Historic Kress Building In Downtown El Paso Is In Deplorable Shape
The Kress building has been across the street from San Jacinto Plaza for almost 80 years, but for many of those years, it has sat empty and neglected. It is owned by Billy Abraham who famously said, "I built this f*cking town,' when talking about his many properties that are considered endangered because of his neglect. Abraham is currently in jail after pleading no contest for failure to stop and render aid after he hit a man with his truck while driving drunk in 2010.
The history of Kress in El Paso, from the EPCC Libraries webpage:
"Kress department store first opened its doors in El Paso in 1907, at 211 N. Mesa. A 1916 fire destroyed part of the store, but it was rebuilt at the same location. A second fire in 1924 destroyed the store, and again it was rebuilt. In 1937, the store location was moved to the corner of Mills and Oregon Streets and the design of this new store became one of the most beautiful and unique stores in the entire chain. This new location originally housed part of the San Antonio and San Diego (Jackass) Mail stage line, which started business in July 1857, and a shop operated by Sam Hing, a private banker for the Chinese who also supplied labor for railroads and other contractors. Later, these businesses and others adjacent to it were replaced by the United States Federal Building. These were subsequently torn down to make room for the new Kress building."
In the past month, there have been a number of news stories about downtown El Paso buildings that will be renovated after sitting vacant for decades. The Roberts-Banner building at the corner of Mesa and Mills, the Paul Foster-owned Plaza Hotel, and the amazing Popular Department store building will all be renovated, so what's the holdup with the Kress building?
Most people put the blame squarely on Abraham's shoulders, and while it it true that he has never been a good steward of El Paso's architectural history, it's not all his fault. A number of City administrations have come and gone without ever holding Abraham's feet to the fire and really going after him on his blatant building code violations and unpaid property tax bills. Hopefully, someone will come along who can save the Kress building from vanishing and leaving a hole in downtown El Paso's historical fabric. The City of El Paso should be ashamed of their role in the deterioration of these beautiful buildings. Get off your duffs, City Council, and do something to preserve our history.
The photos were all taken by me. The photos showing the inside of the building were taken by putting my phone up to the glass entry doors. Don't trespass on private property, that's my motto!
This is just one entrance into the building. Each entrance has this beautiful tile work that is getting more and more worn out with each passing day.
Each entry door has this metal plate with the name that used to be painted in red.
This display case faces Mesa, and has recently been vandalized. The building is open to the elements because of a number of broken upper floor windows, but the ground floor is now compromised, as well.
This is a close-up of the broken display window.
This door has a worn spot in its glazing and that is why there is a greenish tinge to the photo.
Store fixtures and furniture can be seen in this photo.
This photo is very color-corrected and lightened so the interior could be easily seen. The items are not this colorful in real life.
This area of the building is relatively empty, but still decaying.