A tour though some of Segundo Barrio's most iconic buildings
EL PASO, Texas —
Local historians say they hope funding will be freed up to restore some of El Paso’s most historic neighborhoods after two were named on a national list of endangered places.
Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita were placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
On Thursday, historian Max Grossman showed KFOX14 some of his favorite buildings, starting with Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
“Sacred Heart is special. It is the most iconic church and probably most iconic building in the entire neighborhood. It's extremely old; its origins date back to 1893,” Grossman said.
Grossman says plenty of work needs to be done to restore this building to its former glory.
“Window treatments, cracks in the brickwork, this is the kind of building that was going to benefit from the attention that is coming from the most endangered list,” he said.
Right across the street is another historic spot, an apartment building that housed one of the most prolific writers of the Mexican Revolution. Mariano Azuela Gonzalez wrote "Los de Abajo" in that building in 1912 on a typewriter.
“There was a printing press in this building that was quite important. Almost every building in this neighborhood has some level of historic importance,” Grossman said.
Next, Grossman took KFOX14 to the Colón Theatre.
“It was built in 1919 originally and then it was restructured around 1950. You can see the beautiful streamlined ornament that was inspired by the age of aircraft and the early space-age,” Grossman said.
This theater catered to mostly Spanish language audiences because of its proximity to the border, according to Grossman. Over the years, the lot has been converted into shopping spaces.
Finally, Grossman stopped by the Second Baptist Church.
“It was constructed between 1903 and 1907 and it is the most important surviving remnant of what was once a thriving African-American community,” Grossman said.
Grossman, the vice chair of the El Paso County Historical Commission, was the one who applied for the designation of endangered places.
He says these neighborhoods are about more than the buildings -- they also hold in their bricks the history of these locations.
“Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita are two of those neighborhoods in Texas that represent very much the core of our community historically, culturally and architecturally,” he said.
He says more than half of the buildings in these two 200-year-old neighborhoods have disappeared since World War II and he would like to help preserve what is left.
“Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita are the roots of El Paso; they represent the microcosm of El Paso,” said UTEP historian Yolanda Chavez Leyva. “This is the place where people came when they crossed the border. This is the first place in the United States for thousands of families.”
Leyva says the neighborhoods have been in danger for a century and she’s happy to see them finally get the credit they deserve.
“It's always been a very vibrant neighborhood and it's been a neighborhood that has been in danger for over 100 years,” Leyva said.
The county is set to begin working on an architectural survey of historic buildings in the downtown area. Grossman says that survey will help give them a better idea of the work that needs to be done to preserve El Paso’s history.