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O.T. Bassett Tower
El Paso, Texas

 

Description: The O.T. Bassett Tower
Other Names: The Bassett Tower
Address: 301 Texas Avenue, northeast corner with South Stanton Street, El Paso, El Paso County, Texas
Type: commercial: building with offices and retail stores
Original Client: Charles N. Bassett
Historic Inventory: National Register number 80004101
Date: begun prior to July, 1929, completed August, 1930
Condition: extant; in use as office and retail building

Architect: Henry C. Trost
Associated Architect or Firm: Trost & Trost
Contractors: Robert E. McKee, General Contractor
Dimensions and Orientation: 198 feet high (15 stories plus machinery tower); 130 feet on Stanton x 160.7 feet on Texas; faces southeast
Architectural Style: Moderne; Art Deco; Other
Budget/Cost: $500,000

Foundation: concrete
Wall Materials: exposed yellow brick with marble inlay
Roofing Materials: copper
Other Materials Used: limestone entrance and storefront piers with marble facing; art stone and polychrome terra cotta ornament; marble and ornamental metal in the lobby
Remodeling and Additions: most storefronts have been modernized

Present Owner: Bassett Estate, Inc. (as of February 9, 1979); Lane Gaddy (2014)
Location of Drawings: El Paso Public Library: (WW-22) Commission 2800, positive, brown line, 36 sheets; Ponsford 104, photograph of rendering with entourage; Bradt 105, postcard of the same; original ink on linen drawings are in the custody of Charles Bassett Hammond, 5901 Gateway West, El Paso, Texas
Location of Documentary Photographs: El Paso Public Library: Aultman A5943, A5938; E. P. Bldgs. 162

Bibliography: (1) El Paso Times, May 11, 1927, page 1, discussed
(2) The Western Architect, volume XXXIX, number 8 (August, 1930), page 126 (illustrated)
(3) Frank Mangan, El Paso in Pictures (El Paso: The Press, 1971), pages 120-121 (construction photographs)
(4) Lloyd C. and June F. Engelbrecht, Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest (El Paso: El Paso Public Library Association, 1981), pages 59, 74 and 131 (illustrated and and analyzed)
(5) 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 50-53 (illustrated and discussed)
(6) Marcus Whiffen and Carla Breeze, Pueblo Deco: the art deco Architecture of the Southwest (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), pages 61-63 and 111-115 (discussed and illustrated with color plates)
(7) Mary Margaret Davis, Tower Keeps Art Deco Alive, El Paso Times, June 15, 1985, page 1-D (3 illustrations and discussion)
(8) Jay C. Henry, Trost and Trost in El Paso, Texas Architect, volume XXXVII, number 2, March-April, 1987, front cover and pages 34-39 (see especially front cover and pages 38-39: Bassett Tower illustrated and discussed)
(9) Jay C. Henry, Architecture in Texas: 1895-1945(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993) pages 221, 223, discussed; figures 6.47 and 6.48
(10) El Paso Evening Post, August 14, 1929 page 12 page 4
(11) El Paso Evening Post, October 24, 1929 page 37
(12) El Paso Evening Post, July 17,1929 page 1
(13) El Paso Evening Post, September 27, 1929 page 13
(14) El Paso Evening Post, December 30, 1929 page 3
(15) El Paso Evening Post, November 7, 1930 page 11 and page 2
(16) El Paso Herald, August 10, 1928 page 1
(17) El Paso Herlad, January 7, 1930 page 3

Remarks: This is the finest example of art deco styling in the work of Henry Trost; the portrait bust over the main entrance is reputed to be of Henry Trost. At the time it was built, the Bassett Tower was the tallest building in El Paso. Charles Bassett built O.T. Bassett Tower, in memory of his father O.T.

In August 10 1928, the El Paso physicians approached Mr. Bassett who owned the site and asked him to build a structure for the group. Trost & Trost Architectural firm was hired to draw the plans for the building. The plans were to be submitted to a committee of doctors, headed by Dr. E. J. Cummins. The only contingency on the building was that the drawings would have to be approved by the planning committee of doctors.
The plans called for the main entrance to front 120 feet on Stanton and 50 feet on Texas street. The garage planned in connection with the Medical Arts building would have a frontage of 110 feet on Mills street. The new garage would replace the Mission garage , which was on the site and would be directly in the rear of the main building. Another feature of the garage was auto parking spaces about the center of the main building, just off the alley. The garage would back to the Hotel Lockie.

Eleven stories of the Medical Arts building were to be devoted to doctor’s offices. There would be store spaces on the ground floor. The main entrance would be on Stanton street. The lobby floor would be marble and two elevators would be installed with space left for a third elevator. The building was to be face brick with stone trimming.
In 1929, plans were changed by Mr. C.N. Bassett to build this building in memory of this father O.T. Bassett.

The building will be a tower building because of it’s setback design. The first floor would occupy the full space of the building site. Then the next eight floors will be set back from the outer edges. The ensuring four floors will be set back again in a pyramid style. The last two floors would end in the tower. From the base to the tip would measure 215 feet 9 inches and be 35 feet higher than the First National Bank building

In July of 1929, the bids for the building went to the contractors. The contractors were ask to bid on both a 13 and 15 story structure. The original plans drawn by Trost & Trost was for 13 floors. The estimated cost was $500,000. If two extra stories were added it would bring the cost up an additional $50,000. The contract was awarded to Robert McKee and work began on August 1, 1929.

On the Bassett building, over 320 tons of steel and 250,000 bricks were used. Granite, limestone, terra cotta, marble and cast stone was used on the outside trim. Ten stone eagles and gargoyles were placed on the top of the building. The building was to have 520 windows and 137 offices. The main lobby floors were marble, while the rest of the buildings corridors and office were Battleship grey linoleum. There would be 9 stores located on the first floor and two elevators.

The building was completed in 1930, at a cost of $500,000. The sixth floor was occupied by doctors and dentists. In November of 1930, a permit for $6000, was taken out to install a Turkish bath.
This was one of Henry’s last commissions in El Paso. His face is on the front of the building.

The additional two stories of the building was financed by Doctor Conner.

A photograph of the 15 story tower-type office building appeared in the January issue of the American Architect entitled “What Architects are Talking About”

Prepared for the El Paso Public Library by Lloyd C. and June F. Engelbrecht under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1993