which is being discovered inside the Alamo bring flesh and blood and the mark of real people to a shrine which has taken on an incandescent nobility over the past century and a half.

 She says the name which was carved next to the date is not an individual who is known to history, but research is underway to find out something about the individual, including what is role was in the town of San Antonio, which was then already nearly 100 years old, and maybe to provide some insight into what role the Alamo was playing at that time.

  Rosser says many of the names scrawled on the inside of the Alamo are the names of U.S. Army soldiers who were known to be stationed at the Alamo when it was a military depot before the Civil War, and after the war before the Army moved to the new Ft. Sam Houston in the 1870s.

  And one piece of graffiti is particularly intriguing.

  "At the corner of the chancel and the trancept, it says '1835'," she said.  "There are two names, but the names are not on the list of the known defenders."

  It appears to be almost certain, however, that whoever carved the names and the date of 1835 was a personal witnesses to the Battle of Bexar, when the Texian irregulars seized San Antonio from the Mexican forces, and may have known some of the defenders...Jim Bowie, William Travis and Davy Crockett didn't arrive at the Alamo until early 1836. A fascinating personal connection to the iconic period in Texas history.

  Graffiti, which is now considered defacing and a criminal act...a man was arrested for writing his name on the Alamo walls earlier this year...was considered an appropriate way of recording a person's presence in an area in the days before photography.  The Oregon Trail and other western trails are filled with graffiti of settlers who carved their names on trees and rocks.

  The main work of inspecting the Alamo is being done by Ivan Myjer, of Buildings and Monument Conservation, a Massachusetts based company which specializes in renovation of historic structures.

  "It needs a lot of tender loving care," Myjer said of the Alamo.  "Like of a lot of buildings which are deeply loved, they are incrementally repaired, people come along and see an immediate problem and they fix the immediate problem, but it begins to stray further and further from its original appearence."

  He says the Alamo has changed it appearance over time, largely due to the technology used by conservators in the 20th Century.  For example, throughout much of the century, Portland Cement was the only material available to refill places where the stone grout had deteriorated.

  "We now have a good understanding of what Portland Cement does to delicate masonry," he said.  "You couldn't get the historically appropriate lime based materials, but that material is available now.  That will allow us to remove the Portland Cement and replace it with something that is closer to the original."

  He says Alamo is 'structurally sound' but facing mainly 'deferred maintenance' issues, especially due to the porous stone, which has absorbed water over the decades from rain waters splashing off the flagstones of Alamo Plaza, stones which were not there when the structure was first built in the mid 18th Century.

  Myjer says he is also getting some insight into the fact that the Alamo church was once colored, due to traces of lime wash which have been found in the facade.

  "In the Spanish colonial period, there do not appear to be any colors at all. Had they finished this with a church, they would have put an exterior stucco plaster, the same as Mission Conception and Mission San Jose, but they never did that here," he said.  "So when the U.S. Army built the top, the parapet, they built it to make it a functional building.  And they began to put color on it, in the form of tinted lime washes, and if you look at the wall, you can see there are dark colors.  They mixed lime with carbon black and just painted it.  We have found 13 to 14 generations of tinted lime washes."

  The renovation work is funded by the $32 million the Texas Legislature appropriated for the Alamo in this year's session.  While it is not directly connected to the master plan for Alamo Plaza redevelopment which is now in the works, it is connected to a general effort to make sure the shrine gets the maintenance and restoration it needs to preserve it for generations to come.