Research Packet and Narrative by: Jesse Clark and Dr. George D. Torok
Honors Project, Spring 2003
National Endowment for the Humanities Historical Markers Project
Historical Narrative: W.W. Turney House (International Museum of Art)
The building housing the International Museum of Art at 1211 Montana Avenue, formerly the residence of Senator Walter W. Turney (1861-1939), is one of the most historic homes in El Paso. It was designed by architect Henry C. Trost (1860-1933) , it occupies an entire city block, and represents the largest and one of the most elaborate homes built by Trost in El Paso.[i]
The building was constructed between 1906-09 at a cost of more than 50,000 dollars by James T. Hewitt and Henry T. Ponsford. It was to be the residence of Walter Ward Turney, a prominent El Paso attorney, rancher, and politician in the early decades of the 20th century. Turney was born in Marshall, Texas in 1861. He attended Sam Houston State Teachers’ College and moved to Fort Davis to teach school. While teaching, he studied for the bar and became an attorney in 1887. Shortly after that he entered politics. He became the first Brewster County attorney, served as a member of the state’s House of Representatives, and became a State Senator during the 1890s. Turney supported legislation that helped the state’s cattle industry and developed a large family ranch with more than 200,000 acres and 18,000 head of cattle. After 1902, Turney and his family resided in El Paso. He remained active in ranching and twice served as the president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers’ Association. From 1902 until 1939, Turney was a prominent El Paso attorney.[ii]
In 1906, Turney commissioned El Paso architect Henry C. Trost to design a private residence. 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.[iii]
Trost designed a conservative “classical revival” style home featuring a massive portico and majestic Corinthian columns. It has two stories, an attic, and is surrounded by spacious grounds. The inside features leaded and stained glass and a large fireplace with a carved mantel. It was of cream color brick on a white marble base and the exterior appearance has often been compared to the White House. The interior continued the classical theme with a plaster frieze and Ionic columns. The Turney House became the site of many extravagant celebrations in the 1920s and 1930s.[iv] When Senator Turney died in 1939 the mansion was taken over by the city and in 1947 it became the site for the International Museum of Art which had been chartered in 1930. It featured exhibitions, performances, and literary events. 
In 1958, the city was offered part of the Samuel H. Kress art collection and plans for a new museum were made. In 1960 the Turney House became the El Paso Museum of Art. The structure was remodeled by Carroll and Dacuble Associates. (Dacuble had been employed by the Trost firm in the 1930s). The two side porticos were removed and two large wings were built on each side of the building. The veranda was glassed, several interior walls were removed, and exhibition space was created. Although the interior has undergone several renovations, many of the original details remain intact.[v] The exterior of the Turney House remains a fine example of classical architecture.
[i]. Harriot Howze Jones, “Heritage Homes of El Paso,” Password 18 (Sum. 1973), 75.
[ii]. (El Paso, TX) Times, Mar. 24, 1939.
[iii].Lloyd C. and June Marie F. Englebrecht, Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest (El Paso, TX 1981), 31-35.
[iv]. Englebrecht and Englebrecht, Henry C. Trost, 39; Jones, “Heritage Homes of El Paso,” 75.
[v]. Jones, “Heritage Homes of El Paso,” 76-7.
Englebrecht, Lloyd C. and Marie F. Henry Trost: Architect of the Southwest. El Paso, TX: El Paso Public Library Association, 1981.
Jones, Harriot Howze. “Heritage Homes of El Paso: The Turney Home - Museum of Art.
Password 18 (Summer 1973): 75-79.
Metz, Leon. El Paso: Guided Through Time. El Paso, TX: Mangan Books, 1999.
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.
Timmons, W.H. El Paso: A Borderlands History. El Paso, TX: University of Texas at El Paso, 1990.
El Paso (TX) Times, Mar. 24, 25, 1939; Aug. 31, 1953.
Prince McKenzie, “The Turney Home - International Museum of Art.” unpublished paper, El Paso Library Southwest Collections, 2001.
n.a. “History of the International Museum of Art Building.” unpublished paper, El Paso Library Southwest Collections, n.d.