Monday, February 16, 2015

DRT Meeting Hall

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas used this building as their meeting hall from the time it was constructed in 1939 until 2012. The Daughters had lost their custodianship of the Alamo property following allegations of mismanagement and were asked to remove their property from the grounds of the Alamo.
Today it is known as Alamo Hall and is the only facility for public and private events within the walls of the Alamo grounds. This patio is located on the right side of the building as seen in the first photo and is a lovely setting for an event.  There was quite an uproar when it was decided that alcohol could be served in the Alamo Hall!

Work had been done on the Alamo grounds in 1934 under the Texas Relief Commission which had been established in 1933 by Governor M.A. (Ma) Ferguson; funding for the project was through the use of Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) funds.  A marker confirming this work is on the wall facing Crocket Street that connects the DRT meeting hall and their Library. I was puzzled about it because I knew for sure the building had been built in 1939.  My mystery was solved when I asked the local historian who writes a column in the San Antonio Express News about it.  The marker was relocated there from another lower wall that was present in the 1930's.  Even though it is out of place on the wall of the DRT meeting hall I was pleased that someone had the forethought to preserve it.
Lewis Fisher writes in Saving San Antonio The Precarious Preservation of a Heritage that the City had agreed to donate Fire Station No. 2 to the DRT in the fall of 1936 as part of a plan to preserve the Alamo and surrounding grounds.  The old fire station was to be torn down as part of the federally funded work being done on the Alamo grounds.  It should be noted that much controversy had surrounded the proposed plans for the Alamo and it is much too detailed to discuss here.  A member of the Centennial Advisory Committee, Ernest Altgelt, suggested to the DRT that they use the building for "some useful service" as it was a good strong building. The new auditorium would be constructed from the foundation and remains of the old fire station.

An article in the March 2, 1939 San Antonio Express News states that remodeling of the old central fire station on the grounds of the Alamo was underway and was expected to last for 3 months. The meeting hall would seat 300 people.  The plan was to reconstruct the abandoned fire station into an assembly hall for “San Antonio patriotic organizations”.  The structure was to cost $15,811 and this article notes that it would be one of the last projects in the area around the Alamo. It also identifies the work as being done through the WPA.

A picture and article in the San Antonio Light published sometime in 1939 states that work had been completed on the DRT meeting hall.