Kohlberg Mansion

It would be very difficult to find a couple that had a greater influence on El Paso in its early years than Ernest and Olga Kohlberg. The Trost & Trost designed Kohlberg Mansion, located at the corner of West Yandell and Corto Way and completed in January of 1910, still stands today as a monument to their accomplishments in shaping our city - but who would have thought, as they were moving in from their previous residence on Santa Fe, that E. Kohlberg would only live there for 5 months before he was senselessly murdered in cold blood?

Ernest Kohlberg (1857-1910) immigrated from Westphalia, Germany in 1875. At the time the spelling of his name was Ernst, however in his later years, and in newspaper accounts of his day, he was referred to as Ernest. In 1886 he founded the International Cigar Factory, the first such business in the area. He was elected to the El Paso City Council in 1893, and along with his wife organized the Mount Sinai Jewish Congregation in 1898. He was a member of the Shriners, the Masons, the McGinty Club and the Elks, among others. He was a founder of the El Paso Electric Light Company, and the El Paso Electric Railway. He owned several buildings in town too - including the St. Regis Hotel and the Southern. The El Paso Museum of History states that he also owned the St. Charles, however we cannot find independent confirmation of that. According to Jewish El Paso, he also served as a Deputy US Consul in Juarez. His business, operating under the name The Kohlberg Brothers, was very successful. City Directories in the decade preceding the erection of his new home listed **a lot** of employees. At the time of his passing, the company was ready to move into a much larger facility.

Olga Kohlberg immigrated from Germany with her husband Ernst. As a member of the Ladies Benevolent Association, she established El Paso's first public Hospital in 1892, and also began the city's (and the state's!) first kindergarten. She was instrumental in the establishment of El Paso's first Public Library too, and served as its board president in the early 1900s. She was the President of the El Paso Women's Club two separate times, and served as an honorary board member until her death.

In 1910, Ernest was viciously shot in the back and instantly killed on Friday, June 17. Quoting the El Paso Daily Herald (front page) from the following day: "E. Kohlberg, merchant, manufacturer, public spirited citizen and pioneer El Pasoan, was shot and almost instantly killed about 5 oclock Friday afternoon by John S. Leach, proprietor of the Southern hotel, in the Kohlberg cigar store at 115 South El Paso Street. The only possible motive for the crime was the trivial one that Mr. Kohlberg, who owns the Southern Hotel building, had instructed the rental agents and attorney to serve notice on Leach to evacuate because he had not paid his rent for five months." The death of Kohlberg shocked El Paso. Sadly, the entry in the 1910 El Paso City Directory listed the homeowner as "Olga Kohlberg (Wid Ernst)" -- Ernest enjoyed his new mansion for only 5 months.

The Kohlberg Residence, extant today at 110 years of age, stands as a monument to these two El Paso pioneers and their iconic family. According to the EPCAD it is now owned by Steve Fischer. This two-story reinforced concrete home was designed in a Spanish Mediterranean architectural style by Trost & Trost, with stuccoed walls and a red spanish-tiled hipped roof. The portico, flanking pergolas and second floor balcony feature a mob of Doric pillars and pilasters. It has a very stately appearance, especially perched on its hill. It is a fitting tribute to the pioneer family that built it over a century ago.
This historical narrative is partially derived from newspaper articles and City Directory entries accessed through the Library of Congress' Chronicling America project at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ and the University of North Texas (Denton) Digital Archives at https://texashistory.unt.edu/

Text, unless otherwise attributed, and research provided to Sketchclub.net by Mark Stone, citing the above referenced sources in addition to:
-- The Jewish Federation of Greater El Paso (https://jewishelpaso.org/history-overflow)
-- The El Paso Museum of History, http://digie.org/album/20186/11914 and http://digie.org/media/11149

Google Earth Street View, accessed 2/22/2020

Photo courtesy of the El Paso Public Library, via the University of North Texas (Denton) digital repository at https://texashistory.unt.edu/

Google Earth Street View, accessed 2/22/2020

Google Earth Street View, accessed 2/22/2020