The core of El Paso’s downtown as seen from the top floor of the O.T. Bassett Tower, looking west-southwest. March 2018.
The final nomination for the El Paso Downtown Historic District has been submitted to the Texas Historical Commission to seek approval from the Texas State Board of Review. Compiled by Hardy, Heck & Moore (HHM) of Austin, this survey is the culmination of efforts started by the El Paso County Historical Commission to update El Paso’s inventory of historically significant buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The El Paso County Commissioners Court voted to oversee the project in 2015, and surveying began in 2017. In total, 267 resources are included in the new historic district and is scheduled to be listed into the NRHP in June of 2021.
This survey marks a fundamental shift for the city. Currently, the locally-designated Downtown Historic District is composed of 23 contributing resources. Many of these properties were designed by regional architect Henry Trost and individually listed into the NRHP in 1980. For this survey, vernacular architecture is strongly represented alongside high-style commercial buildings, offering a more holistic view of the city’s development from the late 19th century through the early 1970s.
Travis County Probate Courthouse
The vacant Federal Courthouse located in downtown Austin will soon re-emerge as the new Travis County Probate Courthouses. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2020, the $25 million project will showcase the preservation and rehabilitation of a courthouse originally built in 1935 during the Great Depression as a WPA project. When APT Texas Speaker Series 2020 featured this building in February and March, it was mostly a disheveled construction site with much of the historic finishes covered and awaiting restoration. The conservators relied on original drawings and limited historic photographs as their primary source of reference. If you get a chance to visit, the historic drinking fountain and mail chute, albeit non-operable, are some of the charming historic details not to be overlooked.