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Richard Caples Building
El Paso, Texas


Description: Richard Caples Building
Other Names: Caples Building
Address: 300-306 East San Antonio Avenue at South Mesa Street (southeast corner), El Paso, El Paso County, Texas
Type: commercial: retail ground floor with office towers
Original Client: Richard Caples
Historic Inventory: National Register number 80004102
Date: 1909; 1915-1916
Condition: extant

Architect or Firm: Henry C. Trost
Associated Architect or Firm: Trost & Trost; John J. Stewart, supervising architect
Contractors: Otto P. Kroeger
Dimensions and Orientation: rectangular base with U-shaped shaft; originally five stories; 119 feet on Mesa x 110 feet on San Antonio; faces west
Architectural Style: Late 19th and Early 20th Century American Movement: Romanesque
Budget/Cost: $80,000 (1909) $50,000 – $75,000 (1916)


Wall Materials: reinforced concrete, faced with brick
Roofing Materials: composition
Other Materials Used: store fronts of plate glass and prism glass; white oak woodwork; extensive use of marble in main corridor
Remodeling and Additions: two additional floors added in 1915-1917 cost $40,000

Present Owner: Billy Abraham
Location of Drawings: El Paso Public Library: (A-8) 36 ink-on-linen sheets for first stage, including side and front elevations, many details of the interior and exterior, sections, and two versions of the entrance; (O-10) one ink on linen plan; (M-11) 11 ink on linen sheets (and a copy of sheet 7) of plans for the addition of the upper floors, including side, front and rear elevations, Commission No. 2398, dated November 4, 1916; (O-10) one brown line copy of two elevations
Location of Documentary Photographs: El Paso Public Library: Ponsford 103, perspective view as added onto in 1915-1916; Aultman A5191, first stage under construction; A5662, first stage as completed; A5783; 156, 157; Luhrs Collection, Arizona Room,Arizona State University Library: same as Ponsford 103

Bibliography: (1)Lloyd C. and June F. Engelbrecht: Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest (El Paso: El Paso Public Association, 1981), pages 50-52 and 54 (discussed); page 53 (exterior photograph); pages 126-127 (bibliographic notes); Worley’s Directory of El Paso, 1910 (Dallas: John F. Worley Directory Co., 1910), the building under construction, illustrated in advertisement on unnumbered page
(2) El Paso Herald, October 13, 1917 page 3 ‘Caples Building Annex to Received Woolworth Jan 1’
(3) El Paso Herald, April 28, 1909 page 10 ‘Caples’s New Building’
(4) El Paso Herald, May 6, 1909 page 3 ‘Caples Building Will Only Be Six Stories’
(5) El Paso Herald, May 12, 1917 page 2 ‘Woolworth to have Big Store’
(6) El Paso Herald, January 20, 1917 page 12 ‘Caples Building Addition’
(7) El Paso Herald, December 30, 1916 page 3
(8) El Paso Herald, May 15, 1915 page 1 ‘Buys One-Tenth of Two Skyscrapers for $350’
(9) El Paso Herald, December 6, 1915 page 2 ‘ Caples Boys Sue for Property’
(10) El Paso Herald, September 10,1910 page 9 ‘Rapid Work on Downtown Office Structures’
(11) El Paso Herald, August 25, 1909 page 14 ‘Caples Five Story Structure’
(12) El Paso Herald, July 9, 1909 page 3 ‘Lots of Concrete
(13) El Paso Herald, July 28, 1909 page 1 ‘Sixth Floor on Caples Building’
(14) El Paso Herald, June 5, 1909 page 19 ‘Wall Falls, But Workmen Escape’
(15) El Paso Herald, April 16, 1909 page 4 ‘Work Starts on Caples Building’
(16) El Pas Herald, January 27, 1912 Photo of the Building

Remarks: The Caples Building is the first modern reinforced concrete building in downtown El Paso. The 1916 addition was Commission No. 2398

On March 18, 1909 Richard Caples applied for the permit to erect a five story building at the corner of San Antonio street and Broadway.  Two sets of plans were made for the Caples building.(six stories plans and 5 stories plans) The following month, the contractor Kroger won the bid for a four story building.

In April, workmen began tearing down the previous burned out store and excavation commenced. The estimated cost: $50,000. During excavation the Old Kentucky Home saloon on Broadway just south of San Antonio street toppled. Workmen at the excavation site noticed the sagging wall of the saloon and were able to get out of the way before the wall fell. The remaining walls were propped up with large timbers. The decision to rebuilt or demolish the saloon was to be decided at a later date.

The Caples building was the first reinforced concrete structure. It required 2000 yards of concrete and 365,000 pounds of steel to complete the building. It was the only building in the business district guaranteed to be absolutely fireproof. Otto P. Kroeger was the contractor for the building.

In July the Y.W.C.A. planned to lease the entire top floor for a central office, gymnasium, reading room and lunch room. An active campaign began in September for money for the purpose of carrying out the plan to maintain headquarters downtown and to build a boarding home on Missouri street, in the Stevens addition.

In August 1910, the elevator cage on the top of the building and interior finish of the new Caples building was being completed. The white marble was being set on the top story and the glass was installed on the five upper stories.

In 1911, two rooms on the fifth floor seved as headquarters for the Madero regime.

In May of 1915, J.G. McGrady was able to purchase the Caples (and little Caples) for $350 at a sheriff’s sale. This was the undivided one-tenth interest of E. A. Caples . The sale was the result of two court cases – E.A. Caples vs Olga Kohlberg and E.A. Caples vs J.W. Cathcart.

Seeking to recover the property sold at the sheriff sale, E.A. Caples, W.J. Caples and Joseph Caples filed a suit in the 41st district court against J.G. McGrady. The case was moved to the higher court. In a petition the Caples heirs allege that they had offered to pay off the judgements and reimburse Mr. McGrady for all expenses incurred in the purchase of the property under the sheriff’s sale.

In December of 1915, Margaret Caples closed a lease for part of the first floor and basement to be leased by F.W. Woolworth. The terms of the lease was that $95,000 would be paid during the period of 10 years. The lease would be effective on January 1, 1918 and would continue until April 30, 1928, with option of renewal for five years. The current occupants of the first floor and basement was the Blumenthal Brothers Clothing store.

In 1917, Trost & Trost completed the plans for an additional two stories, with contractor Kroeger, Mayfield and Shaw. The additional two stories gave the Caples building seven stories at an additional cost of $40,000. In May, the Woolworth company remodeled the Caples building in preparation for additional space. The Woolworth currently leased the first floor and basement of the Caples building.

J.L. Marr, agent for the Caples estate, Mr Maclure, superintendent of construction for Woolworth and architect Henry Trost met to reference plans for remodeling the old building and the construction of the addition. In December 1 work began on the Caples building annex and the plans called for it to be completed by January 1 for Woolworth. The annex would adjoin the Caples building on the San Jacinto street side, would be one story with 25 foot front, and cost $15,000.

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