In the Spring of 1968 San Antonio’s HemisFair Park was the site of the official 1968 World’s Fair. From April 6 through October 6 San Antonio welcomed more than thirty nations and six million visitors as they celebrated the various people and cultures that settled in the region. Themed the “Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas,” the fair was set to jointly pay tribute to the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city of San Antonio in 1718.
The HemisFair project officially began in November 1965 when The Bureau International de Expositions (BIE) awarded San Antonio official Fair status. Funded by a combination of public and private funds, the venture had an estimated cost of $156 million dollars and included the construction of San Antonio’s most iconic buildings. The development of HemisFair completely changed the cityscape and brought with it the convention center and arena, the Texas State Pavilion now recognized as the Institute of Texan Cultures, the U. S. Pavilion which has since transitioned to become the John H. Wood Federal Courthouse, and San Antonio’s skyline staple the Tower of Americas.
The fair grounds were built on a 96.2-acre site on the southeastern edge of downtown San Antonio. Though a majority of the existing structures on the site were demolished, the San Antonio Preservation Society saved 24 structures, which were incorporated directly into the fair site.
As part of the overall HemisFair project the city extended its River Walk (Paseo del Rio) one-quarter of a mile into the site. The extension linked the River Walk with the World’s Fair grounds and cemented San Antonio, and the River Walk, as a tourist destination. As San Antonio’s city center, Hemisfair continues to transform and unify its surrounding areas in an effort to create a friendlier park space for the community, and tourists alike.
In 2001 the River Walk was further extended under the new Convention Center Expansion and is now connected to a small lagoon inside Hemisfair. As the city continues to undergo renovations, Hemisfair represents both a relic of the past and a beacon of the future as it merges historic sites with the much needed urban revitalization of San Antonio.