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Hotel Paso Del Norte
El Paso, Texas

 

Description: Hotel Paso Del Norte
Other Names: Westin Paso Del Norte Hotel (since 1985) Camino Real Hotel (2004 to present)
Address: South El Paso Street and West San Antonio Street, El Paso, El Paso County, Texas
Type: hotel
Original Client: Zach T. White, Felix Martinez, and Hotel Paso del Norte stockholders
Historic Inventory: National Register number 79002933
Date: opened November 26, 1912
Condition: extant; in use as a hotel

Architect or Firm: Henry C. Trost
Associated Architect or Firm: Frank Mills Andrews in early planning stage; Trost & Trost; Mauran, Russell & Crowell, St. Louis; John J. Stewart, supervising architect (see also item 1 in Bibliography, below)
Contractors: Fred A. Jones Building Company
Dimensions and Orientation: 10 floors with U-shaped shaft beginning at the 3rd floor; 150.8 feet across El Paso Street side; main entry faces East
Architectural Style: Chicago School/Beaux Art Influence
Budget/Cost: $1,000,000-$1,500,000

Foundation:
concrete and steel
Wall Materials: St Louis buff brick; white terra cotta trimmings
Roofing Materials: flat
Other Materials Used: concrete window sills, wood sashes; terra cotta ornament; lobby walls were made of salmon-colored scagliola, a marble-like composite, using gypsum from White Sands, N.M.
Remodeling and Additions: a tenth story ballroom was added by Trost in 1922, but sited to avoid obscuring the lines of the two principal facades; a 17 story annex dates from 1985, Jon Jerde of San Diego, architect; October 1935 renovation cost $125,000. The addition of the banquet room will be of plate glass instead of concrete work and will give a view of the city. A roof garden will be connected to the banquet hall.

Present Owner: Franklin Land & Resources, Inc., a subsidiary of El Paso Electric Company
Location of Drawings: El Paso Public Library: (I5) ink on linen original plans, blueprints, and brown lines, 53 total; (WW18) 38 reverse copies; Ponsford 617, 618, ground plans from The Western Architect; Aultman 5019, photograph of rendering, perspective view
Location of Documentary Photographs: El Paso Public Library: Ponsford 267a 267b, Gustavus A. Trost, Henry C. Trost, and group of investors in front of building during early stage of construction; Ponsford 269, perspective view; Ponsford 270-282, interiors; Ponsford 283, the Henry C. Trost sculpture; Ponsford 284-285, plates from The Western Architect; Aultman A5315, A5259, perspective views; A5763, A5760, under construction; A5450

Bibliography: (1) American Architect and Building News, volume XCVIII, number 1815 (October 5, 1910), Building News, page 14: Plans for the proposed nine story $600,000 El Paso Hotel are now being drawn by Architects Heller & Wilson and Architectural Engineers Bliss & Fayville [sic; i.e., Faville], Balboa Bldg., San Francisco. Bliss & Faville were architects of the Oakland Hotel, completed in 1910; it is not known what relationship the plans referred to had to the hotel in El Paso, as built.
(2) El Paso Herald Post, July 27, 1911, Hotel Plans Meet With Approval/Final plans have been accepted.
(3) El Paso Times, August 17, 1911, Work Started On New Hotel
(4) American Architect and Building News, volume CI, number 1883 (January 24, 1912), Building News, page 16: Plans for the new Paso Del Norte Hotel have been completed and will be delivered to the contractors for the submission of bids on the big nine story hotel. (No mention of architects)
(5) El Paso Herald Post, February 26, 1912, Foundations for New Hotel To Be Completed During The Week
(6) El Paso Times, November 25, 1912, $900,000 Hotel Opens/The Paso Del Norte Hotel opened for business today.
(7) Lloyd C. and June F. Engelbrecht, Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest (El Paso: El Paso Public Library Association, 1981) (pages 62-64: discussed; page 63: illustrated; page 129: bibliographic notes)
(8) Department of Planning, Research and Development, City of El Paso, El Paso’s Forgotten Past; Historic Preservation (El Paso: author, 1977), page 16 (color photograph of stained glass dome)
(9) Patrice Steadmon, Aging Hotels Will Get Facelift for $38 Million, El Paso Times, July 8, 1982 (report on plans of the owner to restore the Cortez Hotel  and the Hotel Paso Del Norte)
(10) Evan Haywood Antone, editor, Portals at the Pass; El Paso Area Architecture to 1930 (El Paso: El Paso Chapter, American Institute of Architects, 1984), pages 38-41 (discussed, illustrated with a vintage photograph, with a photograph of the lobby stained glass dome by Frank Hunter, Jr., and with drawings by Morris A. Brown)
(11) Jay C. Henry, Trost and Trost in El Paso, Texas Architect, volume XXXVII, number 2 (March April, 1987), front cover and pages 34-39 (page 34: critical analysis; page 37: exterior photography by Jay C. Henry)
(12) Mary Frances Beverley, Historic Hotel/80 years of memories, El Paso Herald Post, Friday, July 24, 1991, Page E1, history of the hotel
(13) El Paso Herald, August 24, 1912 page 44 ( with photo)
(14) El Paso Herald, December 1, 1911 page 11
(15) El Paso Herald, November 27, 1912 page 14. Well Supply Hotel with Water
(16) El Paso Herald, March 27, 1911 page 7 Survey work on Hotel is Started
(17) El Paso Herald, August 12, 1912 page 7 Spend $100,000 to furnish hotel
(18) El Paso Herald, November 8, 1911 page 7 To Discuss Plans for Hotel
(19) El Paso Herald, September 16, 1911 page 4 Plans For New Hotel Are Ready
(20) El Paso Herald, December 6, 1912 page 1
(21) El Paso Herald, January 9, 1912 page 2
(22) El Paso Herald March 3, 1917 page 23 To Raise Paso Del Norte

