Legacy of architect Henry Trost to be on display

By on April 27, 2014

Editor’s note: The following is part of a weekly series commemorating The University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Celebration in 2014.

More than 80 years after his death, the legacy of famed architect Henry C. Trost lives on in the stately buildings he and his firm Trost & Trost designed during the early 20th century, some of which still stand in the heart of El Paso and throughout the Southwest.

Trost was responsible for some of city’s most outstanding historic structures, including the Caples Building (1909), Anson Mills Building (1911), Camino Real Hotel (1912) and El Paso High School (1916).

The renowned architect also is credited with designing the first four Bhutanese-style buildings on the campus of the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy (now The University of Texas at El Paso) in 1917.

“Trost was eclectic,” said Max Grossman, Ph.D., assistant professor of art history at UTEP and vice chair of the El Paso County Historical Commission.

“Here’s a man who delighted in constructing in a great variety of styles. He wanted to erect edifices in every style available to him so that downtown El Paso would become an eclectic architectural showcase.”

In celebration of Trost’s architectural legacy, UTEP Special Collections will host the “Trost Lecture Series” at 6 p.m. May 8 in the UTEP Library, Blumberg Auditorium, room 111.

The event will feature speakers Dr. Troy Ainsworth, executive director of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association (CARTA); Joe and Lanna Duncan, owners of the Trost-designed El Capitan Hotel in Van Horn, Texas and El Paisano Hotel in Marfa, Texas; and Dr. Lloyd Engelbrecht, co-author of “Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest.”

A public exhibit featuring family photos, sketches, blueprints and photographs of the buildings Trost designed in El Paso and throughout the Southwest will be on display May 10 in the UTEP Library’s atrium on the third floor.

“I think we picked a great time to have the exhibit because it coincides with UTEP’s 100th anniversary,” said Margaret Smith, Trost’s grandniece.

“Trost did nine buildings on campus, so I think this is the perfect time to have it. I hope that this exhibit shows people what Trost & Trost did in El Paso and in New Mexico and West Texas.”

Other items on display will include examples of Trost’s early work when he was a draftsman in Chicago in 1888-96, probably at the firm of Adler & Sullivan, such as a valet door he patented that was used in the Hotel Cortez at 300 N. Mesa Ave.

Ornamental terracotta fragments from some of the architect’s recently demolished buildings also will be exhibited.

The lecture and exhibit are part of Trost Week, May 3-10, which is being organized by the Texas Trost Society, a new nonprofit group that advocates for the preservation of Trost & Trost architecture.

On May 3, the public will have the opportunity to tour the Roberts-Banner Building on San Jacinto Plaza, the O.T. Bassett Tower and five Trost homes in Sunset Heights.

Lunch will be served in Trost’s Anson Mills Building.

The cost is $75 with proceeds going to the Texas Trost Society, Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association and the El Paso County Historical Society.

Trost’s legacy extends to the UTEP campus, where his architectural plans provided the designs for the University’s signature Bhutanese-style architecture.

Construction of the University’s first four buildings — now called Old Main, Graham Hall, Quinn Hall and Prospect Hall — began in 1917.

During that time, Trost & Trost had more than 40 buildings under construction, including more than a dozen in El Paso.

He based the design for the Bhutanese-style buildings, at least in part, on sketches from Gibson & Robertson, a competing firm.

The sketches were purchased for $930 by The University of Texas Board of Regents, which then entrusted the buildings’ execution to Edward Kneezel, who served as superintendent of construction.

For information on Trost Week activities, email malissa@texastrost.org.

Laura L. Acosta is a writer with UTEP’s University Communications office.

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Laura Acosta is a writer in UTEP's Office of University Communications.