Texas (April 26, 2010)
- A bronze cannon blasting, a bishop blessing and
a BBQ-and-beans buffet marked the grand re-opening
of the historic Presidio La Bahia (Fort of the Bay)
in Goliad on Tuesday. Yet, the celebration was practically
upstaged by an ambitious, new project.
Through a generous grant from the Mary Hobbs Griffith
Foundation, the 289-year-old National Historic Landmark
is offering free admission in March, April and May
of 2011 to 10,000 Texas's students in 4th and 7th
grade social studies, as well as funds to help underwrite
"Education is what Presidio La Bahia is all about,"
said Newton M. Warzecha, Director of the Presidio
since 1991. "We've been concerned that students were
not learning about the rich Spanish, Mexican and Texas
history here at the Presidio and Goliad. School field
trips have declined from 5,000 students five years
ago to 2,200 this spring."
David Vickers, a seventh grade social studies teacher
in Beeville, TX, is developing a lesson plan which
will enable the Presidio to show schools "that we
are going to teach the students what the curriculum
indicates they should know about our history," Warzecha
"This program is on a first come-first serve basis,"
he said. "To qualify, reservations have to be made
in advance. We will even have historic reenactors
here to add to the student's Presidio experience."
The transportation grants to the schools will be based
on the student miles traveled and will typically cover
about one-half of the transportation cost, to a maximum
of $5 per student.
Blessing and Blasting
About 170 politicians, historians, archeologists,
reenactors, news media, Friends of the Fort (FOF)
members and astonished tourists witnessed the Museum
re-opening, ribbon cutting and formal blessing. The
Museum was fully renovated at a cost of more than
$500,000 during the past 3½ years.
Bishop David E. Fellhauer of the Diocese of Victoria
explained how the Diocese came to own such a sacred
pantheon of Texas, Mexican, Spanish and Catholic history.
In addition to its colonial periods, the Presidio
was central to the Texas Revolution of 1836. Just
beyond and within its three-foot-thick walls, 342
Texians were massacred under orders from Mexican Gen.
After years of negotiation, the crumbling Our Lady
of Loreto Chapel and the ruins of the fort were purchased
from the City of Goliad in 1853 for $1,000. The first
full restoration of the fortress occurred in the 1960s
with extensive funds from the Kathryn Stoner O'Connor
In his blessing, Bishop Fellhauer proclaimed, "God
is the Lord of history. History is a form of truth.
We proclaim His majesty in many and varied ways.
"May all who come to the Museum in pursuit of knowledge
and understanding always be docile to the wisdom of
Your word . . . and will strive to create a more civilized
world," he prayed.
The Bishop was assisted in the ribbon cutting by Louise
O'Connor of Austin, TX, grand-daughter of Kathryn
O'Connor, and Suzi Warzecha, coordinator of the Friends
of the Fort.
The hilltop bastion is located one mile south of Goliad
on U.S. Hwy. 183 (77A), a few hundred yards from the
San Antonio River. It features eight-foot tall stone
walls, parapets, cannons, a bell tower containing
two bells, a religious statue estimated at 300 years
old, a charming Texas-version fresco of the Annunciation
and more than 150 artifacts on display from among
more than 54,694 collected from the grounds..
"The Quarters," previously used by officers and later
priests, can accommodate four persons for overnight
stays in one of the most historic - and eerie - lodging
accommodations in America.
The most recent improvements to the complex were completed
with funds provided by members of The Presidio La
Bahia Foundation, its Advisory Board, FOF members
and numerous individuals and area foundations.
Re-enactors in period costumes from around South Texas
were on hand for the Museum tours and to salute the
occasion by firing a recently acquired, 250-year-old
Lunch was served on the Quadrangle grounds, compliments
of Sally and David Johnson of Goliad, Directors of
the Foundation. Their Johnson's barbecue team, the
Farm Industrial Good Guys, prepared the food, which
was served by members of the Goliad County Historical
Museum Now First-Class
Museum designer Drew Patterson of Drew Patterson Studios,
Austin, TX, believes "This may be the only presidio
on what was the Northern Frontier of New Spain that
is totally intact. The museum now accommodates a high
quality look into Spanish Colonial life and the later
Mexican culture, as well as Texas' quest for independence,"
said the physical anthropologist "The exhibits have
been re-designed with new, museum-quality cases and
lighting, and all interiors have been repainted; murals
and decorations refreshed; the floors repaired and
re-sealed and the gift shop expanded," Patterson stated.
"The soldiers' barracks have been upgraded and the
entry and museum are now more wheelchair accessible."
"Our daily admission prices for the Presidio offer
real family value and real educational opportunities,"
Warzecha insisted. "Many fans of the Texas Independence
(tourist) Trail have seen the Alamo in San Antonio,
the San Jacinto Battleground and Monument, even Gonzales
or Independence, TX.
"But if they have not visited the Presidio and Goliad,
they are missing one of the bloodiest, enlightening
and educational chapters of the Texas revolution and
our great state's history."
Admissions are $4 (ages 12-59); $3.50 for (60 and
older and military personnel), and $1 for children
(ages 6-11). Children age five and younger are admitted
free. Group rates are available with advance reservations.
The Presidio's Facebook Fan Page is at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/PresidioLaBahia?ref=ts
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR INTERVIEWS: Newton M. Warzecha,
Director of Presidio La Bahia and President of The
Presidio La Bahia Foundation, Goliad, TX, 361-645-3752,
Preston F. Kirk, APR, Kirk Public Relations, Spicewood,
TX, 830-693-4447, firstname.lastname@example.org