Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Welcome to My El Paso

Perhaps everyone is proud of their hometown.  I say perhaps because I hear many native El Pasoans who say they can't wait to leave The EP. 

I was never like that.  I love El Paso, Texas and cannot understand why so many want to leave.  Well, up to a point.

I think El Paso is full of that dreadful word 'potential'.  'Potential' to me means we have the capacity for greatness, but not the will.  El Paso is surrounded with great history, great people, and great resources.  However, El Pasoans seem determined to destroy it, having little to no interest in anything that came before maybe 1960.

It is comes before that, some El Pasoans consider it useless.  Sadly, those El Pasoans are in government and industry.

I see this rush to demolish or desecrate what we in The EP have, on how El Pasoans willingly bulldoze and demolish the history all around us.  Case in point: Southwest University Park vs. the John T. Muir Building.

In order to build the new Downtown baseball stadium for the AAA-baseball team, the City Council agreed to have the 40-year-old City Council building demolished.  There was mass outrage at the news.  People were desperate to save a rather ugly building that was younger than some of the protesters.  Many were upset at the thought of City Hall coming down. 

As far as a good chunk of El Pasoans were concerned, City Hall, a building not even a half-century old, needed to be preserved.

Compare that to the John Muir building a few blocks away. 

It began as the Commercial Bank Building, designed by legendary architect Henry Trost, and opened in 1916.  It saw a lot of damage when it was 'reconverted', if memory serves, as a Payless Shoe Source story.  We can see that the middle section was covered up with a very dull grey board.

Ah, El Paso.

In 2013, the Borderplex Community Trust wanted to tear it down.  The Historic Landmark Commission voted unanimously to reject their request to demolish a nearly century-old building.  Enraged, BCT went over the HLC and went straight to City Council. 

In the government's infinite wisdom, City Council voted unanimously to overturn the HLC and let them tear the Muir Building down.  Not ones to wait, they began tearing it down at midnight.

In exchange for tearing down a nearly 100-year-old building, Borderplex stated it would build a mixed-use building.

Three years later, the site of the John T. Muir building is the lovely empty lot we need in The EP, with no plans to put up anything in the near future or the distant future.

El Pasoans never said a word...I figure since they either didn't know, or didn't care.

In short, if El Paso tears down a 40-year-old building, it is a scandal.  If El Paso tears down a 97-year-old building, it is of no concern.

Even in that destruction, a strange sign of hope emerged.

A serious of previously lost wall ads from prior to the Muir's construction were discovered.  History, despite El Pasoans' fierce determination, keeps reappearing.

Of course, right now they are behind a chain fence.  That is a blessing and curse: blessing in that there is a chance to preserve it for future generations, curse in that if I know El Paso like I think I know El Paso, it won't be long before they either paint over it or just knock it down.

I am distressed at this odd concept of rushing to destroy the past and leave nothing in its place.  I know that things eventually disappear, but there is so much that is beautiful in The EP that to see it go down in ruins due to a mixture of greed and indifference.

With this in mind, I begin My El Paso, where I hope to chronicle El Paso's historic buildings and hidden areas before the City decides to create the world's largest parking lot.  I'll throw in my own ideas and thoughts on the various parts of the Sun City. 

Every so often I'll go to some part of El Paso, throw up some pictures, and offer commentary on the subject.  It's my small effort to chronicle something of El Paso before it is lost.  I hope to do it on a regular basis, but I ask for your patience.  

I also ask for suggestions and corrections if need be.

With that, I welcome you to this journey, to My El Paso.

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