Research Packet and Narrative by: Paula Soto and Dr. George D. Torok
Honors Project, Spring 2002
National Endowment for the Humanities Historical Markers Project
Historical Narrative: Roberts-Banner Building
The Roberts-Banner Building, known today as simply the Banner Building, is a five story commercial/office building located at 215 North Mesa Street, across from San Jacinto Plaza, at the southwest corner of Mesa and Mills, in downtown El Paso, Texas. The Roberts-Banner Building was built in 1910 and is a fine example of a reinforced concrete structure, designed by renowned southwest architect Henry C. Trost (1860-1933). It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[i]
The structure was commissioned by two prominent New Mexican cattlemen, Martin D. Roberts and William M. Banner, who began investing in the growth of downtown El Paso in the early years of the 20th century. The building lot was purchased by Roberts and Banner in 1908 and the architectural firm Trost & Trost was hired to design a new edifice for the site. Henry C. Trost was the principle designer for the architectural firm Trost & Trost. He arrived in El Paso in 1903 and during the next thirty years 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.[ii]
The Roberts-Banner Building is significant as the first reinforced concrete building in El Paso and one of the first in the United States. Built on a compact base measuring eighty by ninety-five feet it was the largest office building in El Paso when completed in 1910. It features a u-shaped office tower on a rectangular first story base. Most of the exposed surface of the structure is concrete with limited ornamentation. Only the ground floor, used for retail space, was different; it originally featured green terra cotta tile. The upper floors were used for offices and feature deep set windows. The second and fifth floor levels featured projecting concrete cornices.[iii]
The Roberts-Banner building has been continually used since its completion in 1910 but only the street-level has been altered over the years. In 1950, after the death of Martin Roberts, the building was deeded to the Banner Corporation and became known as the Banner Building. In 1977, the MacDonald’s Corporation opened one of its fast food outlets in the ground floor of the Banner Building and helped restore some of the exterior detail. It continues to operate there today.[iv]
The Roberts-Banner Building has been cited as an excellent example of a modern downtown skyscraper of the early 20th century. It has been described as having “one of the strongest designs of any El Paso building” and produced an “overall boldness which reflects a statement of confidence and courage by the designers.” It would fit well with other prominent downtown areas such as New York’s Fifth Avenue or Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard.[v] Because of its architectural significance it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
[i] Leon C. Metz, Guided Through Time (El Paso, TX 1993), 53-54; “Roberts-Banner Building, El Paso, TX,” unpublished National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form (El Paso, TX 1978), 18.
[ii] Lloyd C. and June Marie F. Englebrecht, Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest (El Paso, TX 1981), 31-35; (El Paso, TX) Herald, Nov. 24, 1909, Aug. 20, 1910; Jay C. Henry, Architecture in Texas (Austin, TX 1993), 296n.
[iii] Metz, Guided Through Time, 53; Evan Haywood Antone, ed., Portals at the Pass: El Paso Area Architecture to 1930 (El Paso, TX 1984), 27.
[iv] (El Paso, TX) Times, Oct. 2, 1977.”215 North Mesa Street File,” El Paso Department of Planning, Research, and Development, El Paso, TX.
For more information on Henry C. Trost please see: Borderlands article
For more information on Texas architecture please see: Handbook of Texas article.
For more information on the Roberts-Banner building please see: Henry Trost.org site
Antone, Evan Haywood. Portals at the Pass: El Paso Area Architecture to 1930. El Paso, TX: American Institute of Architects, 1984.
Englebrecht, Lloyd C. and Marie F. Henry Trost: Architect of the Southwest. El Paso, TX: El Paso Public Library Association, 1981.
Henry, Jay C. Architecture in Texas. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1993.
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) Herald, Nov. 24, 1909; Aug. 20, Sept. 15, 1910; Feb. 27, 1913;
El Paso (TX) Times, Feb. 19, 1908; Mar. 18, 19, Oct. 2, 1977.
“215 North Mesa Street File.” El Paso Historic Landmark Commission Files, El Paso Department of Planning, Research, and Development, El Paso, TX.
“Roberts-Banner Building, El Paso, TX.” El Paso, TX: National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1978.