Adina De Zavala was a preservationist whose best known contribution was saving the Alamo as a historic site. She was the granddaughter of Lorenzo de Zavala, a vice president of the Republic of Texas, and Emily West de Zavala.
The family lived in Galveston before moving to a ranch near San Antonio around 1873. De Zavala taught in Terrell and later San Antonio. Around 1889, she and other San Antonio women began meeting to discuss Texas history. In 1903, the group affiliated with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). One of their primary goals was to save a portion of the Alamo from commercial exploitation and possible destruction.
De Zavala enlisted Clara Driscoll, one of the DRT's members, to help. In 1905, the Texas Legislature authorized the state to purchase the property from Driscoll, and the Alamo was turned over to the DRT to maintain as a historic shrine.
Disputes among DRT factions about preservation procedures led to De Zavala's imprisoning herself inside the Alamo for several days. Her position, that the original walls should be preserved, was finally endorsed by the governor.
In 1912, De Zavala organized the Texas Historical and Landmarks Association and was a key leader in preserving the Spanish Governor's Palace in San Antonio.
Written by Cynthia J. Beeman
Read by Lori Gallardo
Adina De Zavala, granddaughter of Republic of Texas Vice President Lorenzo De Zavala, was an early influential leader in the historic preservation movement in Texas. In 1899, she and a group of San Antonio friends founded one of the state’s first patriotic societies. Her group later joined with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and in the early 20th century the De Zavala-led group famously feuded with another faction within the organization led by Clara Driscoll. Although Driscoll is known as the "savior of the Alamo" because of her purchase of the convent, or long barracks, building adjacent to the Alamo chapel, it was De Zavala whose actions ultimately saved a significant part of the Alamo. Believing the long barracks was built after the famous 1836 battle, Driscoll and her colleagues advocated for its removal, but De Zavala’s research indicated it was in fact part of the battle site. As the disagreement grew more heated, De Zavala barricaded herself inside the structure for three days to prevent its destruction.
In 1912, De Zavala founded the Texas Historical and Landmarks Association, an organization that placed a number of historical markers around the state. She was instrumental in preserving the Spanish Governor’s Palace in San Antonio and in establishing the sites of early East Texas missions. She served on the Texas Centennial Commission and was a charter member of the Texas State Historical Association.
L. Robert Ables, "ZAVALA, ADINA EMILIA DE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fzafg).
Adina De Zavala historical marker file (Bexar County), Texas Historical Commission, Austin.
Acosta, Teresa Palomo and Ruthe Winegarten. Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
Biography Source Information
Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.