Spanish for “Palace on the River”, Palacio Del Rio is one of a kind hotel which has the San Antonio Riverwalk on one side the HemisFair grounds on the other. H.B. Zachary owner of Zachary Construction and chairman of HemisFair’s executive committee took on the task of constructing the new hotel in the early summer of 1967. With the opening of the fair less than a year away Zachary used revolutionary modular construction techniques to complete the hotel in a record breaking 202 days. Unlike traditional construction practices where a hotel rises one floor at a time using concrete and steel concluding with interior finishing-out at the end, only the Hilton’s first four floors and a small 21 floor utility core were built on site. All 500 guest rooms were built as individual modules and finished-out down to the towels, curtains & telephones at a remote site south of downtown. Once a room arrived on the site a crane with a vertical rotor hoisted the room module off the truck and carried it into its final position on the rising structure. After all the room modules were in place the 22nd floor banquet level was constructed to finish-out the building.
Some years after HemisFair additional banquet space was added on the mezzanine level (2nd street level) which also serves as a covered valet parking area on street level and its roof serves a terrace garden. Until the opening of the Grand Hyatt in 2008 the Hilton had the edge of being closest hotel for convention attendees.
For further reading on the construction methods used visit Modular Building Institute online (Hilton Article)
Construction Related Articles & Videos
Below are materials related to the construction of San Antonio’s palace on the river.
Below are images of the hotel’s River Walk side during HemisFair ’68.
Below are scans of postcards from the hotel.