Presidio La Bahia Completes $500,000 Renovation In Time for Massacre Re-Enactment March 27-28; Texas Independence Trail Visitors Experience Compelling Look at History

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More than $500,000 in improvements have been completed at the 261-year-old Presidio La Bahia (Fort of the Bay) and its lovely Lady of Loreto Chapel -- a National Historic Landmark in Goliad, TX -- in the past 3 1/2 years., and just in time for the Silver Anniversary Re-enactment of the infamous Goliad Massacre. The Mexican Army executed 342 "Texians" during the Texas Revolution in March 1836. Museum exhibits have been re-designed with new, world class-quality cases, "furniture mounts" and lighting. All interiors have been repainted; murals and decorations refreshed; the floors repaired and re-sealed and the gift shop expanded. The soldiers' barracks have been upgraded. The entry to the South Texas museum is now more wheelchair accessible and ready to handle thousands of visitors and tourists on the Texas Independence Trail who are also interested in Spanish Colonial and Mexican Colonial history and culture.

Returning and first-time visitors are going to be amazed at the numerous changes

Fans and students of Texas history, Spanish Colonial and Mexican cultures have good reasons to venture beyond the Alamo and the San Jacinto Battleground to see the 261-year-old Presidio La Bahia (Fort of the Bay) at Goliad. http://www.presidiolabahia.org/index.html

More than $500,000 in improvements to the fort, museum and chapel complex were completed in March, thanks to the generosity of members of The Presidio La Bahia Foundation, its Advisory Board, the Friends of the Fort, and numerous individuals and area foundations.

During the past 3 1/2 years, the National Historic Landmark has quietly undergone its most extensive refurbishing since the walled bastion was restored to its 1836 appearance in the mid-1960s with funds from the Kathryn Stoner O'Connor Foundation. Architect Raiford Stripling and archeologist Roland Beard - both now deceased - guided that project.

A recent four-minute video of the Presidio La Bahia de Goliad, its story and Living History Program, can be accessed at: http://www.kiiitv.com/news/86213732.html

"Returning and first-time visitors are going to be amazed at the numerous changes," said Newton M. Warzecha, Director since 1991, as well as President of The PLB Foundation.

"Not only have the exhibits been re-designed with new, museum-quality cases and lighting, but all interiors have been repainted; murals and decorations refreshed; the floors repaired and re-sealed and the gift shop expanded," Warzecha emphasized. "The soldiers' barracks have been upgraded and the entry and museum are now more wheelchair accessible."

The Presidio and self-contained Lady of Loreto Chapel are owned by the Catholic Diocese of Victoria, which purchased the site in 1853 from the City of Goliad for $1,000.

The fort has eight-foot stone walls, parapets, cannons, a bell tower containing two bells, a religious statue estimated at 300 years old, more than 150 artifacts on display, a charming Texas-version fresco of the Annunciation and "The (Officer's) Quarters," which can accommodate four persons for overnight stays.

First Class Museum Standards
"More than just representing the Texas Revolution and the massacre of the 342 'Fort Defiance' defenders, the museum now accommodates a high quality look into Spanish Colonial life and the Mexican period," explained Drew Patterson of Drew Patterson Studios in Austin, TX.

"This may be the only presidio on what was the Northern Frontier of New Spain that is totally intact," said the museum designer and physical anthropologist.

Patterson, whose background includes 20 years as a fine artist, has been doing museum exhibit design work for 15 years, including projects for the Texas Parks & Wildlife, The LBJ Presidential Library, a top-to-bottom updating at the Alamo exhibits in 2004-05, as well as work for the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History and personal projects for the late "Lady Bird" Johnson.    

Although never done before, the museum's entire collection has now been painstakingly photographed and cataloged by Randal Scott of Washington, D.C., resulting in some new revelations, Warzecha noted. Future plans call for an online digital catalog to help historians, scientists and researchers.

"All the artifacts came off the grounds and are hard evidence of the Spanish and Mexican colonial periods, the intersection of religion and politics and of the fight for Texas Independence," Patterson emphasized.

Considerable assistance, cooperation, information and digital images were provided by the Nettie Lee Bentsen Latin American Collection and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, both at the University of Texas at Austin, during the museum renovation, he said.

Sketches, copies of historic woodcuts and special art was commissioned for the displays, with many completed by fine artist Barbara Whitehead of Austin.

Suzanne McGarraugh of San Antonio, "a top-notch mount-maker, prepared the artifacts on new, carefully designed 'exhibit furniture,' making them easier to see and much more animated . . . like a painting or sculpture," he said.

