The first significant step in the long planned alterations to Alamo Plaza are set to begin late this month as a crews of historians and preservationists begin the delicate process of dismantling the near eighty year old Cenotaph in preparation for its move to its new home about 500 feet to the south, in front of the Menger Hotel, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The future of the Cenotaph, or 'empty tomb' which commemorates those Texians who died at the Alamo, as been one of the most hotly contested facets of the massive $450 million project. Planners want to move the monument out of the footprint of Alamo Plaza as it seeks to restore the '1836 appearance, which obviously doesn't include the 1940 Cenotaph, which was commissioned as part of the 100th anniversary events in 1936,
The plan is to dismantle the Cenotaph and conduct needed repairs and maintenance, as well as correcting the names of the defenders etched on the monument, to add the names of ten defenders who were not known in the late 1930's. The Cenotaph will also be lit up at night to provide a 'beacon' for Alamo Plaza.'
Opponents of moving the cenotaph have appealed to the Legislature and to the courts, claiming the monument is a key part of the Alamo tradition.
County Judge Nelson Wolff wishes as much attention was being paid to the future of the Woolworth Building, at the corner of Alamo and Houston Streets.
In March of 1960, led by students at the NAACP, the lunch counter at the Woolworth Building was peacefully integrated, thanks to the effort of the NAACP and local pastors, including a young Rev. Buckner Fanning, who worked out an agreement to allow African Americans to be served at the lunch counter, a change which was fraught by acrimony and violence in other Southern cities.
"We were the only ones that had a sit-in that wasn't fought," Wolff said. "In fact the segregationist governor of Georgia or someplace criticized San Antonio for that."
The Woolworth Building was recently designated a historic landmark by the Texas Historical Commission due to its role in the Civil Rights movement.
"Jackie Robinson, one of the greatest baseball players ever, the first African American in the Major Leagues, complimented San Antonio on the way we handled racial integration," Wolff said.
But the Woolworth building is now among the three structures to the west of Alamo Street which are in the footprint of the reconstruction project. There is talk of making major architectural upgrades to the building to bring it up to the standards needed to house the planned 'World Class' Alamo museum, and there is also discussion of demolishing the building altogether.
Several groups, including the San Antonio Conservation Society, are urging planners to include the Woolworth Building in its current form in the Alamo plan, potentially as a museum to Civil Rights.