Research Packet and Narrative by: Jesse Clark and Dr. George D. Torok
Honors Project, Summer 2003
National Endowment for the Humanities Historical Markers Project
Henry C. Trost (1860 - 1933)
Henry C. Trost lies buried in Evergreen Cemetery on Alameda Avenue in El Paso, Texas. He was El Paso’s most prolific architect and designer of the early 20th century producing hundreds of buildings that continue to grace the landscape of El Paso and the greater Southwest. Henry C. Trost was born to German immigrant parents in Toledo, Ohio on March 5, 1860. Trost’s father was a carpenter and building contractor, so Henry had early exposure to the building trades.
Image caption: Portrait of Henry C. Trost, Image from the Aultman Collection, provided by the El Paso Public Library
During the 1870s, he attended art school in Toledo and worked as a draftsman. Henry Trost moved west in 1880, spending time in Denver, Colorado Springs, New Orleans and many other growing western cities. In the late 1880s, he worked ornamental metal in Chicago where he was exposed to the architectural works of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. During the 1890s Henry Trost lived in California and Arizona where he developed an interest in the Mission Revival style. Throughout this restless period in his life Trost experienced the booming, thriving atmosphere of the American West and was highly influenced by the many architectural styles and designs he encountered. He made his final move to El Paso, Texas in 1903 where he joined his brother Gustavus Adolphus Trost and helped with the design and construction of the city’s Carnegie Library. The two brother formed the architectural firm Trost and Trost, and were later joined by their brother Adolphus Gustavus in 1908.[i]
For almost thirty years, Henry C. Trost served as the firm’s principle designer and developed some of the region’s most striking and unique buildings. The firm created almost every type of building and structure, including office buildings, homes and residences, schools and public sites. They worked with all of the popular architectural styles of the day, from Victorian to Art Deco. Henry Trost led the firm in design and innovation. According to historians Lloyd C. and June Marie F. Engelbrecht, who produced an extensive study of Trost’s works, “he very consciously designed for the exacting conditions imposed by the unique and special environment he liked to call “arid America” and he produced drawings which are revealing documents of his creative mind.” [ii] He eventually created more than 650 buildings in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico; more than 200 of them were built in El Paso.
His works throughout the El Paso area are well-known to area residents and visitors. Some of his most striking works include the Spanish Renaissance style Loretto Academy campus, completed in 1923; El Paso High School, a classical revival style structure, built in 1916; and various buildings on the University of Texas at El Paso campus. Trost developed a national, and even international reputation during his lifetime. He was a pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete for large urban structures. His downtown El Paso sites include the massive Paso del Norte Hotel, constructed in 1912; the Spanish Colonial revival style Cortez Building, completed in 1926; and the fifteen story Bassett Tower, designed in the Art Deco style and once the tallest building in downtown El Paso. Trost’s own home, built at 1013 West Yandell Boulevard in 1909, has been called “one of the most outstanding example of the Chicago (or Prairie) school of architecture to be seen outside the Midwest.” Even the originator of the style, Frank Lloyd Wright, admired the house during a visit to El Paso in 1957.[iii]
Henry C. Trost died in El Paso on September 19, 1933. He never married, did not have children, and the firm continued in to be operated by his brothers until the 1950s. His library was donated to Rice University 1954. Many of his major buildings are still found throughout the American Southwest including more than twenty that are concentrated in the downtown area.[iv]
[i] Lloyd C. and June-Marie F. Engelbrecht, Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest (El Paso, TX 1981), 3-4; Mary A. Sarber, “Henry C. Trost,” The Handbook of Texas Online at http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ftr12
Andane, Evan Haywood, ed. Portals at the Pass: El Paso Area Architecture to 1930. El Paso, TX: El Paso Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, 1984.
Brooks, Allen H., ed. Prairie School Architecture: Studies from the Western Architect. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1975.
Engelbrecht, Lloyd C. and June-Marie F. Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest. El Paso, TX: El Paso Public Library Association, 1981.
Ford, Edward R. The Details of Modern Architecture. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 1990.
Sarber, Mary A. “Henry Charles Trost.” Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ftr12. Created 2002.