Alamo archaeologist shares what teams discovered at Long Barrack while it was closed for two years

Oldest building on historic site at The Alamo is back open to visitors

After two years of preservation work, the Alamo Long Barrack is back open to visitors.

SAN ANTONIO – After two years of preservation work, the Alamo Long Barrack is back open to visitors.

“Over the past two years, we have worked on both an archaeological investigation and a preservation investigation,” Kristi Nichols, Director of Archaeology Collections and Historical Research said.

The long barrack was built roughly 300 years ago.

“It was a two-story structure that acted as the sleeping quarters of the missionaries, their refectory so their place where they had their meals made, offices. But the history of this building has actually been much larger than just the mission period,” Nichols said.

The site was closed to visitors in 2019 to allow the Alamo’s preservation team to conduct an investigation to assess the building’s condition.

“The archaeology part was actually the portion in which they dug down to the base of the foundation. And what’s interesting is that nobody’s ever seen the foundation of this structure since it was built. So, this is all new information and allowed the preservation team to understand the foundation construction, as well as identify areas that most likely would need to be fixed in the future to preserve the integrity of this structure,” Nichols said.

Nichols said the excavation is the first that’s ever happened at the Long Barrack.

“We have found that there is a geological formation about five feet below the ground, which is not quite bedrock, but it’s hard. We call it hard pan. And so that means that the foundations of this building are actually sitting on top of a stable surface, so that’s been great for the preservation team to understand that we have a stable surface. So, all the work that really needs to be done right now is making sure that the stones that are in the wall are preserved and we can stop some of the erosion that happens just from your normal wear and tear,” Nichols said.

Nichols said during their investigation, the team also discovered the Long Barrack’s walls were also decorated at one point.

“When we started taking excavations down, she was able to find intact pieces of painted plaster on the wall itself and inside the Long Barrack. So, what we found out is that the Long Barrack was decorated during the mission period, which is really good information and stuff that we really didn’t understand prior to this investigation,” Nichols said.

The team used state of the art technology at the Long Barrack.

“There has been ground penetrating radar that is done not only on the ground surface, but on the walls to identify voids. We have used thermal imaging, (and) infrared photography,” Nichols said.

When visitors come to the Long Barrack, they can enjoy a video of the archeologist working and panels describing more of the work that was done.

“We’re going to have programs all throughout the holiday months, so please come back and see it. We’re going to have a new exhibit open up,” Nichols said.

The Long Barrack is free to the public during normal operating hours.

About the Authors:

Tiffany Huertas is known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.