The narrow strip of land known to residents in the middle 1800s as Galveston Island was actually a peninsula surrounded on three sides by a bend in the San Antonio River. It was called an island because the fourth side was almost completely closed by the Pajalache Acequia, an irrigation ditch that watered the fields of Mission Concepcion three miles to the south.
The land became known as Bowen's Island after local postmaster John Bowen and his wife Mary built their home there and surrounded it with lush gardens. After John Bowen's death in 1867, it was used as a beer garden and market, for gymnastics performances by the San Antonio Turnverein, and as a popular spot for picnics and religious gatherings.
The Bowen family sold the island in 1910, and real estate developers rerouted the river and extended streets to create a valuable ten-acre building site. By the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, the former island featured a hotel, the Federal Reserve Bank, and commercial buildings including the thirty-one story Smith-Young Tower.
Bronze plaques along the River Walk identify features designed by Robert H.H. Hugman. The plaques replicate the stamp that was imprinted on his architectural drawings. Hugman's initial concept for beautification and commercial development of the San Antonio River was conceived
in 1929. Construction began on the River Walk project in 1939 with partial funding from the Works Progress Administration. To learn more about Hugman and the River Walk, please scan this QR code with your smartphone or go to www.HugmanTour.com.