PolitiFact: Is the Alamo a ‘disappointing landmark’

A website intended to defend the master plan for spiffing up the Alamo says tourists remain far from wowed by the historically revered site.

We were intrigued by this claim on the Alamo Truth site, which is funded by Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s political campaign: “The Alamo has been consistently listed as one of the most disappointing landmarks in our nation. … It is our simple goal to improve the visitor experience for guests and all Texans, including our students.”

No doubt, the Alamo has ragged edges. It’s old, man.

But has it consistently been named one of the country’s most disappointing landmarks? We decided to put that to the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

Bush, a Republican seeking re-election in 2018, has been overseeing redevelopment of the Alamo along with the private Alamo Endowment and San Antonio city officials. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has said that he favors moving the cenotaph honoring defenders who died there from its place in front of the entrance to another spot on the site.

We inquired into how Bush reached his conclusion about the Alamo as a disappointment.

Brittany Eck, a General Land Office spokeswoman, initially urged us to Google the words “Alamo,” “disappointing” and “landmark.” Eck said: “We have routinely heard feedback from people who came to the Alamo, folks saying: ‘Is this all there is?’”

When we ran that web search, we landed several web posts describing the shrine from the Texas Revolution in unflattering ways, though positive statements also surfaced.

Among them was a Business Insider web post from May specifying what it considers each state’s worst tourist trap.

“Remember the Alamo?” it says. “More like, spend a day at the Alamo and you’ll remember to never go back. The building’s remains are so small they consistently disappoint visitors.

“History buffs might get a kick out of it for an hour or so,” the snippet closes, “but looking at a picture will suffice for most.”

In contrast, a San Antonio Express-News rebuff of that story pointed out that the Alamo, by one measure, was the most Instagrammed Texas tourist site, far outpacing the Johnson Space Center.

In May 2015, our search showed, the Thrillist website listed the Alamo among nine “disappointingly small” tourist sites including Mount Rushmore, Plymouth Rock and the Mona Lisa. Its story said: “The legendary last stand at the Alamo has achieved mythical status in American/Texas history, causing most people to picture the complex as a sprawling fortress. In reality, not so much — at least not any more. The original part of this Catholic mission that everybody visits is pretty much an underwhelming 75ft by 62ft building.”

Also from our web search: Comments and ratings of the Alamo as a tourist site posted on the TripAdvisor website included remarks such as this: “It’s a landmark. It’s history. It’s also in the middle of town and not that informative. We thought there would be more to see. Glad there are other activities in the area.” Generally, still, the site says that 14,300-plus visitor reviews have led to the Alamo averaging better than a four-star rating (out of five possible stars).

So, the Alamo has proved disappointing to some visitors and to writers for a couple of online publications.

Following up, Eck shared a document she described as compiling feedback about the Alamo fielded by elected officials and others; negative articles and reviews from online publications; deeper analysis of the TripAdvisor ratings of the Alamo plus screenshots of negative ratings including expressions of disappointment; and negative reviews of the Alamo posted on Yelp and Facebook.

For our part, we also queried Douglass McDonald, CEO of the Alamo Endowment. McDonald said the Alamo is on his personal list of “the most disappointing historic sites in the United States. The commercialization of this area has compromised the most important historic site in Texas.”

Our ruling:

The campaign-funded website says: “The Alamo has been consistently listed as one of the most disappointing landmarks in our nation.”

We’re convinced that plenty of visitors have commented on the Alamo’s surprising small size and how quickly a visit can pass, fueling disappointment. Of late, though, it looks like only the Business Insider and Thrillist listed the Alamo among the nation’s most disappointing landmarks. That’s not exactly a definitive list.

On balance, we rate this claim Half True.

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