A centerpiece of pride for El Pasoans in the pre-Trost era was the Trust Building, erected by George J. Hilzinger, the founder of the Guaranty Trust Company. Ground was broken for the 5-story superstructure on the 5th of July, 1902, and it was formally dedicated to business on August 3, 1903. The contractor for this building was Rattenburg & Davis, an El Paso company active in the area from the 1890s until approximately 1928. The architectural firm was Isaac S. Taylor & Co., a renowned St. Louis, MO firm who had designed buildings for the Guaranty Trust Bank in that great city.
The Trust Building carried the Pride of the growing city of El Paso for some time as one of the first "real" Business Blocks erected with the importance and appearance of east coast cities' buildings. It's major competition at the time was the Ernest Krause designed Alfred Coles Building (see https://www.facebook.com/TrostSociety/posts/3517529111698463) and the Albert Mathias block on Overland. Sure, there were other large business structures present at the time - the Sheldon and the Bronson, to name two - but this new kid on the block (so to speak) made ELP feel like one of the biggies, with its "Chicago" look and swagger.
The building had a frontage of 79 feet on San Antonio, and 100 feet on Stanton. It stood near or at the geographical center of El Paso, and was convenient to Railroads, the Federal Building, only 1/2 block from the City Hall and close to critical street car lines. It had a Roof Garden, electric elevators, and - to quote a period newspaper - "presented an imposing appearance from every point of view". It reigned in El Paso until 1907 when Edward Kneezell built the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad building, today's BBVA Bank. Both the Kneezell Building and the Guaranty Trust stand today.
The Trust was a steel-framed building, faced with cream-colored St. Louis pressed brick and Indiana Limestone. The building was erected without wood, other than in a decorative frame, so as to be nearly fireproof.
Isaac S. Taylor, the building's architect, was known as the "Fallstaff of Staff City", and was to St. Louis what Trost & Trost was to El Paso. He was lead architect for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition is Missouri, and earned his title of Falstaff from a line in the Shakespeare play Henry IV: "Fallstaff sweats to death - And lards the lean earth as he walks along". He was overweight and known to sweat profusely. Born in Nashville in 1851, Taylor built a number of downtown St. Louis buildings, including the Southern Hotel and the Hotel Planters. He had graduated from St. Louis University with a degree in architecture at the young age of 17.
The Trust Building in El Paso stood until 1928 as home to a number of important local businesses, including the Electric Company and architects Trost & Trost, until in 1928 it was purchased by Charles Bassett to become the flagship hotel in his Gateway Hotel chain. Like many other buildings in our history, it received an exterior remodel to give it a more "modern" appearance as it entered into its new profession, leaving its original classic architecture to memory and to the few photographs that existed. The work of the Falstaff of Staff City in ELP is gone, never to be recovered.
Text and research provided to sketchclub.net Mark Stone, citing period newspaper clippings accessed at newspapers.com, and City Directories accessed through the UNT Digital Archives at https://texashistory.unt.edu/
|Photograph courtesy of the Society for Historical Archaeology at https://sha.org/|
|Photograph, otherwise uncredited, from the Curious History of the Gateway Hotel at Fusion Magazine online.|
|Newspaper clipping from the El Paso Times, 10/29/1905, courtesy of newspapers.com|
|The building as it stands today, displaying the 1928 Trost & Trost remodel, as the Gateway Hotel. Photograph taken by Mark Stone in 2018|