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The Popular Dry Goods Company
El Paso, Texas


Description: The Popular Dry Goods Company
Other Names: currently Fellas
Address: 301-313 San Antonio Avenue at North Mesa Street and Texas Avenue, El Paso, El Paso County, Texas
Type: commercial: retail
Original Client: The Popular Dry Goods Company, Adolph Schwartz, President
Historic Inventory: National Register number 80004111
Date: 1912/1916/1918 (design work begun in 1912; first three bays completed July, 1916; entire structure completed January, 1918) Opening day of the Popular March 17, 1917
Condition: extant

Architect or Firm: Henry C. Trost
Associated Architect or Firm: Trost & Trost
Contractors: Kroeger, Maxfield & Shaw
Dimensions and Orientation: ell-shaped, six stories plus mezzanine and mechanical penthouse, 86 2/3 feet on Mesa x 190 feet 6 inches on San Antonio
Architectural Style: Chicago School/Sullivaneque
Budget/Cost: $300,000

Wall Materials: reinforced concrete skeleton, enclosed by brick walls, veneered with white terra cotta tiling, with granite on the ground story
Roofing Materials: flat
Other Materials Used:
Remodeling and Additions: In 1946 a three bay and five story addition. In 1950, a four story addition, designed and constructed of modern materials, extend the store to Texas Street

Present Owner: continuously owned by members of the Schwartz family until it was sold in 1995
Location of Drawings: The Popular Dry Goods Company: watercolor rendering with entourage, signed “Lauck,” approximately 3 feet x 4 feet. Blueprints located at the University of Texas in El Paso, special collections department
Location of Documentary Photographs: El Paso Public Library: Ponsford 119, perspective view from street corner; E.P.P.L. 248, first stage; A5452; A5818, view at night, interior illuminated; A5024, original building and addition

Bibliography: (1) “The New Popular Store Building As It Looks In the Plans,” El Paso Herald, December 18, 1912, page 1 (drawing of San Antonio Avenue elevation [not as built])
(2) “New Home of the Popular,” El Paso Herald, February 8, 1916, page [l] (illustration of watercolor now owned by Popular Dry Goods)
(3) “New Home of Popular Dry Goods Company, “El Paso Herald, January 27,1918, page 8 (story with illustration of the first San Antonio Street section) [Bibliography concluded on next page)
(4) Floyd S. Fierman, The Schwartz Family of El Paso; the Story of a Pioneer Jewish Family in the Southwest Southwestern Studies Monograph No. 61 (El Paso, Texas Western Press, 1980) (history of the family and the firm)
(5) Rufe P. March, “New Buildings for Year, $4,000,000,” El Paso Herald, August 26, 1916, Progress and Building Section, page 4 (under subheading,“First Unit of New Popular Department Store complete”: description of the building, report that first three bays were completed in July, and that balance of old building on the site is to be demolished to make way for rest of the new structure; budget given, contractor and architects named); page 6 (photograph of three completed bays, and illustration of the Lauck rendering, listed above)
(6) Frank Mangan, El Paso in Pictures (El Paso: The Press, 1971), page [64] (photograph of The Popular Dry Goods Company in its former building on its present site, demolished in 1916)
(7) El Paso Herald, January 27, 1912 page 9 ‘Will Convert Temple into Big Store’
(8) El Paso Herald, August 20, 1912 page 6 ‘Improvements to Start in a Month’
(9) El Paso Herald, June 3, 1916 page 9 – Company expects to occupy the eastern portion of the new building by July 1

Remarks: “Perhaps Trost’s greatest achievement in the Chicago School commercial format.”(National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form). The building was erected in two stages; the first section was the three bays to the East on San Antonio Street.

In 1897, A. Schwartz open his first store in El Paso at 202 E Overland/South El Paso Street. (not a Trost building) Schwartz brought from New York, I. Weiss, who later became the Vice President of “The Popular.” In 1899, Maurice Schwartz his nephew came to the Popular as a boy and worked various positions in the store and later became the General Manager.

