Our tour of El Paso architecture started in the lobby of the Hotel Paso del Norte, with an impressive stained glass ceiling.
A quiet Saturday morning was the perfect time to walk around downtown and check out some of the older buildings, starting with the exterior of the Hotel Paso del Norte.
The O.T. Bassett Tower was completed in the Art Deco style in 1930. Designed by Henry Trost late in his career, the building has recently been repurposed and is now an Aloft Hotel. It is nearly identical to the Luhr Tower in Phoenix.
The Martin Building was for 50 years the headquarters of the El Paso Electric Company, with a distinctive ‘USE ELECTRICITY’ sign on the roof. With the building’s remodel to condo’s, the old energy consuming sign has come down with a much more efficient LED sign proclaiming the new name ‘ ELECTRIC CITY’
The Union Bank Building at 401 East Main Street was completed in 2012, but retains the traditional Southwest look.
This classic building across the street from the San Jacinto Plaza was completed in 1926 as the Hotel Orndorff. It too was designed by Henry Trost.
From 1935 until 1970 it was known as the Hotel Cortez, a name that is retained for the ballroom spaces used for weddings. The rest of the building is now used for offices.
A few miles north of downtown is the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). The entire campus has a consistent architectural look known as Bhutanese. This unusual approach is a result of the wife of the dean of the School of Mines (Kathleen Worrell) reading an article in the National Geographic Magazine in 1914 about this architectural style.
After a large fire that destroyed one of the main buildings, she convinced her husband to adopt this style, and for 100 years it has remained, and expanded – even on the exterior of the football stadium.
One of the dorms in the Bhutanese style.
Our last stop on the brief architectural tour of El Paso took us to the Manhattan Heights Historic District to check out this great little 1919 gas station.
Just across the street is this classic bungalow being protected by a robot.
It is only about 20 miles from Tombstone to Bisbee, but culturally it is a world away from the old west gun crowd. Bisbee is known as an artistic town, full of free spirits, having been named the ‘Best Hippie Town in Arizona’.
It was founded in the late 1800s as a mining town, and there is evidence of that everywhere, with the town situated in a steep valley with a 1 street commercial district, and houses scattered up and down the hills.
Many of the houses and commercial buildings have interesting architecture, but the crown jewel is the Art Deco Cochise County Courthouse.
When the mining eventually died out in the 1970s, the artistic crowd found the town perfect for them, with a fantastic climate, interesting architecture and affordability. Today the town thrives on as one of the destinations in Southern Arizona.
Our next stretch break was only 1 hour from Little Rock, but well worth it. Our visit to Hot Springs was the highlight of the trip west.
Hot Springs is one of the oldest resort towns in the country, being home at one time to such diverse activities as Major League Baseball spring training, illegal gambling and Al Capone, and the beginnings of one of the most conservative churches in the country, as well as the town that President Bill Clinton grew up in.
Bath House Row dates from the early 1900s, all with exceptional architectural style.
In addition to the baths there are a number of other architecturally interesting buildings.
With the invention of the production line for the automobile a few cities grew at a tremendous rate between 1910 and 1920. Akron, home of the rubber companies, was one of those. In 1910 there were less than 70,000 people in the city, by 1920 it had tripled to over 200,000, with an additional increase of 50,000 by the 1930 census.
As a result there is a plethora of architecture from the era.
Our first stop is a great apartment building in the Highland Square neighborhood, dating from 1927. The neighborhood is very eclectic, with a great collection of shops and cafes.
The Polsky Building was one of two major downtown department stores, serving shoppers from 1930 until it closed in 1978. This art deco masterpiece was famous for the Christmas displays in their windows.
Today the University of Akron owns the building, using it for classrooms, with the art students using those same windows for displays.
The Mayflower Hotel was for many years the place to be in downtown Akron. For it’s opening in 1931 roses were dropped from airships (blimps) onto the roof of the Zeppelin Observation on the roof of the hotel.
While the hotel itself was named after the famed ship that brought pilgrims to the new world, the restaurant was Hawaiian themed.
Not long after it opened it was the location of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935.
The Rubber Room paid homage to the primary industry of the city by having nearly all the fixtures made out of rubber. Note the ‘tire lights’ in this period photo (found on pintrest). Sadly the great murals were lost during a remodeling in the 1980s.
The hotel has for the last few decades been a senior citizen home. Today it is going through another remodel, but will remain affordable senior housing.
The ATT Building (Ohio Bell) continues the Art Deco trend as Akron boomed in the 1920s and 1930s. Much like the Cincinnati Bell building seen on our visit to the Queen City, this building was designed to support the massive switching equipment needed for the telephone service of a large city.
Examples of this design include enhanced ventilation to keep the equipment cool, and a four foot thick concrete pad as a floating foundation.
The vertical lines of the exterior make this 7 floor building seem much taller, while providing the traditional art deco attention to detail.
The Akron YMCA was founded in 1870, but didn’t have their own building until 1904. When that building was outgrown, they built this 200′ tall, 17 floor building.
