Texas Originals, a co-production with Humanities Texas

Clara Driscoll

A Texas-born businesswoman, philanthropist, and historic preservationist who provided the money to preserve the Alamo Mission in San Antonio.

Clara Driscoll
April 2, 1881 – July 17, 1945

"Remember the Alamo" was the rallying cry at the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto.  However by 1903, the neglected Alamo was nearly torn down and replaced by a hotel.  The state had already purchased the church, but refused to pay for the rest of the grounds where most of the famous battle occurred. 

Laguna Gloria VillaAt that point, 22-year-old Clara Driscoll, whose grandfather had fought in the battle of San Jacinto, stepped forward with her own money to protect the sacred site.  She collaborated with the San Antonio chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to protect the historic mission. For her generosity, Driscoll is known as the "Savior of the Alamo."

Driscoll was born in 1881, the only daughter of Corpus Christi millionaire Robert Driscoll.  Educated in Europe, Clara understood the importance of preserving historical sites.  She wrote:  "By the care of our eloquent but voiceless monuments, we are preparing a noble inspiration for our future." 

Driscoll is also remembered for the beautiful Laguna Gloria villa she and her husband built on the Colorado River in Austin.  This mansion and its grounds became the original home of the Austin Museum of Art.  But Clara Driscoll is best remembered for rescuing the Alamo, "the shrine of Texas Independence and glory," as she described it.  When Driscoll died in 1945, her body lay in state at the mission's chapel, in recognition of her work to preserve it.

 

Historical Marker for Clara Driscoll (click to enlarge)Historical Marker for Clara Driscoll (click to enlarge)

Sources

Austin Museum of Art. "About Laguna Gloria." http://www.amoa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_lagunagloria

Butterfield, Jack C. Clara Driscoll Rescued the Alamo: A Brief Biography. Austin: Library Committee, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, 1961.

DeMoss, Dorothy D. "Driscoll, Clara." Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/DD/fdr4.html

Driscoll, Clara. In the Shadow of the Alamo. New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1906.

Turner, Martha Anne. Clara Driscoll: An American Tradition. Austin: Madrona Press, 1979.

This episode first aired March 24, 2012.