University of Texas, Alexander Architectural Archive

Robert H. H. Hugman:

An Inventory of his Drawings, 1938-1939

Collection Summary

Creator: Hugman, Robert Harvey Harold, 1902-1980
Title: Robert H.H. Hugman (1902-1980) Drawings, San Antonio River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Dates: 1938-1939
Abstract: Hugman (1902-1980) was an architect who left his mark on the city of San Antonio with his plan for the beautification of the San Antonio River. Born in San Antonio; attended the University of Texas and MIT; practiced in New Orleans (1924-1927); moved to San Antonio (1927); worked for the Works Projects Administration during the Depression; went back to private practice, employed at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio (1957-1972). The collection contains 63 working drawings (1938-1939) showing Hugman's plan for the San Antonio River Walk (Paseo del Rio).
Identification: HUG Accession number(s): 1983005
Quantity: 63 drawings
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Alexander Architectural Archive, The University of Texas at Austin.

Biographical Sketch of Robert H. H. Hugman

Robert H.H. (Harvey Harold) Hugman (1902-1980) left a lasting mark on the city of San Antonio with his plan for the beautification of the San Antonio River. Born in San Antonio, Hugman attended University of Texas at Austin and MIT. From 1924 to 1927 he lived in New Orleans, where he was impressed by the preservation of the French Quarter.

Hugman returned to San Antonio to open his practice. His major early work was the Spanish-colonial-revival residence of William A. Turner (1928). Hugman's practice suffered with the onset of the depression; he worked for the Works Projects Administration and began thinking about the endangered San Antonio River.

Following a series of disastrous floods, including one in 1921 that killed 50 people, city officials built Olmos Dam and removed several meanders from the river downtown. Plans called for redirecting the flow of the biggest bend in the river and paving it over. The San Antonio Conservation Society, however, recognized the river's potential and had been working to save it. In 1929, Hugman provided them “The Shops of Aragon and Romula,” a flood-prevention proposal that not only allowed for commercial development, but maintained the natural beauty of the river and its flora. For the next six years, armed with Hugman's seductive drawings of quaint, winding streets filled with shops and pedestrian activity, they lobbied city officials and property owners along the river. Funding did not come until 1938, however, when Congressman Maury Maverick secured partial assistance from the WPA. In a 1978 speech Hugman recalled how a bond election for the remaining funds was rigged by the Plaza Hotel manager (and future mayor) John White and compliant city officials to exclude property owners opposed to the project and to include the residents of the hotel who “owned as much as a watch.”

Hugman was appointed architect for the project and work began in 1939. Although not as extensive as his original proposal, the WPA project resulted in the improvement of more than 21 blocks along the river including the construction of 17,000 feet of walkways, 31 stairways leading from 21 bridges, and the planting of more than 11,000 trees and shrubs. The construction of the Arneson River Theater, located alongside La Villita, represented the picturesque vision of what the Paseo del Rio could become.

Nevertheless, things did not proceed smoothly. Hugman was dismissed from the project in March 1940 on the premise that he failed to hire a landscape architect at his own expense and to supply certain plans. He moved his office to the river level of James Riely Gordon's 1891 Clifford Building hoping to encourage others to locate along the river. But the Riverwalk began deteriorating in the mid-40's, a process that continued until Hugman's original vision was rediscovered by a new generation of conservationists and city official in the 1960s.

From 1957 until his retirement in 1972, Hugman was employed at Randolph Air Base. He was honored in 1978 with the dedication of the five bronze bells in the Arneson River Theater. The Paseo del Rio was cited as a Distinguished Achievement in the 1984 AIA Honors program.

-Lila Knight

-From “Texas 50.” Texas Architect (Nov./Dec. 1989): p. 52

Scope and Content of the collection

This record group contains 63 working drawings (1938-1939) showing Hugman's Plans for the Improvement of the San Antonio River (Paseo del Rio), Fourth Street South to Villita Street, San Antonio, Texas.

Hugman began work on the design for the project in 1929 in an effort to save the river from being paved over as a flood prevention plan. Completed in 1941, the project spanned 21 blocks of downtown San Antonio and has served as a model of success in urban planning.


Restrictions on Access

Access is by appointment only to any serious scholar. Rolled materials must be flattened before viewing. A three day advance notice is required to flatten rolled materials. Portions of this collection are not processed and may not be accessible.

Restrictions on Use

Permission for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Alexander Architectural Archives Use Policy.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Texas Online Catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Hugman, Robert Harvey Harold, 1902-1980.--Archives.
Paseo del Rio (San Antonio, Tex.)
City planning--Texas--San Antonio.
Parks--Texas--San Antonio.
Document types:
Working drawings.

Related Material

The Robert H. H. Hugman Collection held by the San Antonio Conservation Society consists of watercolors, sketches, and pencil drawings of San Antonio Riverwalk scenes and text documents relating to the Riverwalk.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Robert H. H. Hugman (1902-1980) Drawings, 1938-1939, San Antonio River Walk, San Antonio, Texas, the Alexander Architectural Archive, the General Libraries, the University of Texas at Austin

Processing Information

Lila Knight, Fall 1983.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished inventory in Archive.

References to works by or about Robert H.H. Hugman (1902-1980)

Black, Sinclair. “San Antonio's Linear Paradise.” AIA Journal 68 (July 1979): p. 30-9.

George, Mary Carolyn Hollers. O'Neil Ford, Architect. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992.

“Institute Honors to Nine for `Distinguished Achievements'.” AIA Journal 73 (February 1984): p. 14.

“Robert H.H. Hugman San Antonio Citation of Honor.” Texas Architect 28 (November/December 1978): p. 44.

Speck, Lawrence. Landmarks of Texas Architecture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986.

Zunker, Vernon G. A Dream Come True: Robert Hugman and San Antonio's River Walk. San Antonio: V.G. Zunker, 1983.

Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.


Drawings Series

Series Abstract
The drawings series contains 63 working drawings (1938-1939) showing Hugman's Plans for the improvement of the San Antonio River (Paseo del Rio), Fourth Street South to Villita Street, San Antonio, Texas. For more detailed information regarding these materials, see the unpublished finding aid in the Archive.