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A statue of “The Father of the River Walk” will soon sit on the grounds of his creation. City Council approved the installation of a bronze bust of late architect Robert H.H. Hugman on Thursday. He was dubbed the River Walk’s Father after preserving a piece of history that attracts people to San Antonio from all over the world.
Nancy Hunt, executive director of the Paseo del Rio Association, called Hunt a genius before his time.
“There are cities all over the country that try to replicate the River Walk and it doesn’t happen, they just can’t do it,” Hunt said. “It’s because we’ve preserved this history so much. Hugman was such a genius in the way he designed it.”
The River Walk is dynamic and always changing, and as the river winds and turns, those walking along the pathway continuously experience a different kind of paving or footbridge.
“You never look down this long river because it bends and it turns,” Hunt said. “It’s never all the same and that is (Hugman’s) genius.”
A partnership between the Paseo del Rio Association, Power of Preservation Foundation, and the local chapter of American Institute of Architects held a fundraiser earlier this month to raise money for the bust. Hunt said they most likely raised $80,000 in total, $48,000 of which went toward expenses for the statue. The remaining money will go to an architectural scholarship in Hugman’s name.
Hunt said the bust, which will be placed at the bottom of the west staircase leading down from Commerce Street between Casa Rio and the Republic of Texas restaurants, will most likely be finished the third or fourth week in June, and she hopes the installation process of the statue’s foundation will begin next week.
More than 50 plaques can be found – if one looks closely – on the River Walk today in honor of Hugman’s original design, including several close to the intersection of Commerce Street and the River Walk where his bust will be installed. Construction on Hugman’s River Walk design started in 1939, a response to the City’s attempts to manage flood waters. About a year into the project Hugman was fired and local architect J. Fred Buenz took over, completing the River Walk in 1941.
Four years after his death, Hugman was honored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for his achievements and the AIA declared the River Walk as “America’s Finest Example of Urban Design” in 1999.
“I think (the bust) goes to prove that this community cares about history and that’s another reason that makes San Antonio so special,” she said. “We work very hard to preserve that history to make sure that it’s remembered.”
*Featured/top image: Plans for the Robert H.H Hugman bust on the River Walk. Sketch courtesy of Beaty Palmer and Associates.