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Famous Alamo is Fading Away Due to Erosion

Feb 10, 2015 12:53 PM EST
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The famous Alamo, the site of a historic battle during the Texas Revolution, is slowly fading away - at least, its well-known west entrance is, according to a new study.

Over the years, erosion has chipped away at the limestone structure, causing a loss of about 2.5 inches over the past half-century, at the base of a column at the mission's iconic main façade.

"Some might say that doesn't sound like a whole lot, but over time, it adds up to a significant amount, especially if that rate increases in the future," Robert Warden, director of the Texas A&M Center for Heritage Conservation, said in a statement.

It should come as no surprise that the Alamo is wearing away. The old Spanish mission was built in the mid-18th century in San Antonio and likely took a beating at the historic Battle of the Alamo in which Texas gained independence from Mexico.

It's not as if the building is going to crumble any minute - the façade is still 3 feet thick - but this study highlights the need for preservation work.

To determine the extent of the column base's material loss, researchers used lasers, large-format cameras and other instruments to compile 2- and 3-D images of the site. They compared these results with historical photos and documents of the Alamo.

"The bases were originally rectangular solids adorned with medallions or floral patterns that, if you look at them from the side, now look scooped, rather than straight," Warden explained. "It's clear from photos of the building in the 1930s that material loss was already well under way."

The last in-depth examination of the site, along with renovations and repairs, was in 1960.

When the stone mission was built, a plaster finish was applied to the façade and all other exterior walls to protect the limestone and mortar, according to Pam Rosser, the Alamo's conservator. However, over the years the plaster finish washed away and was never replaced. Then the battle occurred and caused further deterioration.

According to The Associated Press, Texas soldiers overtook the Alamo in December 1835, and defended it against a siege from Mexican forces that ended March 6, 1836. Some 180 defenders died at the Battle of the Alamo, including Alamo commander William Travis, James Bowie, and Davy Crockett.

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