The San Jacinto Monument and Museum is in San Jacinto Battleground and State Historical Park on the Houston Ship Channel twenty-two miles southeast of Houston in Harris County. The octagonal monument was constructed between 1936 and 1939 with federal and state funds at a cost of $1.5 million to commemorate the heroes of the battle of San Jacinto and all other persons who helped win the independence of Texas. The monument was conceived by architect Alfred C. Finn and engineer Robert J. Cummins from a design suggested by Jesse H. Jones, chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Texas Centennial celebration, and constructed by Warren S. Bellows Construction Company of Dallas and Houston. It is now widely recognized as one of the best examples of Moderne architecture in the nation. The monument is approximately 570 feet tall, built of reinforced concrete faced with Texas fossilized buff limestone quarried near the state capital at Austin. The museum proper, which forms the building's base, is 125 feet square and decorated by eight engraved panels depicting the history of Texas. The six flags of Texas decorate the building's bronze doors. Above the panels, at the base of the shaft, is a frieze depicting events in the Anglo-American colonization of Texas. The shaft tapers from forty-eight feet square at its foundation to thirty feet square at the observation tower. The building is crowned by a thirty-four-foot star, symbolizing the "lone star" of Texas. A reflecting pool, 1,750 feet long and 200 feet wide, mirrors the shaft from top to bottom. A 5,000-seat amphitheater behind the building offers continuous screen presentation of the battle.
Originally equipped through public subscription, the monument and museum were first operated by a nonprofit educational corporation, the San Jacinto Museum of History Association, organized on November 9, 1938, under contract with the state Board of Control. Since September 1966 the monument and museum have been operated by the San Jacinto Museum of History Association under contract with the Texas State Parks and Wildlife Commission (see TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT). In 1983 the monument was renovated at a cost of over a million dollars. The museum's purpose is to re-visualize the history of Texas and the Spanish Southwest; to collect, preserve, and exhibit historical material; and to maintain a library and archives not only for research and educational purposes, but to promote friendship and sympathetic understanding between the peoples of Texas and those of Mexico, Spain, France, and the Latin-American republics. Museum collections include material relating to Pre-Columbian America, New Spain, Mexico, the Spanish Southwest, and early Texas, largely acquired through unrestricted gifts. In 1996 the collection contained more than 100,000 objects, 50,000 documents, 10,000 images, and a 35,000-volume rare-book library. The innovative multi-image show Texas Forever!! The Battle of San Jacinto is shown in the Jesse H. Jones Theatre for Texas Studies, opened in 1990. Permanent exhibits in the museum outline the history of the region in a continuous chronological line.