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More than 2.5 million people a year visit the 4.2 acre complex in the heart of downtown San Antonio, Texas known worldwide as "The Alamo." This historic landmark opened in 1724 as a home for Christian missionaries and their Indian converts. In 1793 Spanish officials took San Antonio's five missions away from church control and made them part of the government. In the early 1800s the Spanish military stationed a cavalry unit at the former mission and soldiers nicknamed it Alamo, which is Spanish for cottonwood. The Alamo was home to both Revolutionaries and Royalists during Mexico's ten year long struggle for independence.
In December, 1835 Ben Milam led volunteer Texian (what Texans were called then) and Tejanos (Hispanic Texians) troops that forced Mexican troops to surrender five days later. The victorious volunteers then joined other troops at the Alamo to strengthen its defenses. On February 23, 1836, the Mexican army of General Antonio López de Santa Anna caught them by surprise. The defenders held on for thirteen days against this army. Colonel William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo, drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over. All but one of his approximately 200 men did. Although the Alamo fell in the early morning hours of March 6, 1836, the death of the Alamo Defenders has come to symbolize courage and sacrifice for the cause of Liberty. The memories of James Bowie, David Crockett, and William B. Travis are as powerful today as when the Texan Army under Sam Houston shouted "Remember the Alamo!" as it routed Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.
The Alamo has been managed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas since 1905. They are entrusted by the Texas State Legislature to preserve the historic site "as a sacred memorial to the heroes who immolated themselves upon that hallowed ground."
Construction of the Convento (or Long Barrack) began in 1724, shortly after the mission was relocated to this site. Records indicate it was completed in 1744. The Long Barrack has undergone several renovations and reconstructions. In 1847 the U.S. Army repaired the structure: but by 1876 the military moved to what would become Fort Sam Houston. During the 1870s and 1880s the Long Barrack was a store.. The wooden framework and the second story were stripped away in 1913 in an effort to remove the "unoriginal" portions of the building, leaving only the walls standing. The walls were repaired and roofed in 1968, as part of the renovations to the Alamo for HemisFair, creating the Long Barrack Museum. Visitors today can see exhibits on the Texas Revolution and Texas History.
The original chapel remains a shrine to those men who fell in defense of the Alamo. . The beautiful Alamo Gardens are open to the public. The stone walls and arches surrounding the Alamo were erected in the 1920s. The most recent addition, the wall of history, was completed in 1997. It is an outdoor exhibit that tells the history of the Alamo from mission to modern times.