“Clara Driscoll set
out to portray the
Alamo as a fountain
from which Texas,
and the rest of America,
could continually
regenerate the values
of sacrifice and
patriotism, and where,
during times of crisis,
countryman could
find the courage to
persist and prevail.”

~ Randy Roberts &
James S. Olson,
A Line in the Sand

 

 

Reclaim rollover

 

First
Preservation Campaign
 

1900 Alamo

    In 1889, the historic buildings that became the Hugo and Schmeltzer grocery store stood idle – condemned by the city. The neglected property was drawing the attention of real estate developers and the owners were anxious to sell the gaudy structure. It was beginning to appear as if the Long Barrack and Convento – a part of the Alamo – were on the verge of disappearing forever.

    Fortunately for the old mission, Adina de Zavala, granddaughter of the first vice president ofAdina de Zavala the Republic of Texas – Lorenzo de Zavala, stepped in. Adina, who described herself as “a student and jealous lover of Texas history,” was a member of a preservation society whose goal was to “keep green the memory of the hero’s, founders, and pioneers of Texas.” In 1893, she affiliated with the fledgling preservationist organization, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) and formed the De Zavala Chapter. In 1902, Adina, who was deeply concerned with the fate and the future of the Alamo as well as other historical sites in Texas, secured a promise from Hugo and Schmeltzer to give the DRT first option to purchase the old building, if and when they decided to sell. A year later, in 1903, Gustuv Schmeltzer informed De Zavala that a hotel syndicate had made an offer to buy the structure with plans to demolish it and build a hotel in its place. Clara DriscollAdina took immediate action to preserve what she believed was priceless Texas history. She contacted Clara Driscoll, a wealthy young lady who shared her passion for protecting the Alamo from the ravages of commercial development and neglect.

    Clara Driscoll, a descendent of early Texas colonists, including a veteran of San Jacinto, was born in 1881 in Refugio County and grew up as a wealthy rancher’s daughter. She teamed with De Zavala and the DRT to protect what remained of the Alamo from civic expansion, commercial encroachment, exploitation, and the elements. To obtain the required $75,000 Hugo and Schmeltzer were asking for, the two determined women tried to raise the 1907 postcardnecessary funds by appealing to Texan patriotism. Thousands of flyers entitled "A Plea for Texas" were mailed to residents with the high expectation that the money would “come pouring in.” As confident as the DRT was, they were only able to raise a little more than one thousand dollars, far short of the amount needed to keep a portion of the Alamo from destruction and certain oblivion. Disappointed but undeterred, the DRTdetermined young socialite stepped forward, and in 1904, bought the building with her own personal funds. Clara Driscoll was hailed as the “Savior of the Alamo” by the newspapers. Shamed into action, the state reimbursed Driscoll for the full amount in 1905. Additionally, the State appointed the DRT as stewards of the Alamo to ensure “the proper care, protection, and preservation of the old Alamo mission.”

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