The man who designed several buildings on the UTEP campus and hundreds more all over the Southwest was born in Toledo, Ohio, March 5, 1860. Henry Charles Trost may have gotten his affinity for architecture and design from his father, a German immigrant who came to America and was employed as a carpenter and building contractor. Henry Trost attended art school and worked as a draftsman until 1880. At the young age of twenty he struck out on his own, heading west and travelling the country.
Trost’s first stop was Pueblo, Colorado. There he worked as a draftsman for Nicholas and Cannon before cofounding his first firm Trost & Weston. The partnership lasted for almost seven years before Trost moved on. After brief stays in Galveston, New Orleans, and Topeka, he finally settled in Chicago in 1888 and remained there until 1896. While a resident of the windy city, he worked as an ornamental metal designer and was a member of the Chicago Sketch Club which later became the Chicago Architectural Club in 1895. To gain entry into the prestigious club, Trost designed an elaborate wrought iron gate suspended between two large stone posts.
His influences included the work of such visionaries as Louis H. Sullivan, known to most as the “father of skyscrapers” and Frank Lloyd Wright. Trost worked as a designer for the Chicago Ornamental Iron Co. He began as a designer and eventually became vice president then president. In 1896, Trost left Chicago and moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado where he started another architectural with Weston, his former associate. In 1899 he relocated again to Tucson, Arizona. There he founded another firm, Trost and Rust. Trost moved one more time in 1903 when he settled in El Paso, at the behest of his brother.
Trost’s brother, Gustavus, settled in the city a year before Henry. He was convinced El Paso was “an advantageous location for a fledgling architectural firm.” Henry Trost agreed, and the two brothers, along with nephew George started Trost and Trost. They were later joined by Gustavus’ twin brother Adolphus. The business was an instant success, due to the Trost’s excellent design skills and good business sense. No job was too big or small, and Trost always catered to the needs of his clients. The El Paso setting gave Henry Trost the opportunity to express his creative versatility and skill. It was here he began to explore his concept of “Arid America”. Trost is also known for his use of reinforced concrete in high-rise structures as well as glazed tile, wrought iron, woodwork, and hand painted decorative motifs.
Henry Charles Trost was the firm’s chief designer for thirty years. In that time he designed over 300 buildings in El Paso, twenty of them located downtown and several at UTEP, and hundreds more across the Southwest. Trost never married but dedicated his life to architectural design. His fascination with functional yet graceful structures is obvious in the lines of the home he designed for himself. With its wide, overhanging eaves, balconies and secluded porch, this distinctive home is an example of the Prairie School Style. The structure combines beauty with protection form the elements.
Trost was also adept at designing structures in a wide range of contrasting styles like Neoclassical, Art Deco and Victorian. He was an avid participant in the Mission and Pueblo revivals and many of his designs reflect these themes. As testaments to his virtuosity many of his buildings still stand today. He died on September 9, 1933, leaving a legacy of beautifully crafted structures that range in diversity from hotels, schools, public and governmental buildings to private homes in five states and even Mexico. His brothers kept the firm going for another twenty years but the driving force behind the business was gone. They closed their doors in the 1950’s.
In 1917 Trost was charged with the task of designing the new buildings for UTEP, then the Texas School of Mines and Metallurgy. He designed four in all. Among the structures Trost is credited with designing on the UTEP campus are Old Main, Quinn, Graham, and Vowell Hall. He designed the buildings with a Bhutanese Dzong theme begun by Robert and Kathleen Worrell. Three more buildings were designed by the firm during the 1930’s, Benedict, Worrell, and Holiday Hall. The Special Collections Department has mounted an exhibit on the third floor of the UTEP Library with several cases displaying photographs of the Trost family, original drawings and plans borrowed from the El Paso Public Library, examples of decorative elements from now-demolished buildings, and a door based on one of his patented designs. For those who want to know more about Trost and his life’s work, visit the display which will be there until July 30, 2014.
Mary A. Sarber, “TROST, HENRY CHARLES,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ftr12), accessed May 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Engelbrecht, Lloyd C., and Engelbrecht, June-Marie F. Henry C. Trost, Architect of the Southwest. El Paso, Tex. (501 N. Oregon St., El Paso, Tex. 79901): El Paso Public Library Association, 1981. Print.
Texas State Historical Society
Special Collections Department of the UTEP Library