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The Wigwam Theatre 
El Paso, Texas

Description: The Wigwam Theatre
Other Names: Fashion Saloon & Restaurant ; State Theatre
Address: 106 East San Antonio Street, El Paso, El Paso County, Texas
Type: theatre
Original Client: Colonel Robert Campbell and W. R. Winch were the proprietor
Historic Inventory: none
Date:  1912
Condition: extant

Architect or Firm: Henry C. Trost
Associated Architect or Firm: Trost & Trost
Dimensions and Orientation: Two story blocks, faces north
Budget/Cost: $40,000

Foundation: unknown
Wall Materials: brick with (apparently) terra cotta facing on facade
Roofing Materials: flat
Other Materials Used: terra cotta ornament; Luxfer prisms over shops; lobby to be ornyx: art glass doors, scagliola walls, ceramic tile floor with mosaic medallion
Remodeling and Additions: remodeling plans by Percy McGee, jr., 1948

Present Owner: 2015 – Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society at 108; Military and Uniform Shop at 106
Location of Drawings: El Paso Public Library: McGee drawings
Location of Documentary Photographs: El Paso Public Library: Ponsford 201, lobby and ticket booth; Aultman A5004, perspective view.

Bibliography: (1) The American Architect, volume CII, number 1914, August 28, 1912, “Current News and Comment” section, page 16: “The plans for the remodeled and enlarged Wigwam Theater have nearly been completed by Architects Trost & Trost, and bids for the work will be called for Sept. 1. The new Wigwam will include the store next to where it is now located on San Antonio St.”
(2) “Passing of Wigwam Recalls First Movies, “El Paso Herald Post, October 22, 1948, early history of the theatre
(3) El Paso Herald August 14,1912, page 8  “Speaking of Trost remodeling”
(4) El Paso Herald August 28, 1912 page 26  ” New Picture Theater”
(5) El Paso Herald September 4,1912, page 4 “To Built a Fine Picture Theater.Work starts on the remodeling”
(6) El Paso Herald September 6, 1912 page 3 “Work is Started on Grecian Theater”
(7) El Paso Herald September 7, 1912, page 13 “New Building For Wigwam Theater”
(8) El Paso Herald September 28, 1912, page 12 “The Wigwam’s Work”
(9) El Paso Herald October 10, 1912. page 8
(10) El Paso Herald November 1, 1912 page 4 “Additional Permits”

Remarks: The Wigwam, originally a saloon and gambling house, was converted into a motion picture theatre in 1907. Aultman A5004 clearly shows a new facade on an older building. The ornamental theme of the Indian heads in medallions.

In August of 1912, Trost  was hired to draw plans to remodel the building. Work on the building would start in September. The upstairs would be utilized, making the auditorium of the theater two stories high with room in the rear for a gallery. The new theater would be fire proof with concrete floors and exits on the alley. The front of the theater was to be rebuilt and was to be illuminated with a large number of lights.

On September 7, 1912, the decision was made that the old Wigwam and Silver Grill building on San Antonio street would be completely wrecked and a new building would replace the old Wigwam moving picture show. The new building would be brick and steel. In the basement a pool, billiard and bowling alley will be installed.

On September 23, 1912, changes were made to the plans. A heating plant and ventilating plant was to be installed in the basement of the building and a number of additional lighting features added. A large mosaic tile indian head was ordered for the floor of the main lobby and the indian head sign would be hung from the front of the theater.

On October 10, 1912, a bovine skeleton was discovered and uncovered by the workmen excavating for the basement of the Wigwam theater building. The skeleton was discovered under the foundation of the State National bank which adjoins the theater on the east side.

On November 1, 1912, additional permits for improvements on the new Wigwam theater were taken out for reinforcing the construction and making the walls heavier. An additional $5000

Colonel Robert F. Campbell moved from Austin and purchased the two lots, paying $50 per front foot. The following summer he erected the two-story Wigwam building at the same time the State National bank building was being erected. When the building was completed Billy Conant and “Red” Hart rented the whole building from Colonel Campbell and opened the Fashion Saloon & Restaurant. A very high class bar and restaurant. The second story was a dance hall, vaudeville and wine rooms. The gambling room was in the rear of the saloon.

In the winter of 1882-83, the vaudeville and dance hall stopped and the second story was partitioned into offices and poker rooms. Soon after, a fire started in the saloon and gutted both stories. The saloon was rehabilitated and ran under Conant & Hart until 1885, when it was closed suddenly. Billy Meyers succeeded Conant & Hart, and them Shephard & Speck of Silver City, ran it from 1885 to 1889. In 1889-90, Al Howard and Ben Dunkle, owners of the Parlor saloon, also took over the Fashion and ran it a short time. Howard gave it the new name of the Wigwam.

In 1885-86 the upper story was used as offices and bedrooms. Then by 1907, the building was turned into a motion picture house.

The Wigwam was the first modern and pretentious two story business structure ever erected on San Antonio street.

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