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Historical Markers Project: Caples Building

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

Caples Building

Research Packet and Narrative by: Christina Diaz and Dr. George D. Torok 

Honors Project, Fall 2002

National Endowment for the Humanities Historical Markers Project

Caples builing
Historical Narrative: Caples Building  300 East San Antonio Avenue

The Caples Building is a Romanesque seven story structure located at 300 East San Antonio Street in downtown El Paso. The building is not only architecturally significant but it also played an important role in the Mexican Revolution serving as a headquarters for many revolutionary and opposition activities. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Image caption:  The Caples Building on San Antonio Street in downtown El Paso. Image provided by George D. Torok

The building was commissioned by Richard Caples who served as the city’s mayor from 1889 to 1893. He hired Henry C. Trost (1860-1933) to design the building. Trost was the principle designer for the architectural firm Trost and Trost. Trost 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 oft them in El Paso,  during his career.[i]  In 1909, Trost designed the Caples building as a five-story office structure, “El Paso’s first cement poured building.” The Caples Building was built by contractor Otto P. Kroeger who began construction in 1909 and cost approximately 50,000 dollars. Concrete and steel construction allowed for larger, taller buildings but also helped with fireproofing. Most of the concrete was concealed beneath brick facades and was exposed in a few areas of ornamentation.[ii] The original Caples Building was modified in 1915-16 with the addition of two stories. The top two stories have terracotta detailing and round arched windows. The overall style of the Caples Building is Romanesque, containing both Roman and Byzantine elements.[iii]

The Caples Building is also significant because it served as the center of many activities during the Mexican Revolution. El Paso’s position opposite Ciudad Juarez made it an ideal location from which to plan and launch a major uprising. Here Abraham Gonzalez, provisional governor of Chihuahua, organized the Madero Junta, a group of revolutionaries backing Mexican reformer Francisco Madero. Gonzalez was joined by college professor Braulio Hernandez, lawyer Federico Gonzales-Garza, and Castula Herrera, who supposedly fired the first shot of the Revolution. Madero, along with prominent revolutionary leaders Pascual Orozco and Francisco “Pancho” Villa, also became part of the junta. Gonzalez and his group of conspirators met in rooms 507 and 508, on the fifth floor of the Caples Building, to raise money for arms and ammunition, and planned the assault on Ciudad Juarez in 1911. El Paso physician Ira Jefferson Bush kept an office in the Caples Building and worked closely with Madero’s army helping to smuggle arms across the river.[iv] The most influential Mexican revolutionary newspaper, La Regeneracion, also operated out of the Caples Building.[v] 

The Caples Building retains much of its original outward appearance. It has served many business and agencies over the years and remained in use until 1996. In 1980, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1996 it has been neglected but remains structurally sound.


[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-Post, July 9, 1909.

[iii] Herald-Post, July 9, 1909.

[iv] W.H. Timmons, El Paso: A Borderlands History (El Paso, TX 1990), 211.

[v] Mardee Belding de Wetter, “Revolutionary El Paso: 1910-1917,” Password 3 (April 1955), 46, 55; Leon Metz, El Paso: Guided through Time (El Paso, TX 1999), 103-4.

Related Sources

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

For more information about the Mexican Revolution in El Paso please see:

Mexican Revolution Bibliography


Belding de Wetter, Mardee. “Revolutionary El Paso: 1910-1917.” Password 3 (April 1955). pp. 46-59.

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-Post, March 8, April 16, July 9, 1909.

El Paso (TX) Times, June 2, 1996.


For extensive bibliography on the Mexican Revolution please see:

Mexico from Revolution to Democracy.

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