The hotel above incorporates original buildings of St. Mary’s College, a Catholic school for boys that opened in 1853 and evolved into St. Mary’s University. Drainage and air conditioning runoff from the Majestic Theater across the street was piped underground to discharge at this point into the river. The college made several attempts at landscaping the area around the pipe.
Robert Hugman seized upon the opportunity of falling water to create the appearance of a spring-fed fountain, surrounded by pocked limestone rocks typical of the Texas Hill Country. Rather than continuing a solid sidewalk with water piped beneath from the fountain into the river, Hugman placed stepping stones that the water could flow between, and did lush semi-tropical planting that could survive in this sheltered environment. The sound and the sight of water gently bubbling through sun dappled ferns and among tiers of rocks and on through the sidewalk have made this one of the most popular features of the River Walk.