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Alamo Benches

Victoria man's work will sit in center of Alamo

Cypress wood used in handcrafting benches sporting replicas of Texas star

MELONY OVERTON
The Victoria Advocate

Many people make art, while others make history.

In his small furniture factory in downtown Victoria, David Clifton does both.

Clifton designed two wooden benches that will sit in the heart of the shrine of Texas liberty - the Alamo in San Antonio.

The Alamo Committee, made up of members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas who maintain the one-time mission, commissioned the benches in October.

For someone who has dedicated years to reproducing Texas antiques out of old wood, this was a dream come true for Clifton.

"I'm an 11th-generation Texan, and I have a love for Texas history and Texas furniture. I was meant to do this," he said.

When Zia Miller, a committee member who lives in Victoria, learned of the need for seating in front of the Wall of History in the center of the Alamo complex, she thought of Clifton.

He put together a portfolio, and Miller presented it to the committee.

"The others thought his furniture was beautiful and unique. The committee represents a certain period of history, and we wanted the pieces to represent Texas heritage," she said.

The benches, which Clifton say resemble a wagon seat, will provide rest for the 2.5 million people who visit the Alamo each year.

The quality of Clifton's work made him the perfect choice, Miller said.

"We needed something that was sturdy. They are made out of cypress wood, so they will weather naturally without a finish. One of the women on the committee said we had to have the stars," she said.

By stars, Miller meant wooden replicas of the Texas star Clifton often uses as decoration. In this case, the benches will sport one on each side of the back rest.

To give his beds, wardrobe chests, tables, and armoires an authentic early Texas look, Clifton uses lumber he salvages from old homes built in Victoria in the 1880s and earlier. Clifton makes his furniture out of weathered pine, walnut and mesquite. While working as a home remodeler, he noticed people were tearing down homes in old Victoria and throwing the wood away. With his own tear-down crew, Clifton began to collect the scrapped wood.

"People began to ask me what I was doing with the wood. When I told them I made furniture out of it, the orders came in," he said.

He was working out of his home until he opened Texana Furniture at 103 Santa Rosa St. about seven years ago.

Since then, he has designed 700 custom-made pieces for individual collectors and famous people. A few of his pieces are in offices in the Capitol in Austin.

At the age of 14, a family friend taught Clifton the craft of furniture making used by the German masters who settled in the Texas Hill Country.

David Clifton

David Clifton, owner of Texana Furniture in Victoria, puts the finishing touches on one of the two benches that will be placed at the Alamo in San Antonio. The pieces were commissioned by the Alamo Committee to provide tourists with restful places to sit. The benches will provide rest for the 2.5 million people who visit the Alamo annually.


"He taught me how to make the furniture by hand without using power tools. Now we use power tools to cut the wood, but we use hand tools to work the wood into the desired style," he said.

All of Clifton's work is time consuming, but he isn't in a hurry. Customers know this, and don't mind waiting the six to eight weeks it takes to complete a piece.

"Things that are punched out and mass produced have no soul. At times, I feel like I'm out of place because everyone is so fast-paced," he said.

Clifton will deliver the two benches to the Alamo on Monday. Until then, he will be busy filling other orders.

If the exposure from the Alamo garners more interest in his work, Clifton welcomes it.

"No matter how busy we get, we are going to stick with hand making the furniture," he said.



Texana Brand

David Clifton, owner of Texana Furniture, a furniture factory on 103 Santa Rosa St., applies his own brand to one of two benches to be placed In front of the Wall of History at the Alamo. The cypress wood Clifton used for the benches came from Louisiana and dates back before the turn of the century.
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