Remarks: At least two works of fine art were made for the Hotel. One, still in place, is a piece of signed sculpture by Henry Trost, documented by the photograph listed above as Ponsford 283, and discussed on page 63 in Bibliography item 3, above. The other was a mural by Aldo Lazzarini, showing the site of El Paso and Jurez before settlement. It was located in a dining room before the restoration was completed in 1985; its present location has not been determined; a black and white photograph is in the picture files of the El Paso Public Library. Henry Trost had a career as a fine artist, paralleling his career as architect and designer; however, no other works of sculpture made by Trost as a fine artist are known.
It is not known which firm made the stained glass dome in the lobby, still in place. A local oral tradition ties it to the Tiffany Studios; more likely, it would have been designed by Mitchel & Halbach of Chicago, a firm which worked with Trost & Trost on a number of El Paso buildings. There is, however, no known documentary evidence tying the stained glass dome to any firm.

Zach White in 1892 watched the Grand Central Hotel in El Paso, thought to be one of the finest in the southwest, destroyed by fire. Mr White resolved that day to build a fireproof hotel.

The hotel structure was to be  engineered to be fireproof and modeled after buildings that had survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Mr. White and Mr. Trost traveled to California after the earthquake. The hotel was designed after the study done by Trost, White and Lewis. No expense was spared. Pure gypsum was transported from New Mexico White Sands for use in constructing the interior walls and partitions.

The building would be ten stories in height including a banquet hall , roof garden and kitchen on the roof, where receptions banquets and convention were held. The hotel was to have 300 rooms and numerous suites. The lobby was two story in height and was finished in marble in Egyptian design. The dining room on the first floor was of the same design. The presidential suite was located on the mezzanine floor.

During the Mexican Revolution, it was common to watch firefights between the revolutionaries and the Mexican Army from the roof of the hotel. Notable people who stayed in the hotel were Gloria Swanson, General Pershing, General Alvaro Obregon, Will Rogers Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, the then Vice President Richard Nixon.

El Paso Herald, June 28, 1912 ( page 16) – An American flag has been unfurled on the top of the pent house on the hotel Paso Del Norte, which is a construction crew’s universal sign that the building has reached its highest point.

El Paso Herald,November 27, 1912 (page 14) Stated the a well 162 feet deep and is eight inches wide for 60 feet and six inches wide for the remaining 102 feet is located  in the basement of the hotel. The water from the well was pumped into a tank on the roof having the capacity of 5000 gallons and it served as a fire protective force in addition to furnishing water for the rooms and baths.

On February 10, 1930, border patrolmen were stunned by spattering bullets in a gun battle with rum smugglers in which 250 shots were exchanged. The gun battle occurred in the old stand pipe district, in the vicinity Charles Road. During the first few minutes of the gun fire, a stray bullet crashed through the window of the house were a mother and her 3 month old baby were sleeping. The mother quickly snatch her baby and buried themselves under the mattress. Fifteen or more bullets were buried in the wall of the house during the gun battle.
Jose Rosales came across the border first carrying a dummy load of stuff sacks. The border patrol officers intercepted Jose. Then apparently believing the officers had left, two men carrying 10 gallons of rum started across . When the officers started to seize the smugglers, they were fired upon by snipers from Mexico. Dropping the liquor, the men escaped to Mexico while snipers opened fire to cover their retreat.
Firing from Mexico came from two positions, one opposite Ninth and the other directly opposite 429 Charles Road. The battle extended about three blocks. Shooting was concentrated in an area about 300 yards west of the Santa Fe Bridge.
C.F. Thomas a traveling blanket salesman had checked into his room on the eight floor of the Hotel Paso de Norte that day. While sleeping a bullet from the gun battle came crashing through the window of his room. Mr. Thomas was not hit but he appeared shaken by the event. The hotel was several blocks from the scene of the shooting.

Prepared for the El Paso Public Library by Lloyd C. and June F. Engelbrecht under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1992