"Feature lighting for the interpretive panels sculpts each display. We also allowed the walls and the rooms to be a significant part of the exhibits, using only what was necessary for the panels and the beautiful, world-class cases (by Caseworks) from Germany.

"These cases are elegant and uncomplicated and help elevate the Presidio to the top historical site museums in the state," Patterson said. "Previous visitors will immediately notice a stunning difference. The Presidio has a compelling story to tell and can now tell it in a powerful way."

Daily admission prices for the Presidio were raised slightly in 2010 "but offer real family value, real educational opportunities," Warzecha said. "Any school group visiting by the end of May will be matched with a costumed re-enactor, an advantage typically not available day to day."

Admissions are $4 (ages 12-59); $3.50 for (60 and older and military personnel) and $1 (ages 6-
11), with children five and younger admitted free. Group rates are available with advance reservations. The Candlelight Tour on the re-enactment weekend (March 27) is an additional $2.

Living History Program March 26-28
About 5,000 persons are expected for the Silver Anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Coleto Creek, the defeat of Col. James W. Fannin's army by the Mexican army in March 1836 and the ensuing massacre. About 150 costumed re-enactors on both sides of the opposing forces will fill the air with gritos ((cries), noise and smoke from black powder muzzle-loaders and cannons.

"This is one of the most extensive Living History programs in Texas," Warzecha said. "The scenes occur in the open meadows and near the San Antonio River, where the engagements actually occurred, as well as inside the Fort and Chapel. Col. Fannin is unceremoniously executed on the grounds."

Visitors will have the opportunity to ask the re-enactors about the roles they are reliving and to attend lectures in the 231-year-old chapel, which still functions on Sundays as a parish church.
In the evening, candlelight tours (http://www.presidiolabahia.org/candlelight.htm) will be conducted through the barracks and the Mexican officer's quarters, and there will be a hospital scene in the chapel where the Texian prisoners are being held.

The final events of the weekend occur on Sunday, March 28, when the death march will begin inside the Presidio and go to one of the locations where the massacre actually took place. The program concludes with a memorial service that begins in the chapel, followed by a procession to the nearby Fannin Memorial Monument.

The Battleground Monument is where the gathered remains of those massacred were originally buried in 1836, and where the Monument, commissioned for the Texas Centennial in 1936, was completed about 1938. The burial statement is read aloud, "Taps" is played, and there is a 21-musket salute.

"The Friends of the Fort, Goliad residents and all supporters of the Presidio," Warzecha said with a smile," have a message for history lovers, descendants of soldiers on both sides, Hispanics, Catholics, Mexicans, school children and local and foreign visitors.

"Don't just 'Remember Goliad,'" the famous battle cry at the Battle of San Jacinto, but go. Go to Goliad for the history, the hospitality and The Presidio. Spring, with its wildflowers, is the perfect time to "Hit the Trail!' -- The Texas Independence Trail -- for one of the most exciting chapters in the Texas Revolutionary saga.

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PRESTON F. KIRK, APR

Newton Warzecha, Director
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Presidio La Bahia, a National Historic Landmark at Goliad, TX, presents its imposing fort walls and self-contained Lady of Loreto Chapel amid fields and meadows near the San Antonio River.96kb color digital imageNine flags which have flown over the 261-year-old fort greet visitors to the Presidio La Bahia de Goliad, TX.109kb color digital imageA visitor idles among the new, dramatic display cases and panels in the newly renovated Presidio Museum.443Kb jpeg color digital imageA few of the Presidio's 150 artifacts on display on new mounts in world-class cases (by Caseworks of Germany).370kb jpeg color digital imageInterior view of the recently renovated Presidio La Bahia de Goliad Museum421kb color jpeg digital imageRe-enactors -- Texian revolutionaries skirmish with Mexican soldiers at annual re-enactment of the Battle of Coleto Creek.47kb color jpeg digital image << MANY HIGH-REZ IMAGES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST.Newton Warzecha, Director of the Presidio La Bahia de Goliad, TX, since 1991, and President of its Foundation121 KB color digital jpeg imageThe renovated Presidio La Bahia Museum features new cases, panels with commissioned art and woodcuts, and the compelling story of the Spanish and Mexican Colonial periods and the Texas Revolution -- more than 250 years of history.443Kb jpeg color digital imageMexican Army cannoneers (re-enactors) battle Texians near Coleto Creek.387kb color digital jpeg imageThe Fannin Memorial Monument near the Presidio is festooned with Texas wildflowers in the springtime.433 Color jpeg imageThe Lady of Loreto Chapel exterior belies its quaint interior beauty, site of many weddings and weekly Catholic church services.348 jpeg color image