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El Paso Community College
Library Research Guides

Historical Markers Project: Abdou Building

Survey of thirty-three historic sites in the El Paso area, with research materials, interviews, and summary materials.

Abdou Building

Research Packet and Narrative by:  Adriana Davidson and Dr. George D. Torok


Honors Project, Spring 2002


National Endowment for the Humanities Historical Markers Project

Abdou BuildingThe Abdou Building is a seven story commercial and retail structure located on 115 North Mesa Street in downtown El Paso. It is a fine example of a modern, “Sullivanesque” commercial structure of the early 20th century and was designed by renowned architect Henry C. Trost.

The structure retains much of its original exterior appearance and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Image caption: Abdou Building, image from the Aultman Collection, provided by the El Paso Public Library

The building was designed and constructed in 1909-10 as a new site for the offices of the Rio Grande Valley Bank which had outgrown its facilities in the nearby Buckler Building. It was designed by renowned El Paso architect Henry C. Trost (1860-1933). Trost was the principle designer for the architectural firm Trost and Trost. He arrived in El Paso in 1903 and during the next thirty years he developed some of the region’s most striking and unique buildings. Trost was greatly influenced by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright and mastered a wide variety of popular building styles. He was also a pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete. He designed more than 650 buildings in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico, 200 of them in El Paso,  during his career.[i] 


Originally, the building was to be six stories and completed in January 1910. During construction it was decided to split the second level into two floors so the project deadline was extended until March 1910. The structure cost 60,000 dollars to complete and opened on schedule in March. The Rio Grande Valley Bank and Trust occupied the first floor and leased the upper stories for commercial offices.[ii] In 1925, the structure was purchased by prominent El Paso businessman Sam N. Abdou (1875-1953), a Syrian immigrant who had begun a small dry goods business in El Paso in the 1890s and later invested in cold storage facilities, banking, and east Texas oil. The building was leased to the American Trust and Savings Bank where Abdou served as director until the Bank’s demise during the Great Depression. Despite the collapse of the bank, Abdou personally saw that each depositor be reimbursed for the full value of the funds that they had placed in the bank.[iii]  After the bank closed, retailers rented much of the space in what had become known as the Abdou Building. In 1955, the Zales Company became the most prominent tenant.[iv]


The Abdou Building is a significant structure because it was designed by Trost who made extensive use of reinforced concrete in the structure and decorative design of the building.


It is an excellent example of a western skyscraper of the early 20th century with stark but  modernistic detailing. It shows the influences of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright and is cited as being “Sullivanesque” in design.[v] Some of the building’s features have been modified over the years. The arches have been filled in with reflective glass and the interior has undergone a series of renovations.[vi] The building has been recognized as being architecturally significant several times. In 1978 it was  included in a city inventory of historic sites, designated as a Local Historic Landmark,  and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.[vii] 



[i] Lloyd C. and June Marie F. Englebrecht, Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest (El Paso, TX 1981), 31-35.

[ii] El Paso (TX) Herald, Apr. 23, 1910.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] El Paso (TX) Times, Nov. 11, 1953;

[v] Lorrie K. Owen, ed., Dictionary of Texas Historic Places (New York, 1996), I, 314; El Paso Times, Aug. 16, 1964.

[vi] Owen, Dictionary of Historic Places, I, 314; n.a., “Abdou Building,” National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form (1980), 3.

[vii] El Paso (TX) City Ordinance No. 6279 cited in letter from Mayor Ray Salazar to Sam Abdou Jr., Aug. 21, 1978.



Related Sources

For more information on Henry C. Trost please see: Borderlands article




Calleros, Cleofas. El Paso...Then and Now. El Paso, TX: American Printing Company, 1954.

El Paso Chamber of Commerce. Prosperity and Opportunities in El Paso. El Paso, TX: El Paso Chamber of Commerce, 1911.

Englebrecht, Lloyd C. and Marie F. Henry Trost: Architect of the Southwest. El Paso, TX: El Paso Public Library Association, 1981.

Metz, Leon. El Paso: Guided Through Time. El Paso, TX: Mangan Books, 1999.

Owen, Lorrie K. Dictionary of Texas Historic Places. 2 vols. New York: 1996.

Sonnichsen, C.L. Pass of the North: Four Centuries on the Rio Grande. 2 vols. El Paso, TX: University of Texas at El Paso, 1980.

Tovar, Richard and Gloria Ordonez. “Henry Trost’s Architectural Legacy Graces City,” in El Paso Community College Borderlands 20 (2001-02), 8.

Timmons, W.H. El Paso: A Borderlands History. El Paso, TX: University of Texas at El Paso, 1990.

Newspaper Articles:

El Paso (TX) Herald, March 10, Apr. 23, 1910; Apr. 27, 1911; Nov. 20, 1915; Oct. 2, 1923.

El Paso (TX) Times, Feb. 28, 1927; Nov. 11, 1953; Aug. 22, 1930; Feb. 18, 1979.

Misc. Documents:

“Abdou Building File,” City Planning Offices, City of El Paso, TX.

n.a., “Abdou Building,” National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. El Paso, TX. 1980.


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