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RIVERWALK...SAN ANTONIO

JUST TAKE A STROLL...AND ENJOY
This, the oldest continuously used Spanish built diversion dam in Texas, has provided irrigation water from the San Antonio River since it's construction sometime between 1731 and 1745. The dam, originally 270 feet long, is built on a natural rock foundation. A portion of the east wing is now covered by the nearby flood control levee. Despite a unique reverse buttress making an angular turn at the center of the channel, the dam has withstood many years of destructive floods with only minor repairs required to maintain its sound condition.
RIVERWALK.....WHAT IS IT?

It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath downtown San Antonio, Texas. In case you are wondering, and I was, from where does the San Antonio River originate? I learned that it emerges directly from two springs  located near the center of the city, and it flows south for 180 miles, emptying into the Guadalupe River. 

As with all notable sites, there is a history to Riverwalk.  It begins with Spanish explorations, irrigation projects, mission building, barge traffic, flood control, dam construction and....at one time, an idea to pave roadways over it.  Long before the New Deal began building dams, Texas controlled flooding on the San Antonio River with construction of Almos Dam following a terrible flood in 1921.

With the city now protected, the question was what to do with the "lazy channel" that still flowed in a "reverse C" through the city.   City architect, Robert H. H. Hugman, with the support of business associations, offered  a way to blend scenic walks into a series of commercial retail outlets.  He was the visionary of the San Antonio River Walk, and his views and determination transformed what might have been a drainage culvert into an astonishing linear park.

Hugman knew that if floodgates were constructed at each end of the Great Bend, the city could be completely isolated from flooding and commercial development could proceed at River level. The "reverse C" could be made into a "D".  In 1929, at the age of 27, he offered an imaginative plan for development of what  he called "Shops of Aragon and Romula". It was patterned after old cities in Spain, where narrow winding streets, barred to vehicular traffic, contained the best shops and restaurants. 
Click here and scroll down to see a map which I cannot reproduce.   You will see the San Antonio River flow as it existed before Hugman's design, and the result of his plan: a canal that links one bend of the river to another.  With the Almos Dam in place, water flow could be controlled and development of the River Walk and its features could begin.
One of the old, original water viaducts.
Robert H. H.  Hugman
Completing his work however, became a contest of political push and pull with the mayor and competing political interests who continued to question his design.  Ultimately, he quit before completion, just as other architects have abandoned their work when compromised by political headwinds.

For example, in Sydney, Australia, Jøern Utzen, the visionary Dane who designed Australia's most famous landmark, was forced off the project in 1966, seven years before the Opera House opened in the shadow of the Harbor Bridge. He left the country, vowing never to return, after an acrimonious dispute with New South Wales authorities over design inspirations and spiraling costs.  

Now the rift is finally to be healed, with the 83-year-old architect accepting an invitation by the state government to oversee an A$24m (£9m) revamp.  Utzon, who has never seen  the completed structure, with its distinctive roof of billowing sails, has agreed to be principal design consultant on work to upgrade the interior.  Still, unable to travel because of his advanced age, he will never see, in person, his new Wonder of the World.

So it went in San Antonio, when funding from the WPA allowed Hugman to begin his effort in 1939.  He lasted less than one year, running afoul of the Conservation Society who disliked his use of stone and the disheveled look that they had to put up with during the early stages of construction.  Controversy ensued, and the "ladies" as our River Boat guide told us, won the day, securing the help of Mayor Maury Maverick (later governor of Texas) and depriving Hugman of the stone he needed to complete his vision.  When he protested to the River Project Board, he was fired. 

Work continued under the influence of the Conservation Society and it has maintained its control over the Riverwalk down to the present day.  The emphasis is floral, natural, with very little man-made color.  The effect is that of a sanctuary, a haven of rest, even amidst the business of shops, hotel placements and restaurants that line the banks for much, but not all, of its flow.
On March 13, 1941, the Works Progress Administration formally turned over the completed River Walk to the City of San Antonio. There were 17,000 feet of new sidewalks, 31 stairways, 3 dams, 4,000 trees, shrubs, and plants, and numerous benches of stone, cement, and cedar. An estimated 50,000 people lined the River Walk on April 21 to dedicate the project and watch the first of what became an annual parade of boats.If you have a deep and abiding interesting in its history, you will find a wonderful account at:
Link to History San Antonio River/photos
ALL PHOTOS BELOW TAKEN WITH  iPhone
At intervals along the river walk, one finds beautifully created mosaics. They add a much needed bit of color to "nature".
In lobby of Hyatt Hotel, a "walkthrough" from Riverwalk to The Alamo.
Both of these photos were taken inside the lobby at the Hyatt Regency, a pathway which connects the Alamo and the Riverwalk.  Lots of people pause to enjoy this magnificent theme of the Riverwalk itself.
And, in case you were wondering how far from your hotel you have to walk....well, it depends on your hotel.  This one is close by.  Have a good time! 
Within an easy walk, one can reach The Alamo, The Riverwalk Mall and in another bit of walking, 10 minutes, one can go up the Tower of America, a 750 foot high outlook  wherein one can eat lunch in a revolving restaurant, or just take in a good view from the observation tower.  San Antonio....the 7th largest city in the United States...and a nice place to visit.
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