It is unique in that is set a few blocks away from the rest of the downtown buildings, and it is in an orange-ish brick instead of the stone art deco look of it’s time, but does retain the art deco styling.
Akron is likely one of the few cities that the tallest building in town dating from the 1930s, the Huntington Tower. Opened in 1931 as the Central Depositors Bank and Trust Company Building, it has been renamed numerous times, always after a bank.
This classic limestone exterior rises 28 floors above the street now named for basketball star LeBron James (King James Way). This height allows it to serve as a falcon nesting space.
The Cleveland based architects of Walker & Weeks also designed Severance Hall and Cleveland Public Hall.
The sculpture that is above the main entrance is known as ‘Security’, emphasizing the banking background.
A look around the South Main Street historic district at a few of the other buildings in the neighborhood. While there are a few taller buildings dating from the 1960s and 1970s, the newest being from 1976, most are from the 1920s and 1930s, including 11 of the 18 buildings at least 100′ tall.
As previously noted Akron has been since the early days of automobiles the home of tire production. One of the four largest tire producers in the world, Goodyear, remains in the city.
One of their primary buildings is Goodyear Hall. Located about 2 miles east of downtown, this massive 7 floor structure takes up an entire block. Constructed over 3 years, it opened in 1920.
At one time this building housed an auditorium with over 1600 seats, gymnasium with 5000 seats, bowling alley, rifle range, and a cafeteria that served over 8000 people a day. Much of the building has been redeveloped into apartments, with the theater still in tact and in use, as well as the gymnasium (albeit with less seats).
Mill Street Bridge connects the main University of Akron campus to downtown. It is lined with some reliefs honoring Akron history, and from this vantage point offers a view of the aforementioned Huntington Tower.
Akron has a nice collection of government buildings including the historic post office, library and county building.
While Goodyear is the center of life on the east end of town, Firestone was the mainstay of the south end. While there is still some Bridgestone/Firetsone facilities in the area, it is a shell of what it once was as the headquarters relocated to Nashville years ago.
The Selle Generator Works building at the south end of downtown is also on the historic registry. One of the few structures dating prior to 1900, it is the remaining building of a much larger complex.
Today it is known as the Haunted Labratory, this great looking art deco building next to Fulton Airport, and the Airdock was the Guggenheim Airship Institute.
Founded in 1929 by Daniel Guggenheim was founded to aid in the study of improving all aspects of airship, including aerodynamics, meteorology, and others. The building also housed a vertical wind tunnel, capable of wind speeds of up to 125 mph.
The last photo is of a relief on the back of the building of an angel holding an airship (photo from Akron Beacon Journal – I failed to go the back of the building, but it is too cool to leave out – next time I will walk around the building!)
This art deco terminal was built for aviation, but not airplanes. This being Akron, it was built in anticipation of the expansion of airship passengers. Today it serves as an office building for a medical equipment company.
It was designed by the same person, Michel Konarski, that designed the Guggenheim Airship Institute just up the street.
Our final stop on the way home was in the small city of Wooster for a quick look at the very fine Wayne County Courthouse.
The Cincinnati architecture tour starts with a view of the historic City Hall. This impressive Romanesque building dates from 1893, after taking 5 years to build. The design was intended on reflecting the taste of the German descended majority of the population of the city at the time.
The Cincinnati Fire Museum (back side). Dating from 1907, the building is on the National Register.
The Plum Street Temple (now known as the Isaac Wise Temple), was built in 1865, with construction occurring during the Civil War. As with City Hall, which is caddy-corner from the temple, it is built in a style (Byzantine Moorish) that was popular in Germany at the time.
With World War II, all the temples in Germany in this style were destroyed, leaving only this and one in New York City in this style.
The Cincinnati and Suburban Telephone Company Building – This art deco building was completed in 1930.
Note the frieze – it is a series of rotary phones.
One interesting note, in the 1930s it contained the worlds longest straight switchboard (photo from Cincinnati Enquirer article). The floors were built at an unusually tall for the time 12′ high to support the equipment.
The western end of Garfield Place has a number of interesting structures.
The red brick building is the 1891 Waldo Apartments. The designer, Samuel Hannaford, also designed the Music Hall, nearby City Hall, and the Hooper Building.
The Covenant First Presbyterian Church is another late 1800s religious building. Both the church and the Waldo are on the National Registry.
William Henry Harrison is overlooking the entire scene. The statue’s statement of ‘Ohio’s first President’ is a bit of a controversy, as Harrison was born in Virginia, but elected from Ohio.
The Doctors Building is just down the block, on the south side of Piatt Park. The building has an impressive terracotta façade, while the construction itself is brick and concrete.
The east end of Piatt Park has a wider view of the Doctor’s Building on the left, as well as a statue of James Garfield.
The Garfield statue was commissioned just 2 years after he died, finally being unveiled in 1887.
Tucked in what is essentially an alley, the Cincinnati Gymnasium and Athletic Club dates from 1902. The club claims to be the oldest continuously running athletic club in the country, including Rutherford Hayes once being a member and president of the club.
In a controversial move the club would hold basketball games against other clubs, charging an admission and sharing the proceeds, thus making them ‘professional athletes’ in a time where that was frowned upon.
