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Research Underway To Find A More Colorful Alamo

Courtesy of The Alamo
Conservator Pam Rosser extracts tiny pigment fragments from the Alamo for examination.

Was the Alamo once brightly painted like other Spanish missions in the area?

Alamo Conservator Pam Rosser believes it most likely was.

“Mission San Antonio de Valero, known as the Alamo during the mid 1700s, was the center of the community. That would explain why it could have possibly been decoratively painted,” she said.

Courtesy of The Alamo
Conservator Pam Rosser extracts tiny pigment fragments from the Alamo for examination.

Rosser is setting out to learn more and perhaps discover what those colors were by extracting tiny pigment fragments for examination. But centuries of sun, wind and rain could make it difficult.

“We have already discovered visible pigment fragments on the ornament stone as well as flat surfaces,” she said. “Collecting these samples will help us get a better understanding of the various pigment layers on the west facade of the church.”

The extraction process should take four to six weeks to complete.

Each sample will then be examined scientifically to determine the paint chronology, revealing whether the pigment fragments present on the church today were painted during the mission-era in the 1700s, according to a news release from the Alamo.

An electric scissor lift will be used as part of the process on the west side of the Alamo Church, the side that faces Alamo Plaza.

Alamo officials say while the work will be conducted during the day, they do not expect it to interfere with the visitor experience.

According to the city’s Office of Historic Preservation, at least two of San Antonio’s missions, Mission Concepcion and Mission San Jose, were likely adorned with colored frescoes in a geometric pattern.

The city’s OHP teamed with the National Park Service to host the first Restored By Light event in 2015 at Mission Concepcion.

Colored lights were displayed on the walls of the mission to give attendees a visual display of how the mission was once painted.

There are no plans to paint any of the missions as they once were, but should there be?

Historical experts believe any recreation would fall short of the original appearances of the missions and negatively impact their authenticity.

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