This was a wonderfully designed building, and a downtown historic icon, until remodeled in 1964 into what we, with 2021 eyes and taste, would consider ugly; but with what 1964 eyes would have considered quite handsome. Designed by iconic turn-of-the-century architect Ernest Krouse, the Coles-Hubble building stands today, almost completely vacant, on the southeast corner of Oregon and San Antonio.
Ernest Krause was 1/3 of a powerful triune of influential pre-Trost architects in El Paso. The other two were John J. Stewart and Edward Kneezell, and El Paso's earliest skyline was designed by these three giants throughout the late 1800s. Yes, there were a handful of others, but the rulers of the roost were Stewart, Kneezell and Krause. John J. Stewart went on to be an associate architect with the firm of Trost & Trost, and was supervising architect for a number of Trost designed buildings. In the late 1800s he designed the Myar Opera House, the Pierson Hotel and the John Merrick Building. The Merrick still stands today. Kneezell designed the 1884 Sheldon Office Block, which would become the Hotel Sheldon at the turn of the century; the late 1800s El Paso City Hall and a number of smaller projects. After the arrival of Trost, he didn't slow down - he designed El Paso's first skyscraper, the 1907 El Paso & Southwestern Railroad Building, standing and known today as the BBVA Bank building.
Of the three, Krause was the most prolific before 1900, designing many structures on San Antonio Street, including the Turner and Patterson buildings (both demolished concurrently in 2013) and the Rokhar. He famously designed the Mills & Crosby owned Grand Cental Hotel Building, and then spent the rest of his career trying to collect his fees! His premier creation was the 1893 Hotel Dieu Hospital, which stood until the 1950s as an El Paso landmark.
One of Krause' more iconic structures is the Coles-Hubble Building, which still stands today. The name was shortened in period literature to the Coles Building within a year after completion. The structure was built specifically for Union Fashion, who initially occupied the first two floors of the 3-story brick building.
The Building Permit for this structure was secured by the architect on the 23rd of September, 1899, with an estimated erection cost of $20,000. The actual cost of construction ended up being closer to $30,000 because of at least two delays. The building was completed and opened in July of 1900.
Union Fashion either occupied the building for a very, very short time, or never moved in. By December of 1900, the bottom two floors were leased by the Felix Brunschwig owned White House Department Store, which remained in the building until the erection of the Trost designed Plaza Building in 1911-1912, later known as the White House/McCoy Hotel Building.
In 1964, the Coles Building underwent one of the most (in)famous remodels in El Paso History when the beautiful northwest corner cupola was removed, and the building was sheathed in an aluminum supported "curtain wall", supporting alternating solid panels of exposed patterned aggregate, embedded in a cement asbestos. The good news is that it is a mere sheath, and the building's original architecture is still visible beneath the cover - sans, of course, the building's defining cupola. The bad news is restoring this exterior would involve serious asbestos work.
The remodel was designed by the architectural firm of Middleton and Staten, who won the commission in competition with other firms. Contractor was C.R. Bagwell. The Coles Family, the descendants of original owner Alfred Porter Coles, approved the design as the current owners.
At the time of the building's erection, A.P. Coles was quite possibly El Paso's most successful and dominant Real Estate firm, especially in the area of commercial properties. He had arrived in the Sun City in 1888, suffering from Tuberculosis, expecting to live only a few short months - and actually lived another 58 years. Upon arrival, he immediately purchased the Real Estate firm of Newman & Russel, and then with his brother Frank built an imposing Real Estate empire. His name will, hopefully, be remembered because of the building that is named for him: hopefully, it will be restored (carefully!) soon.
Text and research provided to Sketchclub.net by Mark Stone, citing period newspaper articles accessed at newspapers.com
|Photograph taken by Mark Stone 12/28/2020|
|El Paso Times photograph of the building just before the remodel, from the 02/09/1964 edition via newspapers.com|
|1907 photograph courtesy of Trost Society member Patricia Diaz from her collection|
|Drawing of Alfred Porter Coles from the 12/11/1897 El Paso Herald, via newspapers.com|