"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|
|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'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
|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.