What Texans know as “the Alamo” was built as a mission church–San Antonio de Valero–in 1744. I say “built”, but actually the chapel was never finished. The Alamo had no roof until much later.
The Catholic church eventually gave up using San Antonio de Valero. Around 1803 the compound was secularized, which means that the church gave it to others for non-religious uses. The old church building was used as a military garrison, among other things.
In 1836, of course, the Alamo became the site of the famous siege that made possible an independent Republic of Texas.
Here’s what it looked like after the famous battle. This daguerreotype image was made in 1849–just 13 years after the Battle of the Alamo. You can see the damage to the walls. Can you see the broken chapel doors and how light shows through one of the upper windows where the roof is missing? Also notice that the front wall is square, not arched like today. That’s the way it was built.
Here’s how the building looked nine years later in 1858. The US Army was using the chapel to store grain, and the Army Corp of Engineers made some much-needed repairs. They added the iconic arch when they repaired the roof sometime around 1850. You can see the open plaza in front of the chapel and the 2-story long barracks.
The buildings were kept in fairly good repair while the Army was using them, but the Army outgrew the facilities in 1870 and moved on. By this time, the Alamo was over 100 years old and had seen a great deal of use and abuse. It began to crumble again.
Almost 50 years later, on October 30, 1885, the State of Texas purchased the Alamo chapel from the Catholic Church.
Though most Texans at the time would have known the story of the siege and fall, but there was no real reason to have visited. Tourism wasn’t really “a thing” then, and there wasn’t much to see, anyway.