JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
May is Historic Preservation Month and the 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron’s Environmental Assets Branch is involved in the preservation of several historic resources throughout Joint Base San Antonio.
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 established a program for the preservation of historic properties throughout the nation, and every May these efforts are promoted and celebrated.
“Across JBSA, we have eight historic districts with more than 800 contributing properties, and 31 or so archeological resources,” said Dayna Cramer, 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron chief of environmental conservation. “We probably have more than 100 projects that my three-person team is overseeing right now.”
Her team’s mission is to protect the history of the military installations and highlighted three historic places being preserved at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston: the Gift Chapel, the Staff Post gazebo and the Caisson Platoon’s administrative area.
The Gift Chapel is undergoing a roof restoration.
“In the early 1900s, the morale for the Army was really low,” Cramer explained. “The city of San Antonio came together and they gifted the Army the money to build the chapel. I believe it was dedicated for the Army to use as a morale and welfare facility – essentially mental health and religious health. It’s been used substantially since it was constructed for a variety of functions, including a courtroom.”
When JBSA-Fort Sam Houston was constructed, it did not have a chapel for the first 30 years. Any religious services were hosted in temporary shelters, open encampments, or -- after 1880 -- in the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Grayson Street.
Construction for the chapel began in 1908 and former President William Howard Taft formally dedicated the building on Oct. 17, 1909.
Originally built around 1919 and reconstructed in the 1970s, the Staff Post gazebo is in the historic housing district on the parade field looking towards the Quadrangle. The old wooden trim is deteriorating, so it is being removed and replaced in accordance with the Secretary of Interior’s Preservation Standards.
The U.S. Army North Caisson Platoon, which honors fallen military members with funeral honors at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, occupies a building that is another current preservation project.
“We’ve restored what used to be the old veterinary clinic. It is now administrative offices for the platoon,” Cramer explained. “The history of the funeral honors is a really big deal for the military. Being able to help them continue their mission in what used to be a veterinary office is awesome.”
Even after these three structures are restored, there will be many more projects to finish across JBSA.
“Historic Preservation Month is a nationwide program to call attention to the activities that we do all year round,” Cramer said. “We try to do a lot of outreach events and training with on-base personnel. We want to make people aware of the history that is around them so they can help us preserve that history.”
Anyone looking for awareness training or information about JBSA history should contact the JBSA Cultural Resources Office at email@example.com.