Time and Mother Nature are threatening to dismantle The Alamo. Not the original, but the replica 18th-century Spanish mission and Old West movie set John Wayne built for his Oscar-nominated 1960 movie. For decades, it was a tourist mecca and film production site. Alamo Village, a 400-acre plot of land about 120 miles west of San Antonio, was carved out of a large ranch in the late 1950s for Wayne’s directorial debut.
Starring Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie and the Duke as Davy Crockett, The Alamo had an estimated $12 million budget, huge for its time. The 4-foot-thick Alamo facade was modeled off a 1936 map of the historic building — drawn up for the Texas centennial — and set construction took nearly two years. Unlike the real Alamo, which is dwarfed by taller buildings in the heart of San Antonio, the view from John Wayne’s Alamo offers a panorama of iconic Texas and Western images.
In its heyday, Wayne’s Alamo hosted James Stewart, Dean Martin, Raquel Welch, and Willie Nelson. This is where James Arness reprised his famous Matt Dillon role in a Gunsmoke television movie. In all, nearly 40 major film and small screen productions, plus hundreds of commercials, documentaries, and music videos were shot at Alamo Village. And musical shows, comedy skits, and staged gunfights drew hundreds of tourists daily.
At the main entrance to the ranch, only an abandoned ticket booth and a weathered sign telling visitors they’re entering the world’s largest outdoor movie set hint at its storied past. In recent years, a large crack has developed on the front of the Alamo facade. A tree grows inside. Walls and structures that have been replaced are failing.
Corpus Christi businessman David Jones envisions saving Alamo Village as a Texas version of Old Tucson, a thriving Old West theme park in southern Arizona. Jones, who describes himself as a lifelong friend of the former owners, says he’s close to raising the $8 million he believes is necessary to buy the property and ready it for visitors.
If preserved, two icons will be remembered… The Alamo and John Wayne (above).
Until next time> “never forget”