In 1900, A. Schwartz rented the entire first floor and basement of the Masonic Temple Building on the corner of Mesa avenue and San Antonio street.

In 1902, A. Schwartz retired from the business on account of ill health and the store was sold to Charles Kicher and J.M. Cannon. Towards the later part of the year 1902, Weiss, Zelman, Zozaya and Maurice Schwartz backed by A.Schwartz, organized “the Popular” and opened for business in the two story fame building which stood on the site of the then Grecian Theater, at the corner of Overland and El Paso Street.

In 1904, “The Popular” was incorporated for $50,000 under the name of The Popular Dry Goods Company. Three years later, in 1907, the capital stock was increased to $100,000.00 to take care of the increasing business and A. Schwartz returned to the business as general manager of the store.

In 1911, A. Schwartz again set a record by paying personally, $230,000 for the Masonic Temple property.  On January 18, 1912, the deed was drawn for the sale of the building to the Popular Dry Goods company. The Masons vacated the third floor of the Scottish Rite Lodge rooms on the second floor. The entire third floor was rebuilt and in 1912 opened for business.

In January of 1912, it was announced the improvements costing $125,000 would be made to the Masonic building. The new department store would be a six-story steel and concrete building with pressed brick front, an additional story, new plate glass fronts, new San Antonio and Mesa Avenue entrances and the enlargement of the basement. The new part would have a frontage of 44 feet on San Antonio street from the stairway which led to the Masonic temple. The additional story were also to be built upon the main building to make it four stories with a full story underground, giving five full floors for merchandising in the main building and six and a basement in the new part. The electric elevator from the main floor would open into the new department and brick partition wall was removed so the entire second floor can be converted into one big showroom.In addition to the additional story on the present temple, the two story annex on the east side is to be wrecked and this would be the site for the a six story concrete building to be erected.Then the next phase called for the second floor of the Masonic temple’s east wing to be remodeled, the Scottish Rite lodge rooms removed and the entire floor fitted for a new department. 

By August of 1912, the preliminary work cost was $150,000 and remodeling of the old Masonic building would start the following month when A. Schwartz , president of the company returned from London.

In August 1915, the second floor of the Hammett building was leased and remodeled. This additional floor, measuring 87 1/2 by 83 feet gave “The Popular” and entire block of second floor frontage on Mesa avenue, a half  block San Antonio street and almost a half a block on Texas street.

In  1916, Schwartz launched out and tore down the Masonic Temple building and erected the present home of the “The Popular” The basement was sunk three feet deeper in order to make the floor equal in size and convenient to those on the other floors. The basement was excavated under the sidewalk on Mesa avenue and San Antonio street. The installation of prism glass and ventilation system made it comfortable and well lit for the basement floor. The plate glass on San Antonio and Mesa were replaced with large glass plates windows and prism glass was placed above the French plate in order to give better lighting to the departments on the first floor. By July 1, 1916, the Popular company expects to occupy the eastern portion of it new six story home, under construction by Kroeger, Mayfield & Shaw at Mesas and San Antonio.

The plans called for the main entrance to be changed to the middle of the San Antonio street front on the main building. The present entrance were converted into a display window.   Another entrance was made on the Mesa avenue front, where the blue lodge offices were located. There was also a elevator hall with an elevator running to the upper floors of the building. A marble front was also  added to both the Mesa avenue and San Antonio street side of the building.

The first three bays were completed by July 1916. On January 27, 1918, the El Paso Herald feature a photo stating “New Home of Popular Dry Goods Company”

 The structure featured four bays on Mesa and six on San Antonio. Later the building extended to Texas Street.

The Popular was sold in 1995 and now is occupied by the Fellas Department Store

Prepared for the El Paso Public Library by Lloyd C. and June F. Engelbrecht under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1990