The Second Renaissance Revival Building was named to the National Registry in 1983.
The former Shillito’s Department Store building is unique in that the front and one side is very Art Deco in style, but the back is a far more traditional look.
TV fans of the 1970s will recognize this building as the home of ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’. In reality it was the home of the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper.
This limestone building was opened in 1926. Today it is home to a couple of hotels.
Cincinnati was clearly a boom town in the 1920s, as yet another of the classic buildings, the Taft Theater, opened in 1928. This art deco hall seats 2,500, and is used for touring Broadway shows and concerts.
The John Roebling Bridge is one of the highlights of the city. When completed in 1866 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, at 1057′. This was supplanted by his more famous Brooklyn Bridge in 1883.
A mix of old and new – the St Louis Church. Another 1930s building, it’s location at Walnut and East 8th Street is located along the new Cincinnati Streetcar route. Ironically the streetcars that would’ve been there when the church was built was torn out in the 1950s, only to be replaced by this new system costing $148m.
Just down the street, and a few decades before, streetcars ran everywhere. (photo from Wikipedia – ‘Metro Bus’). If only they had left the tracks.
Easily the best (in my opinion) is Cincinnati Union Terminal. Once a grand train station (still a small Amtrak station), it is now a museum center.
The building is known as the second largest half dome building in the world, after the Sydney Opera House.
Two landmarks for one – Fountain Square and the Carew Tower.
Fountain Square has been the center of the city since it was installed in 1871. The fountain’s name is ‘The Genius of Water’.
The Carew Tower was the tallest building in the city from it’s opening in 1930 until it was surpassed by the Great American Tower in 2010. While the interior is very ornate, the exterior is a very basic approach towards art deco.
Our tour complete it is time to get out of town at the 1937 Lunken Airport Terminal.
Texas is a big state with a great variety of places for photography, therefore this is a LONG posting.
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Austin – State Capital
The Texas State Capitol dates from 1885. The land it is on was acquired in a barter deal, 3 million acres of Texas Panhandle for this land!
Texas shows it’s Tex-Mex history in the state foods…
State Pastries – two – Strudel & Sopiapilla
State Small Mammal – Armadillo
The city of Austin is proud of it’s motto – Keep Austin Weird.
With the music scene, including a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the Congress Street bats it is a great place to be.
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Roads & Bridges
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I have more Texas Official Highway Maps than any other state. So many this section has combined the Prairies with the Highways which is appropriate because it features Amarillo and Route 66
You are half way there – IF you are going from Chicago to Los Angeles, or vice versa.
The legendary Cadillac Ranch. For more than 40 years people have been spray painting these cars. The good folks of Amarillo liked the planted Cadillacs they have expanded (in different parts of town) to VW Beetles and Combines.
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Terlingua – The ‘ghost town’ of Terlingua is a former mining town, but is not vacant, as it is a destination for tourist from Big Bend National Park.
Once a year they hold the world’s largest chili cook-off.
Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. These two parks cover much of the Rio Grande Valley of West Texas. Their natural scenery is stunning.
A plus is being able to take a row boat across the river to Mexico for lunch in Bouillas.
Marathon – Gage Hotel We had the good fortune of spending the night in this crossroads town on the way to Big Bend. The Gage Hotel is a historic property that attracts people just for the atmosphere and food.
Langtry – Made famous by Judge Roy Bean and his Law West of the Pecos, and even more famous when Paul Newman starred in a movie of the same name. The town is pretty much vacant, but the area is scenic.
Nearby is Seminole Canyon State Historic Park. This park holds significant cave art.
Cities & Beaches
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San Antonio. While the city is large, it has a feel very different than Houston or Dallas. The downtown is much more compact, with a significant amount of Art Deco architecture.
Missions – There are five missions in San Antonio, and four of those are maintained by the National Park Service (the 5th is the Alamo). Mission San Jose is the most impressive architecturally. Our day in San Antonio included a visit to Mission Concepcion.
Alamo – The most famous mission in the state, and likely the country, it is not known for it’s service as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, but more so it’s use as a fort in the Mexican independence effort when a group of Texas soldiers died defending it.
Houston – The city is the 4th largest city in the country, with 2.3 million people in the city. It is the 5th largest metro area (by some calculations) with 7 million people.
The city has more buildings over 150m (492′) than any city in the United States other than New York, Chicago and Miami.
There are still a few historic buildings downtown, but many have been destroyed over the years as they went taller and newer.
Houston Art – One of the great finds in our travels was the very cool, quirky art of Houston. From top to bottom. Giant Presidential Heads – Sanctioned Graffiti – Beer Can House – Luck Land – Smithers Park.
Parks and Rec Houston also provided some unique ‘park’ experiences – from going under the Buffalo Bayou Park to see the Cistern, to the Botanical Gardens, and finally inside for some baseball.
Galveston Another pleasant surprise was Galveston. It seemed like 3 cities in one – the typical seaside resort with amusement rides and motels, a great state park natural area, and finally the historic area on the bay side.