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New Sensors Will Protect The Alamo From Future Moisture Damage

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UTSA Special Collections
Water seepage into the walls of the Alamo has long been a concern. This 1870s photograph of the Alamo shows water marks at the base of the church façade, one of the most recognized facades in the world.

Eight sensors have been set up around the Alamo Chapel and the Long Barrack to better protect the historic buildings from moisture damage in the future.

Both buildings are constructed with native limestone, which is porous and tends to absorb ground water, especially after rain showers.

Water-logged limestone can crumble. Mineral salts can also seep in, causing damage.

Kristi Miller Nichols is the Alamo's Director of Archaeology, Collections and Historical Research.

"The moisture monitoring sensors are going to be recording their data for about a year. We started in April of this year, and it will be shut off in April of next year," she said. "And from that data, our historic architects and preservationists are going to be able to develop a plan to be able to make sure the buildings are preserved."

Miller Nichols said preservation efforts at the Alamo Church, with walls that date back to 1740, is a continuous process. The original construction of the church suffered many setbacks. In 1756, the almost-completed arches for the vaulted roof and portions of the wall collapsed.

The church was never completed during the lifetime of the mission.

In 2020, researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio studied the impact of air conditioning and heating at one of the city’s historic missions.

The simple act of providing comfort to parishioners and tourists for the last 25 years, plus three centuries of rain and humidity, has devastated some of the frescoes on the walls of Mission Concepción.

Similar studies were planned for Missions San José, San Juan, and Espada to identify
problems related to air conditioning and their indoor environments.

The researchers say the Missions early ventilation system just involved thick walls and opened doors and windows.

The addition of air conditioning and heating in more more modern times has created more building stress by increasing temperature extremes.

During the summer months, daytime highs can reach into the 100s, but indoor air conditioned temperatures are in the 70s.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian