Popular Dry Goods Co.

"IMAGINE yourself wending your way across Texas prairie lands with Spanish missions few and far between -- here a trading post; further on Indians roaming over the lands; occasionally a dug-out. Then, suddenly, you come upon a magnificent mansion, superbly furnished and equipped with every comfort-bringing convenience." -- Adolph Schwartz, July 22, 1916
The Popular Dry Goods building, located at the corner of Mesa and San Antonio, is a Sullivanesque Chicago School styled structure in downtown El Paso, designed by the iconic firm of Trost & Trost. With lead architect Gustavus Trost at the helm, the building is patterned after the 1912 Trost & Trost White House/McCoy Hotel and the 1911 Calishers Department Store, in addition to other department stores in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. The design for the building, both exterior and interior, resulted from a close collaboration between G. Trost and building owner Adolph Schwartz, who traveled together to the Texas cities referenced above working through the planning stages of the building. The building is dominantly designed, and rules the corner of Mesa and San Antonio where it sits: it draws all eyes, even eclipsing the Romanesque Caples building across the street, bowing in servitude. Although only six floors, it towers.

The company was born in 1897 in the Hammett Building at 202 E Overland, in a shop that Adolph Schwartz describes as a 4 by 6 one-aisle operation. Their first year at that location was rocked with a labor dispute between The Fair, as the company was called, and the labor union because of Schwartz' refusal to close the store at 7pm. Quoting Schwartz: "I will run my business to suit myself, and I do not care for the El Paso Press, the people, or the Knights of Labor!" However, within a few days, he agreed to comply with the closing time requirement.

The Hammett Block was home to the Fair for only a couple of years. The company moved to the Masonic Temple at Mesa and San Antonio early in 1900, but retained the name "The Fair" for another 3 or 4 years. Incorporating as the Popular Dry Goods in 1904, the company continued to grow; purchasing the Masonic Building and then eventually building the Trost & Trost structure that stands today as sales volume dictated.

The building was erected in two stages. The "First Unit", which stands today as the eastern 3 bays of the completed 1917 building, was erected while the company still operated out of the old Masonic. After completion on June 25, 1916, they operated out of the new building while the Masonic was demolished and the rest of the structure was built. Opening day for the grand structure was September 26, 1917, according to the El Paso Herald from that date. 

The building is largely vacant and deteriorating today, although Fallas maintains the lower floors of the interior for their retail operation.
Text and research provided to Sketchclub.net by Mark Stone. This historical narrative is 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/, and period Sanborn Maps available at the University of Texas Libraries at http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/sanborn/e.html

The Popular Dry Goods building as it looks today. Picture taken by myself on 7/23/18

This is an image from the 1/27/1917 El Paso Herald of the Masonic Temple building where the Fair did business (starting in 1904) before the erection of the Trost building. We are looking at the intersection of Mesa (left side) and San Antonio (right side). The caption of this picture reads: "The picture below is of the old Popular building, wrecked to make room for the new one, and shows the types of substantial buildings being torn down in El Paso to make room for the growth of modern El Paso. The old structure was originally erected by the Masons. The Popular, then known as The Fair, at first occupying only the first floor. Later the Popular took over the basement and the upper stories, after purchasing the property, then found it necessary to demolish the building entirely and replace it, in order to accommodate its growth of business. The new building will permit of the erection of two additional stories at a later date." Image credit: University of North Texas archives, via Library of Congress

The Fair, at the Masonic Temple @ Mesa and San Antonio, in 1904. El Paso Public Library

A Post Card from this building's very early years. Photo credit: El Paso Inc.

Here is a portion of a full-page ad in the El Paso Herald from 7/22/2016, detailing the early history of the company. Image credit: University of North Texas via Library of Congress

Here is the "First Unit" of Trost's building, completed in August of 1916. Immediately after the completion of this building, they began work on the rest of the structure, which is evident in this picture - note the construction to the left (west) of the completed building.  Image credit: El Paso Museum of History's Digie
Here's a picture ↑↑↑ of the First Unit, the 3 eastern bays, from the 8/26/1916 El Paso Herald, with the caption below↓↓↓. Credit for both images: University of North Texas archives, via Library of Congress

A wonderful picture of the property. Judging by the cars, this may be mid 1920s. Image credit: El Paso Times
This is the North wall of the building in 1950. Construction of the 4-story addition that stretches the building to Texas Ave.
is underway. Photo credit: El Paso Times

Another addition to the East side of the building, facing San Antonio St. Judging by the ground floor opening to the right,
it is not completed yet. The opening to the left is the alleyway, which is still there. This addition may have been done in 1946, but that's unclear. Image credit: El Paso Times.
The following images were taken by myself on July 23, 2018, using my iPhone 8 Plus:

The South facing San Antonio side of the building. Note the three-story addition still
intact that was discussed in the image immediately above.
Viewing the building from San Antonio street a half-block west

Looking North up Mesa St. Note the 1950 addition on the far end of the building.

The East facing wall. 

This faces North, fronting on Texas Avenue. Compare this picture of the addition to the image of its construction
above ↑↑↑↑ Completed in 1950.