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SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The private heritage group that has operated the Alamo in San Antonio for more than a century will be removed from that role as the state tries to expand the scope of its most visited tourist site.
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, a group of women who trace their ancestry to those who lived in Texas when it was an independent nation in the mid-19th century, have managed the day-to-day operations of the Alamo since 1891.
The Texas Land Office will conduct a nationwide search for a firm to manage the landmark, which was the site of an 1836 battle in Texas' war for independence from Mexico. The Alamo's vastly outnumbered defenders were routed by Mexican forces in a 13-day siege but the battle became a rallying point for the Texans, who defeated the Mexican Army a few weeks later.
"To meet the ever-increasing operational needs of the Alamo, the Land Office has determined to change its day to day management," said Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, grandson of former President George H.W. Bush.
The state and the city of San Antonio are looking to revamp the downtown plaza where the structure's famed facade has become one of the most recognizable items in the state.
City Councilman Joe Krier says with the rumble of traffic and with the plaza hemmed in by tourist shops, the Alamo can present an underwhelming appearance.
"We need for Alamo Plaza to have the kind of reverence and respect for history that we see in places like the battlefield at Gettysburg and at the monuments at Pearl Harbor," Krier said.
A measure introduced in the Texas Legislature would appropriate $250 million for the city to buy and demolish buildings, close streets and acquire property to change the look of the area around the Alamo.One new feature is a museum of Alamo artifacts collected by British pop musician Phil Collins, who has one of the most extensive collections in the world of the famed battle.
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, credited with preventing the building from potentially being demolished in 1908, said it regrets the change.
"It does not diminish our unending passion for the preservation of the Shrine of Texas Liberty and we look forward to maintaining our library collection as a historical resource for all Texans to enjoy," said DRT President General Ellen McCaffrey.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott