The El Paso area is home to 3 historic missions. All of the missions were founded in an effort to convert the native population.
We started with the Presidio Chapel of San Elizaro. The original building was constructed in 1789 as a fort (hence the name Presidio).
The buildings were destroyed in a flood in 1829, and thereafter the use of the fort was rendered unnecessary with Mexico’s independence from Spain. In 1882 the existing chapel was constructed.
In addition to the chapel there are other period buildings in the area.
Socorro Mission is about 5 miles up the road to El Paso. The mission here dates from the late 1600s, which again was destroyed by floods in the 1800s. The current building was completed in 1843, with a major reconstruction occurring in 1995.
During the reconstruction the original ceiling was repurposed and included in the remodel.
The sconces include artistic interpretations of the church itself.
Our final stop is at the oldest of the 3 missions, Yselta. Dating from 1660, this building too is a replacement for one that was destroyed in floods.
Artistic elements in the interior include tributes to the native population that the mission has served.
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.
With the 3 day Labor Day weekend coming up it was time to get out of town. At first the thought was to make the 6+ hour drive to San Diego, but they were in a heat wave with forecasted highs hotter than Tucson! So we went east to El Paso.
Saturday morning was the perfect time to walk around and check out the downtown neighborhood.
San Jacinto Plaza has always been the heart of El Paso. Starting in the 1950s there was a pond in the plaza that someone had let live alligators loose in. A series of alligators resided there until the 1960s, when it was decided they would be relocated to the El Paso Zoo to keep them safe from morons who abused them.
Today the alligator legacy is remembered with a sculpture.
The El Paso Art Museum, Convention Center, and baseball stadium are all located next to each other. The architecture and public art make for a picturesque setting.
The nearby Union Station train depot is home to a Saturday morning art and farmers market. While small, it had a nice mix of arts and crafts, and local food specialties like salsa.
It was time for a brief stop back at the historic Paseo Del Norte Hotel before setting out to see the rest of the city….