The approximately $850,000 Goliad repair project was funded through Proposition 8, a bond package approved by Texas voters in 2001 that provided $101 million over 10 years to improve or repair Texas Parks and Wildlife Department state parks, wildlife management areas, fish hatcheries and other facilities.
The multi-year Goliad restoration project was needed to stem the tide of physical deterioration that was threatening to undermine its continued viability as a place where Texans can reconnect with the past. In recent years, leaky roofs and flooding on the grounds have seriously threatened park structures.
A diverse team of artists, architects, historians, and craftsmen skilled in historic restoration collaborated to identify problem areas and set a course of action. The project was managed by Laura David with the TPWD Infrastructure Division. The roofing and electrical work was awarded to Kellogg, Brown and Root under a “job order contract,” a unique arrangement that improved quality control and kept costs down. A TPWD “Force Account” construction crew of historically trained craftsmen led by Mark Lenoch did the painstaking job of plastering, painting, wood repairs, stonework and site improvements.
Workers put in new roofs and electrical wiring for all the mission buildings. They patched exterior plaster and repainted the chapel and granary buildings. They restored the chapel interior, including repainting frescos and decorative elements, with work overseen by Nola Davis, the same TPWD artist who created them 28 years ago.
As part of the restoration, the grounds were excavated and French drains were installed to prevent flooding using Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate labor. Ramps and other improvements were also added to make the entire park wheelchair-accessible.
“Basically if you were here last year and you came this year, you’d see a totally new face; it’s been put back to what it should be,” said Mary Livingston, Goliad State Park complex historic sites manager. “It is absolutely amazing. Between Texas Parks and Wildlife staff and the contractors that were hired the quality of work was phenomenal.”
At 11 a.m. on Friday, June 16, state and local officials, including Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez-Toureilles, will take part in a celebration hosted by the Amigos of Goliad State Park to mark completion of the restoration effort. Afterward, park employees will lead tours to showcase the restoration process.
Goliad State Park actually includes several historic sites in different locations–the central mission and state park complex closer to Goliad, the ruins of Mission Rosario, the Fannin Battleground and Zaragoza Birthplace south of town in the community of La Bahia–all of which were improved as part of the project. This includes a restored centennial pavilion to mark the Battle of Coleto Creek at the Fannin Battleground and the entire floor replaced in the small museum at the Zaragoza Birthplace.
Mission EspÃritu Santo is similar to other Spanish missions in Texas, such as the one known as the Alamo in San Antonio. A unique feature is that Goliad is considered by many to be the birthplace of cattle ranching. In its heyday, the mission ran 40,000 head of cattle on about a million acres. It was also the last mission to close its doors in what we know as present day Texas.
EspÃritu Santo was originally located at Matagorda Bay in 1722. This site was abandoned and the mission was rebuilt near what is now Victoria until 1749, when it was moved permanently to Goliad. By 1830, it was falling into decrepit disrepair. Some 100 years later, help arrived in the form of the Civilian Conservation Corps. In the 1930s, after extensive research, the CCC built reconstructions of the chapel, granary, and workshop placed on the original foundations. One room off the side of the granary dates to the 1700s, where visitors can see the original architecture.
Besides historic interpretation, the park has recreational facilities and is popular for camping, fishing and picnicking. Amenities include 20 water/electric pull through sites for recreational vehicles, five screened shelters, a group camping area with water/electric sites, and water/electric pads for tent camping.
The park has miles of San Antonio River frontage and visitors can fish from the shoreline. There is a picnicking area plus 1.5 miles of hiking trails and another 2.5 mile hike/bike trail that extends to downtown Goliad and Presidio La Bahia, the Spanish colonial fort established alongside the mission.
Starting July 1, an exhibit will debut celebrating the 75th anniversary of the creation of Goliad State Park. Exhibit panels, photos and displays will take visitors through time in all the mission buildings, leading from the chapel to the granary to the workshop.
“It will be like they just walked off a work site,” said Livingston, referring to exhibits showing how CCC workers reconstructed the mission.
Goliad State Park is open seven days a week. Entrance fees are $2 per adult, free for children ages 12 and under. The park is located west of Victoria on U.S. Highway 183 just south of the town of Goliad. For details, see the park Web site.