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Alamo - Gateway to Santa Ana Refuge

History and Attractions

Agostedero de Alamo

In the late 1700s the King of Spain awarded porciones of land along the lower Rio Grande to loyal subjects, leading to the first permanent settlements north of the river, displacing wandering bands of Karankawa Indians. Porcione 72 was one of these in the area of present day Alamo. The eastern part of Porcione 72 was known as Agostedero de Alamo (pasture of the cottonwood).

Alamo Land & Sugar Company

Agostedero de Alamo was subdivided in 1834 into Los Toritos (The Bulls), Santa Ana (Saint Ann), and El Gato (The Cat). Today these names are still associated with the City of Alamo. Further sub-division continued, until 1902, when tracts were purchased and re-assembled into 32,000 acres, and sold in 1909 to the Alamo Land and Sugar Company. C.H. Swallow was hired in 1916 to develop and sell the land. At its center he laid out the city of Alamo, clearing the original town site in 1918 on Highway 83 at 8th Street, across from the rail station, to form a commercial district. 801 Main Street saw the first building, a western style two story, which housed the Alamo Land and Sugar Company offices, and is named after it today. For a 1935 photo see the home page at alamoinnsuites.com

City of Alamo

Initially the U.S. Post Office refused the residents request to name the town Alamo. Instead the post office called it Forum on cancelation stamps. Some residents named it Swallow, but C.H. Swallow opposed this. Finally after some confusion, the U.S. Post Office relented, and it became Alamo.

The City of Alamo was incorporated in 1924 with Frank Denzer its first mayor. Residents came from the north with names like Johnson, Tydl, Whalen, Wittenburg, and from the south with names like Contreras, Espinoza, Garcia, and Garza, producing Alamo’s rich cultural heritage that we value today. Alamo grew at the center of a strong agricultural community and commerce thrived. The historic Contreras General Store is still run today on Acacia facing south 8th Street, by descendants of the founding Contreras family. The old Wittenburg Feed Store was transformed into Alamo Ball Room at 123 South 8th Street. Alamo Bank opened in 1920 at 801 Main Street, and continues today in Alamo as Frost Bank. Alamo Drugs opened in 1921, became Magic Valley Drugs in 1948, and Alamo Inn B&B and Outdoor Store in 1999, at 801 Main Street. The Kautsch family’s hardware store close by on Business 83 continues to be family run.

Today the City has its own web site at alamotexas.org Telephone 956-787-0006.

Saint Joseph Historic Church

This picturesque, historic Gothic Revival style Catholic Church at 727 Bowie Street was built in 1924, on land donated by the Alamo Land and Sugar Company. Over the years Saint Joseph served as church, community center and hurricane shelter. Eventually the congregation outgrew Saint Joseph, so a larger church on North 9th Street replaced it. Today Saint Joseph has expanded into a new role, with new matching buildings behind it serving as a Convent that unites Mexican and American Catholics across the Rio Grande. (see Historic Marker in front of the Church)

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

Land surrounding the original ranch headquarters of the Santa Ana tract, became Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in 1924. Considered the jewel of the U.S. national refuge system, its 2,088 acres have never been cleared and the old ranch cemetery remains at the center of the refuge. Just 12 minutes from Alamo, Santa Ana Refuge attracts up to 200,000 visitors annually from around the world. It is one of the best know birding and butterfly refuges in United States because it has the highest number of bird and butterfly species combined of any refuge in the nation.

Open seven days a week from dusk to dawn, Santa Ana has a seven mile paved loop (bicycles allowed), twelve miles of hiking trails (no bicycles), and numerous resacas (ox bow lakes). It offers visitors close up views of the best remaining riparian forest in the Valley. In season (Fall and Winter) birding walks, tram rides, and birding and canoe trips are offered. There is a photo hide, located close to the Fire Tower and Tree-top Rope Bridge. There are no services at Santa Ana Refuge, and the closest services are in Alamo (see below for list). Santa Ana Refuge is located on Military Highway, two hundred yards east the intersection with South Alamo Road (FM907).

Refer to FriendsOfSouthTexasRefuges.org for more information or call the refuge visitor center at 956-784-7500. (see Historic Marker next to Visitor Center)

Memorial for the Worst Rail Accident in Texas

On March 14, 1940 in Alamo at Tower Road and Business 83 a train on the Missouri Pacific Rail line ran into a truck carrying some forty farm workers ages 10 to 48. This collision remains the worst rail accident in Texas. A memorial on the site memorializes the 34 people who lost their lives in the tragedy. (see Historic Marker close to intersection)

Land of Two Summers

Long known to many as the ‘Land of Two Summers’ because of its mild climate, Alamo has attracted winter residents from northern latitudes, winter after winter, generation after generation.

Today Alamo finds itself at the heart of the Valley’s huge tourism industry. Tourism here takes many forms. Millions of folk drive here from Monterrey, and other points south, for shopping and recreation. One million pilgrims travel here year round to worship at the Basilica of our Lady of San Juan del Valle close by. Hundreds of thousands of bird and butterfly watchers drive and fly in from around the world, pouring through and staying in Alamo, the Gateway to Santa Ana Refuge. Winter Texans, in tens of thousands, drive in to live, eat and shop in Alamo for the winter months, where they are visited by family and friends who fly here. Hundreds of thousands of shoppers visit Alamo’s unique mix of shops, and the huge Alamo flea market, the Valley’s largest.

Alamo is a thriving commercial center based on tourism. It is a community of vibrant retail and service businesses, schools, churches, and community organizations, welcoming all visitors.

Places to Stay in Alamo

Please click here for a list of places to stay in Alamo

RV and MH Parks

Alamo Rec-Veh
(956) 787-8221

Alamo Rose
(956) 783.2600

Bibleville Conference Grounds
(956) 787-2024

Casa del Valle
(956) 783-5008

Pleasant Valley
(956) 781-3821

Trophy Gardens
(956) 787-7717

Winter Ranch
(956) 781-1358


Alamo Ballroom
Catering, Ballroom, Winter Restaurant
(956) 533-5277
123 South 8th Street, Alamo, TX

Cedar House
Bar, Grill, and Ballroom
(956) 647-1853
114 South 7th Street, Donna, TX

Dairy Queen of Alamo
(956) 781-5041
933 Old Hwy 83 West, Alamo, TX

El Dorado Restaurant
(956) 787-8822
755 Main Street, Alamo, TX

Willie’s Bar B Que
1028 W Bowie Ave, Alamo, TX

Wing Stop
(956) 783.9464
1451 Duranta, Suite 6, Alamo, TX