In the early 1940s architect Robert Hugman pioneered the River Walk’s commercial use by opening his office in basement of the tower of this 1891 landmark designed by James Riely Gordon. Hugman’s lettered sign on the rim of the street level balcony was later replicated in his memory. Once flood protection was assured and the River Walk became commercially viable, owners of such vintage riverside buildings had only to punch doorways in their antique basement walls to make good use of their property, lending a varied sense of antiquity to the River Walk.
Robert Hugman designed several River Walk entries, including this stairway by his office, added to the Commerce Street bridge. The bridge, its concrete sides adorned by the sculptor Pompeo Coppini, was dedicated in 1914 at the time of the dedication of the River Park that preceded the present River Walk. Though the park was landscaped, the concrete walls beside the river gave it the appearance of a utilitarian canal. Hugman had them replaced with native limestone walls with barely perceptible irregular curves that make the river appear to be within a natural channel.